By Aleksandr Smechov
A dancing Batman and Robin; a passionate supporter of Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff and now a Libertarian activist; a cacophony of anti-liberal debauchery – all were part of the Thomas Paine Park Tea Party rally on Friday, April 15.
You can’t have as much fun with liberals, I thought. I had gone wanting a good show, something to amuse me. What I got was something else, a well-organized movement that is increasing in momentum, a grassroots campaign growing into something serious.
And this is frightening; it left me dazed by its momentum and clinging to my apolitical agenda.
Hosted by TeaParty365’s David Webb, the rally – broadcast live on Sirius XM – offered, among others, Mike Church, who hosts a talk show on Sirius XM, and Charles Payne, a frequent contributor to Fox News.
In some ways more fascinating than any of the speakers was a 365 volunteer in the crowd, Wave Chan, who hissed and glared at people who kept their hats on during the Pledge of Allegiance, screamed his conservative sentiment in the middle of speeches and afterward stood for two hours in the bitter cold, holding a five-foot-high American flag.
Maneuvering through the unruly crowd of about 200 people, snaking around yellow-shirted petitioners and old timers, I came upon two dancing Brooklyn Tech students, dressed as Batman and Robin.
I asked if they knew any of the speakers. They were anticipating Mr. Freeze, a foe of Batman. Well, I thought, these two will get more than they expect.
Positioning myself at the front of the crowd, I watched Webb, co-founder of TeaParty365, whose website says it was “founded to advocate for fiscal responsibility, free enterprise and liberty; and that limited, effective, efficient and constitutional government must be our collective goal in order for this nation to maintain its place as the world’s leader.”
Webb introduced the first speaker, Andy Sullivan, a construction field supervisor who was apparently emotionally ravaged by the city government’s aversion to having a Wal-Mart in the city.
Sullivan recalled a meeting of the City Council where he was supporting the retailer. “For four hours I had to sit and listen to how evil Wal-Mart is,” he said, referring to it as “the greatest body of capitalism the country has ever produced.”
Afterward he shifted his focus to the more humdrum subject of mom-and-pop stores, blaming “taxes and regulation” for killing Americana charm. “This is a crisis of identity.”
I stepped back and looked around the crowd for a viable fanatic to interview – and found Rena Corey, a staunchly conservative grandmother who was holding up a yellow cardboard sign proclaiming Richard Mack as a hero.
Why is Mack a hero, I asked.
Corey glared at me. She said Mack, the former sheriff of Graham County, Ariz., was doing his job, and doing it for the good of the country.
Doing what for the country? I asked.
She gave me another sharp look. Again, she explained; Mack was arresting illegal immigrants, and the Obama administration sued him for doing the right thing.
“Thank you,” I mumbled, and turned to the next speaker, William Shea Jr., a financier, who began speaking about how rash and irresponsible the liberals were. “If a Democrat breaks it, you pay for it… if a socialist breaks it, Jesus, everybody pays for it,” and “the Democrats ought to be the red states.”
Shea ended: “You look at a little baby… it goes oops in its little panties, and that’s what the Democrats do.” Democrats keep spending money until they go oops, I’m out of money, explained Shea.
Webb then welcomed Church, the talk-show host. His topic was “Mordor on the Potomac,” and he told the crowd of 200 that nowhere in the Constitution did it specify that the “Republicans and Democrats get to make your laws in Washington.”
With a Back to the Future analogy, Church said, “I want to put you in my little DeLorean here, and we are going to go to 2031. We are going to knock on your 3-year-old’s door, and we are going to hold a gun to his head, and demand $544,000, because that’s what he owes.”
Annemarie McAvoy, a Fordham Law graduate who worked for Citigroup and other high-profile financial institutions, was up next and offered several suggestions: spend less so your kids won’t have to pay for it, and go out and vote.
I was shocked. Amid all the complaints, I had forgotten about such things as rational solutions.
At this point, I was dazed, catatonic from the cold and excessive partisanship.
I did not hear much of Andrew Wilkow, another Serius XM host, nor the journalist Janks Morton’s Washington rant.
Though I did hear Janks say something about “the Department of Agriculture, who has never grown one stick of corn … the Department of Transportation, that has never driven anyone anywhere … the Department of Energy, that has never produced one kilowatt.”
My senses shot, I walked away, as people in the crowd raved and yelled.
I was expecting a small gathering of extremists. What I got was far more frightening. The Tea Party movement is gaining momentum – it is organized, stylish and increasing in popularity. This is no ordinary grassroots campaign.