Rally 'Round The Tea Party

PHOTOS: Sarah Palin's Tea Party rally on the Boston Common.

The Tea Party Express rally on the Boston Common this morning was basically a travelling show, complete with the official buses displaying the featured performers' faces and names, and the booth selling merchandise in the back. Could have been one of those -paloozas, except that it was pretty badly managed, operationally: the stage was low, so the press riser blocked almost everybody's view of the stage, and the sound system was woefully inadequate, so most of the attendees could barely hear the speeches.

The crowd -- which I'm going to guesstimate at maybe 3000 at peak -- seemed to pretty quickly form into several tiers. A first group, crowded in front of the stage, were the serious Tea Partiers, wanting to experience the performance. Next came a looser band of rovers, including pols and their supporters, and protesters and counter-protesters who wanted to have their clever signage seen. Then came the walkway, lined with vendors who purchased the space from the Tea Party Express, which became a sort of 'clash zone,' with most of the counter-protesters, inevitably getting into confrontations with Tea Partiers shopping the merch. Behind that were a tier of serious Tea Partiers who didn't want to get up in the crowded area, and beyond that were mostly the curious, who had drifted over from nearby work, home, or school to check out the scene.

Thanks to the inability of most attendees to properly see or hear most of what was going on (and the pretty low quality of most of the speakers and singers), there was never a real focussed, group buzz to the event -- even during Sarah Palin's speech. People in front were paying attention, and giving some applause and what-not, but beyond that, people were mostly hovering around doing their own thing. One performer couldn't even get a U-S-A chant going.

All in all, a lot like a similarly sized -palooza or lefty protest. (I remember an Amnesty International event at the same spot back in '86 or so, when Amnesty was hip with us college kids because of that Springsteen/Sting/Gabriel tour... never mind, you have no idea what I'm talking about.)

The Express tour operation had little use for showcasing local talent, so there were no candidates on stage. Plenty making the rounds, though, and a fair amount of signage and signature-gathering. State senate candidate Sandi Martinez, auditor candidate Kamal Jain, and governor candidate Tim Cahill seemed to have the most signage and supporters. I saw no sign of Christy Mihos presence, in person or spirit, which I thought was odd.

What else can I tell you? I spoke with Tea Party supporters from Halifax, Quincy, Newton, Lowell, Cambridge, and other parts in and around Greater Boston. They're pissy about Obama and Pelosi and all that, but mostly they're pissy about supposedly being under assault by the people in power and the media who just want to dismiss and demean them. Again, not much different from most lefty protesters. And the lefties who were there were mostly dismissing and demeaning them, so that didn't really help much. (Oh, and by the way, the counter-protesting lefties were just about as uniformly white as the Tea Partiers they were mocking for being all white.) And yes, many of those same lefties have rallied and protested themselves, and some of those same Tea Partiers have dismissed and demeaned them, and the lefties have been all pissy about it when it was their turn. (Although honestly, I've never dealt with lefty movements as devoted to their victimhood as the current populist conservatives.)

It's all a pretty unhealthy, hypocritical shambles, made even more pathetic in this case because both sides were manipulated to be there for the profit of the Tea Party Express, and the promotion of its performers.

But that's OK. I love protest, and rallies, and demonstrations. It's exactly what people are supposed to do when they disagree with their government, and feel powerless or unheard. This one was pretty good, other than the poor sound system. And, the sun was shining -- BIG plus.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, I don't see how any of the Tea Party crowd's big issues are likely to resonate much beyond where they already have. Most people think the share of income taxes they pay is fair, which is unsurprising because virtually every working American received a tax break in 2009, putting the federal tax burden for middle-income families at near historic lows. The economy is improving to the point that few still predict a double-dip recession (even Larry Kudlow is now warning Republicans that they're going to look like morons if they keep saying there's no improvement), the stock market has replaced much of the horrific losses to personal wealth, and as far as most people can tell in their daily lives, they haven't suddenly lost any liberties or freedoms since January 20, 2009. Few people think Obama is a mean socialist; his job approval remains right around 50%, basically unchanged in four months, while his personal favorability rating remains considerably higher, around 60%.

So, the Tea Partiers look pretty stuck in the minority. Like most people frustrated enough to protest and rally for their cause. 

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