Tax Day Tea Party in EP
by Elizabeth Ruiz
Posted on April 15, 2009
While they might not all be wearing knee pants, knickerbockers and tri-cornered hats, conservatives nationwide have taken to a national movement evoking Revolution-era imagery. The national Tax Day Tea Parties were sparked by a on-air rant from CNBC’s Rick Santelli, although some would argue that the movement started last year by the Libertarian Party of Illinois. It was Santelli who in this widely circulated video who declared, “The government is promoting bad behavior.”
Santelli's outburst and other similar calls, combined by a grassroots movement -- although it has been called "astroturf," as in fake, by liberal columnists such as Paul Krugman -- based largely in internet social networking, hundreds or thousands of protests will take place today, April 15 tax day.
Local organizer Genna Pendergras caught wind of the national movement and started a local tea party to be from 4-6 p.m. at the State Line Restaurant. The Tea Party will be one of the first major events for a new 501(c)(4) called Conservative Grassroots El Paso, which currently includes an eight-member board of directors and six officers. “It isn’t a PAC, it’s policy-based. It’s providing information to help voters make informed decisions,” Pendergras said of Conservative Grassroots El Paso, which will focus on fiscal conservatism and limited government more than social issues. “We’re not specifically endorsing candidates, we’re supporting policies.”
Pendergras has rough plans for the organization. “I know that we want to host townhall meetings that will promote policies that are fiscally conservative.”
A frequent internet browser, Pendergras found the movement’s website, called Tax Day Tea Party. The site, which includes links to a Facebook group with more than 30,000 members and a listing called Top Conservative on Twitter, served as a launching pad for Pendergras’s tea party. She expects at least 200 attendees from El Paso, a traditionally left-leaning city. The gathering will include a canned food drive and a live screening of Sean Hannity’s appearance at an Atlanta tea party and is also expected to garner membership for Conservative Grassroots El Paso.
Summing up her motivation to organize a local tea party, Pendergras gave her own personal take on the issue. “Most people realize that we can’t spend what we don’t have, and they don’t want to make future generations pay for it.” Pendergras said.
Although she can’t anticipate what the attendance will be, Pendergras said, “It’s moving people in El Paso to get organized. It starts here, and it starts with each of us. Strength in numbers is very powerful.” Those interested have several places to RSVP, such as on the Tax Day Tea Party website or the Facebook group. “My hope is to gain a database for people who support fiscally conservative issues,” said Pendergras.
Like most protests, this movement has sparked its share of counter protests, such as one planned by a group in New Mexico that, like Krugman and others, refers to the tea parties as Astroturf grassroots movements. Gay activists in the Boston area, the focal point of the Revolution-era imagery, have staged Boston Tea Party re-enactments that call for gay rights.
The clip that started the movement has been a source of controversy and created a partisan split in reaction to Santelli’s remarks on the stimulus bill. Fox News has also been criticized by liberal non-profit Media Matters for what they perceive as sponsorship of the coverage, with the network’s most popular hosts -- such as Hannity, mentioned above by Pendergras -- broadcasting tea parties across the nation.
Though the party is hosted by a conservative group, Pendergras says that the issues could cross ideological lines. “Conservatives and liberals – we’re holding them all accountable. We’re trying to say, ‘Enough spending.’”
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