National media outlets may continue to debate whether or not Tea Party day was an authentic or manufactured phenomenon.
But here in Boise, there is no doubt that the 2,500 marchers that crammed into Capitol Park at lunch time Wednesday, represent a real, if somewhat confused and confusing constituency.
I spent about three hours trying to sort that out, but one Idaho lawmaker, known for speaking her mind, summed up the fringe ideologies that made up this crowd quite well.
Prior to Rep. Lenore Barrett’s speech (see below, I'll get to it), I had spent the morning trying to figure out the precise ideology that linked the Boise State student who complained about the national debt in the same breath that she lamented having to put herself through school to the guy who let his little dog crap in the path of the marchers and remarked that there was probably a government program to take care of it.
I caught up to the Boise group as marchers entered Julia Davis Park and assembled at the Gene Harris band shell.
Led by Boise theocrat Bryan Fischer, an accomplished emcee and master of Astroturf manipulation, the crowd cheered lines about "legalized plunder" and government assistance weakening the character of those who receive it.
Fischer introduced an objectivist who quoted at length from Atlas Shrugged and argued that the original Boston Tea Party was all about individual rights.
I later asked Greg “Who is John Galt?” Perkins, a local jazz saxophonist, how opposing taxation without representation relates to individual freedom—weren’t the colonists asking for their own representative government to tax them instead?—and he handed me a flier about Ayn Rand.
“Atlas Shrugged could be considered the second Declaration of Independence,” Perkins said.
Then Idaho ex-congressman Bill Sali took the stage for an adoring crowd at Julia Davis Park. It was possibly his first public appearance since his non-concession speech on the day after the November election, which he lost to Democrat Walt Minnick.
“How many of you think that government spending is the answer to our problems?” Sali asked, rhetorically.
The answer should be business and free enterprise, Sali continued.
The crowd then marched down Capitol Boulevard toward the Idaho Statehouse where a roast pig and a gaggle of Idaho legislators awaited the tea baggers, and the meat of the rally.
That was when Rep. Lenore Barrett, a Republican from Challis, in a short speech delivered from the bed of a pickup truck, summed up the reasons for the gathering in a 10-point list worth repeating:
1. Congress wouldn’t recognize the Constitution “if it fell in their lap and called them daddy.” 2. The lack of a gold standard. 3. Global warming, which is a decoy designed to create a global panic. 4. Stop apologizing for the Judeo-Christian heritage of the country. 5. American sovereignty and withdrawal from the UN. 6. State sovereignty. 7. Bailouts and stimulus is just buying votes. 8. Keep your hands off my kids, abolish the secretary of education position. 9. My kids were the product of a “traditional marriage” from the moment of conception. 10. Secure our borders and, finally, “Come get your killer wolves.”
So there you have it. As one politically astute observer in the crowd, an acquaintance of mine, put it, the Tea Baggers were linked by one thing: folks who have been left behind as American society progresses.