"According to Homeland Security, you are now a right wing extremist," Shawn Black, a Republican running for Chuck DeVore's vacant assembly seat in 2010, told the crowd at the Civic Center plaza.
That phrase -- "right wing extremist" -- kept semi-jokingly coming up at the Tea Party, along with its cousins, "radical" and "conservative whacko." Janet Napolitano's Homeland Security department did, indeed, make the politically insane move yesterday of issuing a report about rising "right-wing extremism," despite the lack of any specific threats. So, anyone who already thought of Barack Obama as a totalitarian had a perfect meme to use at the rally: tea parties = outlawed. Excellent grounds for a revolution.
But any good revolution needs a slogan. Rally organizer Megan Barth realizes this. Her speech to the hundreds (maybe a thousand or so -- Barth says 3,500) of people gathered seemed, at times, like an experiment in seeing which zinger worked best.
"I got involved in this grassroots movement not because I'm a Republican. Not because I'm a Democrat. Not because I'm an Independent," she said. "I am here... because I am an American!"
"We are not the 'Party of No.' We are not the party of 'Yes We Can.' We are the party of... 'Yes, We Care!'"
"We are not red. We are not blue. We are... red, white and blue!"
Barth sent the crowd hootin' each time. It made you feel bad for the dude from the Ayn Rand Institute who spoke earlier:
"I think the solution is an intellectual defense of Americanism," he said. "Start rethinking the moral purpose of government!
Two-second pause. "Yeah!" Scattered claps.
The speakers weren't the main attraction, though. CongressmanDana R
They weren't angry. At least, some of them weren't. John Bender, a middle-aged guy in sunglasses holding a pole with the stars and stripes, pleaded at me as I walked by, sounding confused: "Hey, what do you think is wrong with America right now? What do you think about this?"
I asked what pissed him off most about the government. "I'm not mad," he said, slowly. "I'm sad. I have tears for America. This is not the America that we know."
America, see, has become -- or maybe is about to become -- a socialist, despotic country. That's the gist of the grievances listed on the home-made signs, shouted en mass and discussed in interviews with the teabaggers. One guy tells me we should switch to gold for currency, and one woman thinks politicians exist merely to increase their own salary. Outside of that, though, most of the views espoused are just forcefully stated conservative tenets: We need smaller government, fewer taxes, more transparency. Oh, and Obama isn't an American citizen.
That's not enough revolution for everyone, though. Before the rally, a man in a Hawaiian shirt walked around, screaming with pitchfork-wielding intensity."WE NEED TO STAND UP AND FIGHT.... THEY'RE GOING TO TAKE IT ALL AWAY."
He met his match in the form of a stern, sunglasses-wearing woman who could be a school teacher.
"You don't have to shout, you know," she told the screamer. "We all want the same things. But the media is taking your picture, instead of ours."
That quieted him down for a bit. He dissolved into the crowd of flag-wearing grandpas, sign-toting kids and ladies dressed in colonial gowns.
Members of the OC political establishment were on hand -- though some kept to themselves. Keith Rodenhuis, director of public affairs for Orange County Treasurer Chriss Street, said hi and handed me a folder of info for the press. I asked him if Mr. Street was partaking in the Party. Rodenhuis smiled. Street was there, but he wasn't going to make a speech.
"He's the treasurer-tax collector, so..."
Ha. Good point. Can't be too careful with extremists.
Photos in this post by Spencer Kornhaber. For better photos of the festivities, check out our slideshow.
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