Virginia's Tea Parties on top
Virginia's Tea Party movement has grown with a vengeance to become what some observers say is the best organized such movement in the country.
Its success, and strident resentment of current politics, will be in evidence Friday and Saturday when the movement convenes at RIchmond's Convention Center for a big conference.
Drawing on anti-Obama sentiment, concern about deficit spending and frustration with the anemic economic recovery, the movement in Virginia has grown to about 30 informal chapters and 8,000 participants. "We're incredibly successful," Jamie Radtke, a tax consultant and stay-at-home mom who heads the Richmond Tea Party and the umbrella Federation of Virginia Tea Parties, told me.
These are heady times for Radtke, whose story is told on the front page of the Wall Street Journal today. The Virginia Tea Party types have played a big role in turning around sentiment in the Old Dominion, which voted for Barack Obama in 2008.
Radtke and her confederates insist that they are not particularly anti-Obama and that they are equally critical of George W. Bush's bank bailout, House Minority Whip and Henrico Congressman Eric Cantor's spending, and Republican members of the Virginia General Assembly who Radtke says have doubled the state's budget.
But as well-organized as the Virginia movement seems to be, there are still loose ends. To be sure, there's a racial element, since the parties sprang up after Obama, the first African American president, took office. Tea Party organizers in Virginia go to great lengths to show that they are diversity-conscious and often draw attention to members who are black.
Another problem stretches farther down the ranks. I attended a tea party meeting at a middle school in New Kent County last week. The participants were drawn from a piney woods area of about 13,000, mostly white people, many of whom are retired, about 35 miles east of Richmond.
About 150 attending saw a slide show with the usual patriotic themes that got tougher with each click. Bush's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, used to bail out such giant financial entities as AIG, was billed as a "liberal" program and tied to Obama. The speaker was a minister and retired Harvard Law grad who along with an assistant were the only African Americans in the room.
And when the Tea Parties converge in downtown Richmond, they will be living large thanks to the largess of taxpayers. Although the movement is vigorously anti-tax and anti-government, the convention center where their event will be held was built with $170 million raised through a tax increase on regional hotels, according to one astute local observer. A hotel across the street where many will stay was built with $44.8 million in historic site tax credits. A new performing arts center built nearby to revitalize the downtown area's forlorn Broad Street was built with $61.3 million in taxpayer money.
These contradictions don't seem to bother the exuberant Tea Partiers. After all, they have the state's Republicans, including Cantor and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, dancing to their tune. According to the Journal, the movement helped push right-wing Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli to sue to block Obamacare's requirement that U.S. citizens buy health insurance. And they are well organized.
Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.
| October 6, 2010; 10:34 AM ET
Categories: HotTopic, Local blog network, Va. Politics, Virginia, arts, development, economy, education, energy, environment, faith, guns, health care, history, religion, schools, taxes, traffic, transportation, vouchers
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