The rally for good government organized by the House of Delegates Tea Party Caucus in the Maryland House of Delegates drew an audience of about 200—not the thousands drawn to Annapolis in the past. The small numbers, however, did not tell the complete story. Many of those in attendance (it was a work day after all!) were leaders of Tea Parties back home and so it was a good opportunity to network, compare notes, and talk about upcoming events and electoral strategies for the next year.
The Tea Party has really entered a new phase—no longer comprised of the angry (cheerful in comparison to the Occupy____ socialist) masses, but more the focused and increasingly savvy political campaigners who understand that in order to bring “change” (LOL!), sign-waving bodies are not enough.
I didn’t take notes because I was too busy talking and networking myself for the two hours when one speaker after another took the microphone. Speakers stood in a group waiting to speak after the first speaker, hardly a Tea Partier, Washington DC uber-lobbyist (see The Hill) Grover Norquist, took the microphone. You all know by now how I feel about Norquist and even leaving aside his questionable connections (see Rep. Frank Wolf here), as a Washington Republican establishment operative for decades he is hardly the person to headline a Tea Party rally as our poster boy. But, alas, see the Baltimore Sun yesterday which used a photo of Norquist to headline a story on the special legislative session and the gas tax.
The one successful grassroots effort in Maryland this year—the petition drive to get the issue of in-state tuition for illegal aliens on the ballot in 2012—was not mentioned.
Organizers of the rally were very careful to keep the focus on taxes and redistricting, but by the time we gathered the deals had been struck and the Legislature had already voted for a further gerrymandered state even more favorable to the Democrat Party. I did get the impression that the Republican leadership in Maryland is trying really hard to keep the Tea Party grassroots safely tucked under its wing.
Early on I saw Del. Neil Parrott (leader of the in-state tuition petition drive) in the group who appeared to be waiting to speak, but as time went on he was gone—presumably pressing business in the session scheduled to only last a couple of days. If he could have spoken he surely would have received the loudest applause of the day as the representative who took the chance and made the bravest political move for a freshman Maryland conservative in recent memory.
Another telling sign that state Republican leaders were controlling the message yesterday was the banishment of some ladies holding a banner advocating traditional marriage. There was plenty of room on the mall for everyone, but these ladies were directed by the police to fold up their banner because they didn’t have a permit to be on the mall that day. At one point one of the ladies was trying to get Del. Smigiel’s (the rally moderator) attention to get his permission to stay. I didn’t see what happened, but later saw the ladies holding their banner across the street.
MD CAN networking
The Maryland Conservative Action Network, which I am involved with, had a great opportunity to promote our upcoming conference in Annapolis and sell a bunch of T-shirts. You’ve heard of the Gadsden flag, well we have the Gadsden crab—see it here—and it was selling well!