Orange County’s anti-tax “suburban warriors” turned out Wednesday afternoon for the local April 15 tea party, held at the Plaza of the Flags in the Santa Ana Civic Center. The event was well-attended, although there are conflicting reports on crowd size from the local media. The Orange County Register suggests that “hundreds” of “frustrated taxpayers” turned out for the day’s event, while the Los Angeles Times puts the number at “more than 1,000.”
I’d put the peak crowd at closer to 3,500, and pictures from the event provide some sense of packed excitement at the rally. Of course, supporters of the tea party rallies can’t rely on the mainstream media to pump up the movement. Indeed, as keynote speaker Andrew Breitbart noted — citing this week’s DHS report on the threat of single-issue voting extremists — the “Democratic Media Industrial Complex” will likely portray the day’s protests as “a waiting list for far right-wing domestic terrorism.”
The secular collectivists on the left are attacking the tea parties as “astroturfing” by conservative elites from Freedom Works, Fox News, and elsewhere. While there’s no doubt that top-level sponsorship helped build the buzz, the fabulous attendance and enthusiasm on the ground tells another story. Wednesday’s rally boasted people from all walks of life, and not a trivial number of senior Americans. Moreover, my networking with the organizers for the Orange County event showed this to be a premier example of a nascent online pro-American, good government movement strutting its stuff in the age of Internet communications and social networking. My local group boasts a “meet up” site, and a Facebook page complements the standard e-mail operations of online citizen activists.
And all this talk on the left that the protests are “meaningless” is pure baloney. The Obama administration’s “economic stimulus” was tantamount to slap in the face to the American people. And while the administration has pledged to “lower taxes on the middle class” (just a charade), we’ve already seen the class warfare on the “evil” five percent of income earners. The voters know how the Democrats treat other people’s money, and in time tax hikes will hit middle-class families at incomes well below the “filthy rich.”
And folks ought to take a look around the states. Oregon’s Democrats will raise beer taxes by 1,900 percent. In California, Governor “Benedict” Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing a slate of ballot measures seeking to raise billions in new taxes for the state. In response to that, activists from California Tax Revolt 2009 warned at Wednesday’s rally that “Atlas is Shrugging.” But as commentators have suggested all along, there’s just an overall sense of righteous opposition to the movement, animated by the genuine deceit and hubris evinced by the Obama administration and the Democratic majority throughout the first few months of this year.
What’s important is not whether Wednesday’s tax revolt is “just the beginning.” The organizers I spoke with were emphatic in their emphasis on non-partisanship and reaching out to those “Democratic leaners” who may now have buyer’s remorse, as well as the younger cohorts who are open to a new era of genuine post-partisan governmental effectiveness. Activists are upset with both parties, as California’s anti-Schwarzenegger sentiment indicates. I’m reminded of 1992, when Texas billionaire Ross Perot entered the race for the presidency as a third-party alternative to what’s now referred to as the red state/blue state stranglehold on the party system. (And remember that Bill Clinton was elected that year, as the reformist elements of the electorate siphoned more from the GOP vote than from the Democrats.)
The challenge here is just as much for the Republicans as it is for the Democratic governing majority. For while 2010 looms large as an opportunity for the anti-tax rebels at the grassroots, the GOP itself remains largely wedded to an identity of pay-for-play big government in Washington. And if there’s any sense one might take away from Wednesday’s massive show of patriotic participation, it’s that the voters are indeed disenchanted with politics as usual and are looking for innovative and cost-effective solutions to the enormous economic challenges ahead. If the tea parties end up ushering a new era of limited government and greater accountability, it will be all for the better, much better — perhaps we’ll even hear a new “shot heard around the world.”