Saturday, I braved the cold, wind-driven sand to join what cops estimated was at least 30,000 American patriots in the Nevada desert for a Tea Party Express rally. They came in every vehicle you can imagine. Lots of cars and trucks, RVs, SUVs, and a cab, a limo and even a racing bicycle with a wind contour of American flag design.
The site was a wide spot in Highway 95 more than 50 miles south of Las Vegas called Searchlight, the ancestral home of the Reid clan and the boyhood home of U.S. Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid. The purpose? Defeat Harry Reid and welcome him home to retirement in Searchlight.
Being of a certain age, the festive rally felt to me like Woodstock without the drugs; and dry, cold and windy – instead of wet and muddy. Oh, and the music was not as good, but the speeches were better. And there were a lot more American flags.
This was the grass roots, Nancy. No astroturf here. Homemade signs, grandparents, parents, kids, dogs – and not a violent act in sight or racial slur to be heard.
The “right-wing violence” meme was already pretty discredited by Saturday, with plenty of audience laughter at references to the “astroturf” accusations of “racial slurs” and “spitting at a congressman.” Andrew Breitbart spoke, advising the Cincinnati Reds to find the guy who an Ohio congressman charged had thrown a brick through his district office window – when that office is located on the 30th floor of a skyscraper.
Three counter-protesters held signs urging “health care, not war” (have they heard Bush is gone? The war president is now their guy), and “party of racism” (while I watched as whites, blacks and Asians streamed by the sign).
The impact of this Tea Party Express rally in the big picture of things? Hard to say. But the immediate result was clear. The tea-party movement is growing exponentially, the people involved are more motivated than ever, and Harry Reid has a big problem.
Nevada politicians (the governor stood in line to speak to the crowd) and all manner of candidates attended, giving the tea-party movement the political credit it has earned despite the scorn of the ruling classes and the media.
When can you remember politics bringing that many people out to a location famous for being remote from everything? They came from all around, too – Nevada, but also Arizona and California. I saw license plates from Alaska, Oregon, New Mexico, Montana and Texas.
Sarah Palin spoke from written notes, after asking with a smirk if there was a teleprompter. She also showed the crowd some written notes on her palm. The crowd chanted back “Sarah, Sarah.”
The most reviled accomplished female in the country proceeded to take Obama apart, broken promise by broken promise. Her critique of the health-care “reform” bill was spot on and brought the crowd to a roar of appreciation.
The health-insurance “reform” bill suffered scathing remarks from a number of speakers. The Senate Republicans strategy of offering amendments to the reconciliation bill appeared to have caught the attention of at least this crowd. References were made to amendments that forced the Senate Democrats (including Reid) to vote against a ban on federal money for Viagra for pedophiles, and another amendment that had Democrats voting against repeal of the new “medical device” tax as applied to prosthetics for our returning wounded warriors.
The loudest applause line for Palin and other speakers was any reference to the mounting federal deficit. It looked like half the numerous homemade signs attacked deficit spending in some way. The most poignant of these was the 10-year-old girl holding a sign that read: “I’m in debt and I don’t even have a job yet”!
I warned the crowd in my short talk to remember the U.S. Navy SEAL’s saying that “The only easy day was yesterday.” To reclaim a limited federal government of “enumerated powers,” to restore an opportunity society and a free-market economy is going to take a lot of hard work by many more people than could attend the rally.
To that end, the Tea Party Express will continue on from Searchlight with stops in dozens of locations on the way to destination Washington, D.C., mobilizing an army of traditional Americans to elect a new Congress that will champion again the values of individual liberty and individual responsibility, which are the foundation of the success of our country.
It was dusty, windy, cold, and the line for the port-o-potty long. But I’m glad I went. It felt like America.