The Tea Party, Day 2
From a surprise appearance by Birther Queen Orly Taitz to an improvised speech from Andrew Breitbart, John Avlon reports on the highlights and lowlights of day two of the convention. Avlon is the author of Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America.
I was looking forward to this morning’s scheduled seminar on “Correlations Between the Current Administration and Marxist Dictators of Latin America,” but sadly it was canceled. An unexpected consolation prize was the appearance of Birther Queen Orly Taitz at the Tea Party convention, who scurried over to ask me when Wingnuts is coming out—she seemed anxious to read her profile but wasn’t in the mood for a follow-up interview.
Nonetheless, as the press waits for Palin’s prime-time speech tonight, there has been much to report on the second day of the National Tea Party Convention—both lowlights and highlights.
As for lowlights, an under-reported speech by Judge Roy Moore took the Wingnut prize. For all the attention lavished on Tancredo and Farah’s fringe festivities, Moore’s remarks were even more extreme.
You might remember Moore from his days as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He installed a 5,000-ton stone monument to the 10 commandments on state courthouse ground and then refused to remove it when the Feds raised the whole separation of church and state thing. He lost his gig over it and became a conservative culture war icon in return. Now he’s running for Governor in 2010.
“He has ignored our history and our heritage, arrogantly declaring to the world that we are no longer a Christian nation. He's elevated immorality to a new level, setting aside the entire month of last June to celebrate gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender pride…He has apologized to the Arab world for our past, subjugated our national sovereignty by bowing down to the king of Saudi Arabia. He has pursued a socialist agenda by taking control of private companies and pushing a national health-care plan with a public option. Backed by a willing Congress, he has bought off our senators and our representatives with our own money in an effort to mandate this agenda. And when opposed by members of the Senate, he smugly smiled and said, ‘I won.’” Moore then quoted the Declaration of Independence, comparing Obama to King George III: "A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people."
With the crowd applauding he concluded by shouting repeatedly, “If we wish to be free, we must fight!”—for if not now, when: “Would it be when we are told to disarm and a UN guard is stationed outside every house?”
That’s a crowd-pleasing piece of red meat with a long sordid history, riffing off fears pumped up and paraded by far-right Wingnuts since the John Birch Society and now proselytized by the armed Hatriot movement—the specter of forced disarmament, followed by an invasion of UN blue helmets. Just such a scenario was predicted to occur in 1965. But fear doesn’t need facts when it masquerades as freedom.
There have been highlights to balance out the lowlights at the Tea Party Convention. For all the Obama Derangement Syndrome evidenced, the spark of the movement was a demand to return to fiscal responsibility. These roots were well represented by a special screening of a new documentary about the roots of the fiscal crisis and the reckoning still to come, called Generation Zero. Written and directed by Stephen K. Bannon ( Titus) and produced by the now infamous Citizens United, it is not primarily a partisan polemic—instead it is a smart and comprehensible look at the results of fiscal irresponsibility, featuring commentary from Amity Shlaes, Shelby Steele, Victor Davis Hanson, and Newt Gingrich, among others. It can be difficult to capture the outrage of overspending or to humanize the long-term costs—but Generation Zero succeeds in doing it.
One other highlight that has emerged from the conference is the heavily hinted congressional candidacy of Angela McGlowan, a Fox News contributor and former GOP congressional staffer who “will be making an announcement on Monday” regarding a rumored race for a seat in her native Mississippi. Poised and polished with a commanding presence, McGlowan should make an impressive conservative candidate with Tea Party support—and if successful, she will be the third African-American Republican member of the House of Representatives elected in the past 100 years, following in the footsteps of Gary Franks and JC Watts.
But the highlight of day 2 was Internet impresario Andrew Breitbart’s improvised speech in place of the sadly canceled Latin American Dictators seminar. It was a barn-burner, which had the crowd laughing and cheering at his challenges to mainstream media. It was populist without disrespecting his audience’s intelligence. He recounted the impulse of some liberals to place everything in the competing narratives of race or Watergate—and brought the crowd to its feet with a closing threat designed to get the media’s attention: “If you don’t start reporting the truth I will organize a protest in New York City on Sixth Avenue and you won’t be able to escape to the Hamptons for the weekend.”
John Avlon’s new book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America is available now by Beast Books both on the Web and in paperback. Advance orders can be placed here. He is also the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics. Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.