Claire and I attended yesterday evening's Tax Day TEA Party down at the Douglas County Courthouse. Joining us in the crowd of about 1500 were John and Barb Malek; Mike and Matt Troutman; Chet Thomas; Dan, Stephanie and Ann Hovanec (shown at left); Ron Herrick; Joe and Louise Ferrante; Mark and Sterling Fichter; and quite a few other friends who strolled by. Among them -- Omaha mayoral candidate Hal Daub and Congressman Lee Terry.
It was a rather festive event (American flags, witty signs, frequent chants of "U.S.A.") and I'm sure it was effective in creating a little heat for Nebraska politicians...and perhaps even a bit for local media. And it was also satisfying to be a part of what was a national protest event against the irresponsible, even irrational, economic policies that are leading our nation into great peril.
With that said, however, there were some serious drawbacks to the event. First, it went way too long. 2 hours (even more for much of the crowd who arrived early) was just too much, especially when an awful lot of that time was spent in handing out prizes from a drawing. And opening the mike for questions (often more like mini-speeches) from folks from the crowd? That's almost always a bad, time-wasting move.
Second, there was one long-winded speaker who went way off-message for the event. Well, I should say, it was off-message for a great deal of the crowd at least. The organizers themselves (3 of the 4 groups focus on illegal immigration) may well have considered the speaker integral to their message, but the TEA Party phenomena around the country is a protest of excessive taxation, the burgeoning deficit, and wasteful spending. Those were the issues that drew the crowd -- not illegal immigration. Therefore, the lengthy speech was really counter-productive. Large sections of the crowd ended up crying out, "Wind it up!", "You're missing the point!", "That's not what we're here for!", "Next speaker!", and "Get the hook!" Others, after looking at their watches over and again, had enough and left in disappointment and anger.
It was a serious mistake by the organizers and I'm sure that many in the crowd (Claire and I and our friends among them) will be less likely to attend events organized by the same folks.
Third, there weren't sufficient action steps outlined for the crowd. People were told to go vote. Fine; but the guys who care enough to make a sign and drive downtown to spend their evening at a public rally are the guys who are already voting. Better was the suggestion to write letters to Congress and to editors but information about how, where, and what to say would have been very valuable. And, of course, details about the next concerted action (Parade floats at 4th of July? Tea bags taken en masse to Senator Ben Nelson? Something!) would have been in order.
Other TEA Party events around the country seemed to stay on target and, despite MSM disdain, had a powerful impact. Here, for instance, is WOWT's story on the TEA Party held over the noon hour yesterday down in Papillion. Friends of Vital Signs Ministries will note the quote (in both the print story and the video clip) of our own Carol Coppi.
Here are a few more links relevant to yesterday's tax protests you might find of interest.
* "Liberty, Not Debt," Tax Protesters Chant, the Omaha World Herald story that leaned heavily on the AP report.
* Thousands of Anti-Tax 'Tea Party' Protesters Turn Out in U.S. Cities (Fox News).
* Childishly petulant perspectives on the TEA Parties were, not surprisingly, quite common among the liberal press. Here, for examples, are the L.A. Times' James Rainey and the NY Times report.
* A much fairer, more responsible approach was taken by the Washington Post in it's decision to interview Grover Norquist.
* Tea Parties -- Mission Accomplished by Peter Roff.
* GOP Hopes to Build Momentum Behind "Tea Parties", Shannon McCaffery's AP story.