A sharply focused message: Check, A clearly defined target: Check, Grassroots passion: CheckSubmitted by soule on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 10:56
At Tea Party Protests, a Question of Who’s to Blame
Midway through his April 15 radio show, conservative broadcaster Sean Hannity and former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich were lauding each other for helping to foment the grassroots tax day “Tea Party” protests taking place at hundreds of locations throughout the country. Hannity and Gingrich gleefully framed the rallies as a reaction to the policies of President Barack Obama, but if the demonstrations in Kalispell and Polson were any measure, the ire of Flathead Tea Party protesters was directed just as much at mainstream national Republican figures like Gingrich and Hannity as it was for Obama.
“They seem to be trying to blame Democrats for what happened when a lot of this started under Bush,” Shawn Bailey of the Campaign for Liberty, an outgrowth of the Ron Paul 2008 presidential campaign, said at the Kalispell protest. “It’s not left, it’s not right, we’ve got to get back to the Constitution.”
Bailey said his group has been holding tea parties to protest high taxes, in the model of the Boston Tea Party of 1773, since 2007 and that the movement began there, and not with an on-air rant Feb. 19 by CNBC journalist Robert Santelli over a bailout for mortgage defaulters, as was widely reported.
That a CNBC financial reporter is credited for sparking the Tea Party protests is just one of many misconceptions and exaggerated characterizations of the demonstrations portrayed in the media during the weeks preceding April 15. Mischaracterized by some right-wing media outlets as being anti-Democrat, Flathead demonstrators – while clearly conservative or libertarian in their political beliefs – took pains to emphasize the nonpartisan nature of their frustration.
Similarly criticized by some liberal blogs as being tools of organizations promoting the rallies funded by industry and the GOP, the demonstrations in Polson and Kalispell were homegrown efforts. Polson residents Becky Upton and Annette Schiele organized the rally there, and Kalispell’s tax day protest didn’t appear to have any organizer at all.
Instead, both protests drew between 150 and 200 people each, many of whom held signs protesting everything from high taxes to federal bailouts to the Federal Reserve Bank to potential gun control measures. For some protesters, their frustration was aimed squarely at the size of the national debt, and fear that it could be passed on to future generations. Bill Cenis of Plains, and his wife Pat, attended rallies in Kalispell and Polson, where they brandished a sign reading “Our grandkids’ future hijacked by D.C. pirates.”
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