My first exposure to the Georgia Tea Party was at a volunteer meeting held at the Cobb County public library. I expected maybe a handful of people and I wasn’t sure who or what to look for. When I pulled in the parking lot the first thing I saw was a young preppy guy (about 25 or 30) getting out of a car completely wrapped in decals from FairTax.org. This was a professional job; the car was like a moving billboard for not wanting to pay taxes. So I locked on Mr. FairTax, if anyone knows where this thing is, I thought, it’s him. And as I walked into the library I couldn’t help but sense irony in the fact that a bunch of people who don’t want to pay taxes are meeting at the PUBLIC library, you know the one that’s funded by tax dollars! Oh well, that surely won’t be the craziest thing to come out of tonight.
I was stunned! This place was packed; besides me and preppy guy there were at least 60 people in the room! There were five or six under 30 years of age but the rest were mostly mid 50’s or early 60’s. I counted two minorities, both female. One was Asian (about 60) and the other Black (about 40). So demographic wise we basically had a bunch of old white people. Or to put it more accurately, a bunch of pissed off old white people. This was about a week after Obama signed the new Health Care Bill into law and I kept hearing whispers from the crowd about “Socialism” and the “Mafia in the Whitehouse.” I was getting nervous, if these people figure out that I’m a godless liberal, they’ll tar and feather me or they might even tea bag me! So I was relieved when a kid in his mid 20’s, Michael, complete with a polo shirt and name tag adorned with the Tea Party logo, called the meeting to order. Mike gave a brief intro and railed on Healthcare for a minute to get the crowd fired up. And fired up they got, I heard cries such as, “They’re destroying our country!” and stop “Obama’s Tyranny!” Then something happened that surprised me. It was a voice of reason that came from a little old lady in the back of the room. In the past week there have been bricks thrown through windows and even death threats to Democratic lawmakers. This sweet little old lady was calling on people to be civil and she was no sooner shouted down by a hateful old bat that accused her of being a Democrat, which she wasn’t. This venomous old bitch, we’ll call her Jan, claimed the recent threats of violence against Democrats was a “set up” to make the Republicans look bad. Jan was a nuisance throughout the entire meeting. If she wasn’t interrupting then she was fawning over the few young people there and bringing the entire meeting to a halt. You have to understand that the Tea Baggers are desperate for youth in their movement. A few teenagers trickled in towards the end of the night and you would have thought Glenn Beck himself had walked in the room. Jan forced these precious little patriots into telling their stories to the crowd and I couldn’t help but think, Good god! What are you poor bastards doing wasting the golden years of your youth at a Tea Party Meeting? You should be out chasing girls or at the very least hurling bricks through the windows of your local Democratic lawmaker! Ah to be young. But I’ve gotten grossly off track here. Where was I? Oh right, Jan was in the middle of her tirade with one of the few sensible people there that night. Thankfully Mike was able to get her to shut up for five minutes and then we had the obligatory opening prayer, which was led by a volunteer from the crowd, we’ll call him Jimmy. A quick fun fact about Jimmy, he’s unemployed and someone like him has the potential to benefit the most from our new healthcare system but that’s not the fun part. The fun part is his former employer: AIG! How weird is that? But back to the meeting, now that everything has been consecrated Mike turns the meeting over to Virginia Galloway from Americans For Prosperity.
The AFP is a conservative advocacy group, which is a polite way of saying that it’s a lobby and Virginia is a lobbyist. Here’s a fun fact about Virginia: her babysitter was Newt Gingrich! So what chance did she have but to become a blood-sucking lobbyist for what she calls the “non-partisan” Americans For Prosperity. Ms. Galloway would basically run the rest of the meeting. In fact Michael, who I thought was leading the meeting, left and I didn’t see him for the rest of the night. The AFP is into all the stuff you would expect; free-market ideology, cutting taxes, limited government, and so on. I guess it’s a natural fit for the Tea Party mentality but I came there to listen to the Tea Baggers not some vampire lobbyist who doesn’t give a shit about these people but only her corporate benefactors; not least of which is the Koch Family Foundation. Koch (arguably the nations largest privately held energy company) and Americans For Prosperity were behind the infamous Hot Air Tour that warned us against the dangers of global warming alarmism: lost jobs, higher taxes, and less freedom. Galloway was here tonight to shore up support for a big effort being taken up by Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue and the Republicans in the State Assembly to sue the federal government over the mandate that all citizens buy healthcare insurance. Oh yeah I almost forgot, Virginia was also there to pimp the Next Step Training seminar where you too can learn to promote the AFP agenda. But Ms. Galloway was really just the opening act for State Senator Judson Hill (R), whom authored the legislation to exempt Georgia from the Healthcare mandate. But the good Senator is running a little late so we have a little Q&A session while we wait. First up is a woman in her early 50’s; we’ll call her Anne. Anne would like to know why the public could not vote on healthcare rather than let those fat cats in Washington muck everything up. Virginia told her that the Democrats probably would not want the public to vote on it but she also politely reminded Anne that we live in a REPUBLIC not a Democracy. Jesus Christ, I thought, this lady is old enough to be my mother and she doesn’t know that! Next came a young, borderline dwarf of a man who we’ll call Andy. Andy was in his early 20’s and very short but also fairly muscular, he had a very strange build and he said more than one thing about guns that night. Andy just got out of the Marine Corps and before I go any further here I want to say that I fully respect and appreciate Andy and the countless others who have sacrificed so much for our country. But having said all that doesn’t mean that Andy’s not a homophobic, 2nd Amendment nut with a Napoleonic complex; which, leads me to why he was there that night: according to Andy a lot of the higher ranking officers are really fed up with all of the “shenanigans” that are going on with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In fact they are so fed up with the “commies” in D.C., that many of them would like to resign their post over the matter. But if they were to do that, they would forfeit their pension, benefits, and all the other things that come with serving your country honorably. What’s Andy advocating? Allowing members of the military who choose to resign if “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed, full access to their benefits. Now I’m not sure why Andy thought this would be a good forum to bring up this matter and even Virginia did not seem to want to go near this issue, but no one in the crowd seemed to object to what he was saying. So here’s what I say to people like Andy; first of all, do you honestly believe that gays are joining the military to pick up guys? You realize that gay members of the military are fully aware that they will be going to somewhere like Afghanistan not Spring Break on Fire Island? Secondly, you don’t think it sets a dangerous precedent to allow members of the military to resign every time they disagree with a policy? Further more when you make a commitment, whether it is the military or a business contract; you fulfill your part of the bargain or you don’t get paid; it’s that simple. But what I’ve come to learn about people like Andy, whether they are homophobes, gun nuts, or other extremists, is that they don’t really represent the Tea Party. People like Andy just tend to graft on to the Tea Party because they’re the only conservative movement that’s gaining any traction right now. Fuck, I said to myself, will someone save me from this ignorant rube? Wait whose this silvery haired gentleman entering the room? He’s impeccably dressed and adorned with a “Don’t Tread on Me” lapel pin. Could it be? Yes! It’s Senator Hill, here to save me from this madness!
Hill made the conversation sound a little more sophisticated than my friends Andy and Anne but he basically continued upon what Galloway was preaching. And speaking of preaching, he was telling it to the choir. The Tea Baggers ate up everything he said. Along with spearheading the effort to exempt Georgia from the healthcare mandate, Judson also wants to give the citizens of Georgia the ability to buy insurance across state lines but that effort was killed through a bipartisan effort in the State Assembly. “What are their names?” the crowd called out as if they were ready to get a posse together and string these guys up. Hill calmed the crowd and then continued on to a pretty standard Republican diatribe of the nations new healthcare plan; “socialized medicine,” “government takeover,” you know the standard stuff but my favorite was when Hill called the IRS the “Healthcare Police!” Oh the Tea Baggers loved that. Judson did have some ideas of his own though (well maybe not his own) like, TORT reform and of course allowing consumers to purchase insurance across state lines. Both of which, seem like reasonable proposals and I don’t know why the Democrats did not include them in their plan. But Hill lost me when he started comparing Medicaid to “crack dollars.” I had been there for over 2 hours and I hadn’t learned a damn thing about these people that I didn’t already know: they’re scared and angry. So I got the hell out of there and I was pissed because what was supposed to be a Tea Party meeting turned out to be nothing more than a forum for the agenda of Americans for Prosperity and State Senator Judson Hill. But I wasn’t done with Tea Party yet…