Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reflections on the Va. tea party convention

Cross-posted at the Washington Examiner....

Reflections on the Virginia tea party convention

The party is over, so to speak. The first-ever Virginia Tea Party Convention successfully completed its two-day event at the Richmond Convention Centre on Saturday.

It wrapped up with the results of a presidential straw poll that saw NJ Governor Chris Christie win in a field of 12 Republicans and two Democrats. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin came in half-a-point behind Christie. Others rounding out the top five were Ron Paul in third place, Newt Gingrich in fourth place, and  Jim DeMint in fifth place.

A variety of speakers took to the stage and participated on panels throughout the weekend with such well-known names as political consultant and Fox News contributor Dick Morris, Wall Street Journal columnist and Fox News contributor John Fund, former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, and talk show host and former president of Godfather's Pizza Herman Cain.

Republican politicians participated, too, including Virginia's top three: Governor Bob McDonnell, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. They were joined by Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, former Virginia U.S. Sen. George Allen, and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Catch-words heard throughout the weekend included "conservative," "establishment," and "constitutional." Republican elected officials mingled with convention goers. Some tea party participants were angry and itching for an argument while others were friendly and willing to participate in a two-sided conversation. It was an interesting mix of personalities but the overall feel was of a friendly crowd becoming interested in the goings-on of government and how they could become involved at the grassroots level.

Debbie Lee, mother of the first Navy Seal killed in Iraq, Marc Alan Lee, had a booth set up with remembrances and thank-yous for military members. Her remarks on Saturday saw the crowd lean in to listen as she spoke of her son, of her activism, and of the need for Americans to stand up and take part in the future of their country. A personable lady, she stopped by bloggers row both days to chat and talk about her latest project, "Tea Are The World," something I will write more about in a separate post.

Breakout seminar sessions covered a variety of subjects including the constitution, spreading the message, intellectual property rights, illegal immigration, using new media tools, eminent domain reform, media assault on tea parties, how to start your own tea party, property rights, government budgeting, science of climate change, a look at the progressive movement, congressional forums, how to run a campaign, online activism, transparency in government, and much more. I was a panelist for the online activism discussion sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, sharing ideas for citizens to make their voices heard in today's world.

Tea party director Jamie Radke commented that it took about four months to organize the event. It was a well-run convention although there were a few kinks. The media rooms were located in a separate area of the building away from the main hall where most events/speakers were taking place, which made logistics difficult for bloggers and media-types who were settled at tables in the main hall. Many were hesitant to leave expensive equipment sitting unattended while heading upstairs for a press conference, and it was not feasible to pack up everything every time to run back and forth.

Vendors filled the hallways selling books, t-shirts, jewelry, and political buttons as buyers eagerly lined up to check out the wares.

Jim Bacon, fellow Washington Examiner free-lance writer, Bacon's Rebellion creator, and author of "Boomergeddon," a no-nonsense look at the financial future of the Baby Boom generation and their children in today's fiscally precarious world, was talking with folks and signing books at his booth. More about the book and Jim in a later post.

The convention was declared a success at the end of the day on Saturday. Will there be future tea party conventions? The political climate and upcoming elections may be deciding factors in whether the tea party movement will continue to grow.

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