Tea Party Goes Corporate

The 2010 version of the Boston Tea Party was very different from its very grassroots predecessor in 2009. The 2010 event felt corporate, plastic, and somewhat forced with the inclusion of the Tea Party Express. Perhaps that was due to to the poor audio and stage set up where people beyond the media platform could barely hear the keynote speaker, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. It may have had something to do with the let’s-make-a-buck/traveling magic elixir show feel of the event.

Crossposted at Boston.com

Attendees had their choice of Tea Party Express trinkets to choose from, including $20 programs pictured below. Local political organizations set up tables and booths along the walkway to the right of the stage, sharing space with independent vendors hawking Gasden flags, American Revolution II flags, various conservative buttons, and Fox News Fan t-shirts .

The musical numbers of the event were as lame as the anti-drug songs we had to listen to in high school. At one point one of the speakers, who I couldn’t identify because my view was terrible and the sound system was awful, started singing something to the tune of New York, New York. An impromptu “Yankees Suck” chant broke out near where I was standing in the crowd. What  Boston event would be complete without some yahoos chanting that?

Then there was the rapping. Don’t get me started on the attempts at rapping. Again, this event wasn’t that different from the events at the annual Hempfest. The musical acts at those rallies suck too. Not that I’ve ever attended them or anything.

Rapping and “high powered” musical acts helped separate this version of the tea party from last year. Unfortunately, the audio and visual was the same at both: terrible. Last year’s tea party had something that this one didn’t: local flavor.

The 2010 Tea Party lacked local candidates, officeholders, and activists while relying heavily on blow-ins and C-list celebrities of years gone by. (In fairness the legendary Barbara Anderson was in attendance but she watched from atop the hill, near the monument.)  Sure, there was the brief period where local conservative talk radio hosts got their moment in the sun to promote their show but other than that it really lacked local flavor.

A number of local politicians still attended the event even though  they didn’t have the opportunity to speak to the crowd. Republican State Representative Karyn Polito of Shrewsbury attended the event as part of her campaign for state treasurer. “I wasn’t invited to speak but I knew it was important to come down and here and meet people and listen to people. It’s the same thing I hear over and over again: government is taking too much of money, they’re sick of the wasteful spending, and they want government out of their way so they can live a successful life.”

Treasure Tim Cahill, independent candidate for governor, arrived after Sarah Palin and wasn’t speaking. He echoed Polito, “I’m just hear to shake hands and listen to what people have to say.”

Neither candidate really wanted to discuss the lack of local flavor at the Boston Tea Party.

With the Tea Party Express becoming the dominant Tea Party “brand” in America it may hurt local tea party groups by sucking up money and resources. Sal Russo, the man behind the Tea Party Express, heads up a Republican consulting firm in California and he is reported to have said that he started the Express to raise the profile of his consulting firm and raise PAC money.

Local Tea Party organizations still make up the core of the Tea Party not the national organizations like the Tea Party Express who seem to have co-opted it. People like Christen Varley and Corie Whalen are the reason the Tea Party movement exists not Palin and Russo.

What once appeared to be a prospering decentralized and spontaneous quasi-libertarian movement appears increasingly co-opted by establishment Republican elements.  

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