The event was specifically billed as as "We the People" demonstration designed to send a message to "political machine" leaders in both Washington and Sacramento. The webpage for "Unplug the Machine" is here, and at the badge:
These women are with the Sisterhood of the Mommy Patriots):
That's conservative comedian Evan Sayet, just after he spoke:
Dr. Obama Joker was in the house:
This is historical impersonator Peter Small. He did a rousing rendition of Thomas Jefferson, generating tremendous applause with his recitation of the Declaration of Independence:
Here's candidate Bill Hunt, who's running for county sheriff. Not only is he passionate, he's as angry as the angriest tea-partier:
But he's a real friendly guy in person:
This is Dawn Wildman, one of early leaders of the California tea party movement. She spoke about where the tea parties stand today, especially in the context of a major election year in the state:
I didn't catch all of Wildman's speech. My camera was running out of batteries and I ran down to the mini-mart on the corner to get more. On the way back, some fellow patriots were directing drivers and passers-by to the event:
Back inside, here's the tea party sign of a friend who works nearby my college in Long Beach:
One cool thing about the indoor tea parties is that you can really decorate the place:
Chuck DeVore's speech was the main event:
These are your typical Orange County tea party patriots and elderly activists. Whoo!! OMG JOHN BIRCH FASCIST SCARY!!
Here's Chuck after being presented with a "Legislator of the Year" award:
Steve Poizner, candidate for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, also spoke. But the crowd was thinning by that time. (Poizner, who's supposed to be weathly, should be matching Meg Whitman dollar for dollar in the state's advertising wars, but so far it's been all Whitman all the time.)
As grassroots populists, the tea partiers have always prided themselves on their fierce independence from the two major parties. The movement has been anti-government as much as it's been anti-Obama for most of the last year, and RINOs like Dede Scozzafava have no future as GOP candidates as long as tea party activists comprise the bulk of the local primary electorates around the country.
But with today's Chuck DeVore tea party we've seen a formal merger between the tea party base and the most conservative candidates in the California GOP. I've noticed this coming for some time, actually, since at least January, when I reported on Mark Meckler's speech to the Orange County GOP Central Committee. (Local party officials were out-pledging themselves to adopt the most conservative/libertarian principles, and they said they'd bolt from the national party should it sell out the interests of local organizations.)
And note something else: Dawn Wildman spoke of how California's tea party movement is by far the largest in the nation (even bigger than Texas'), and after last May's repudiation of the Schwarzenegger tax-hike initiatives, the California tea parties sent a message nationwide that big-budget tax increases will face massive rejection at the ballot box. Thus the message of tea partiers out west will have dramatic ramifications for what happens elsewhere around the country this year. And recall that when the tea parties gave a dramatic lift to Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the results there showed that activists were pragmatic and focused on good government (and not just ideological purity). All of this is coming together in a way that's almost certain to realign the political system from top to bottom in November.
As we saw last week in Nashville, there's still a lot of debate over the direction of the tea parties and whether the movement will continue to thrive in the absence of a centralized leadership. But from my own activism and analysis of events, it's clear to me that the conservative right has coalesced, pragmatically, around the need to take back power this year; and it may well be that the tea parties have indeed "taken over" the Republican Party. No doubt isolated elections around the country, featuring candidates with diverse constituencies and less competitive electoral circumstances, will take place without a super-mobilized tea party base. But where the GOP is considered competitive in Democratic-controlled districts, folks can expect much more of what we've seen in places like NY-23 and Massachusetts. Indeed, at this point the real focus should be on the candidates themselves, not the tea parties. If the event today was any indication, those in the grassroots will by and large fold their interests with the Republican Party.
We've been witnessing a great awakening of political activism this last year. It's been amazing to see everyday citizens -- many who're participating for the first times in their lives -- get so passionately involved in backing candidates and issues in an effort to restore limited government in the United States. What's been equally amazing is how dramatically the tea parties have destroyed whatever assumptions pundits have had about the direction of national politics in the Obama era. When the president confessed he'd be satisfied to be a "great one-term president," it was totally clear to me that the tea party patriots have gotten a piece of the man, somewhere deep down in the recesses of his being. All of this has been epic, a genuinely revolutionary phenomenon.