It was hard not to feel sorry for the 150 people who showed up for the first Michigan Tea Party Convention in Holt today. They tried to make it seem exciting, important and picture perfect.
Red, white and blue balloons framed the main speaker’s area, but some of the speakers spoke from the wrong side of the room so the media backdrop ended up as weathered, brown gymnasium bleachers. No problem, there wasn’t much media there.
Their “all-star” speaker lineup included Fulton Sheen and Leon Drolet along with a stable of Mackinac Center for Public Policy wingnutzzzzz who could barely keep themselves awake even as they trotted out their familiar grievances about government and taxes during a panel discussion titled, “How Bad Is It?”
For the Tea Party folks it was pretty bad Saturday. A small crowd, no leadership and little focus. Anti-government ballot proposals were discussed, politicians attacked and unions demonized but this was shotgun politics of the ready, fire aim variety. Tea baggers are selling an old, worn suit that even some of them acknowledged the public doesn’t seem to be buying.
“There’s only 150 people here,” said one exasperated tea bagger. “What are we supposed to do?”
Mackinac Center’s Jack McHugh–a How Bad Is It? panelist– tossed a limp gem of a response: “What unites the tea party movement is grievances.”
Terry Lynn Land and Mike Cox showed up and Cox’s people were busy passing out campaign stuff. But neither of them were asked to speak, so Cox busied himself reading a Capitol Confidential tabloid headlined “Escort Service?” then left just ahead of Land.
But if it’s comforting to progressives to see the tea baggers struggling, be forewarned. This is a ready-made political base for spearheading a wrecking ball ballot measure in 2010. Drolet is championing a proposal to rescind 2007 state income tax and business tax measures and is linking it to reducing benefits for public employees. He hasn’t given it a catchy name yet but that can’t be far behind. And the Mackinac Center pushed Saturday for a Taxpayer Bill of Rights like the one Colorado adopted and then rejected after it nearly destroyed public education and government services there.
The tea baggers lined up Saturday to show support for their favorite ballot brew, and in the end an anti-government proposal may be the poison cup battered Michigan voters will be asked to drink from in 2010.
We need to organize!
I volunteered my time at an Obama healthcare table at the Linden Happening several weekends ago. During the town parade I saw a Genesee County Republican Party float and a float for their http://www.teaparty.org site with the question Taxed enough already? Why didn’t the democrats have their own floats? I wonder the appropriateness of using politics in a locally funded parade, but republicans are never shy about pushing their agendas! We as democrats need to get the info. out about healthcare because the facts are on our side if we are out there fighting this small but potentially growing movement.