Tea Party Movement Meets to Plot FutureFebruary 5, 2010 - 4:25 PM | by: David Lewkowict
About 600 people are registered for the convention, and more than 1,100 are expected to show for Sarah Palin’s keynote speech Saturday evening.
The atmosphere is very different from that of the tea party rallies held last summer. The crowd is still enthusiastic — complete with chants of “USA, USA”. But the convention schedule is filled with workshops aimed at organizing and growing the grassroots movement.
Thursday, country music songwriter Ray Stevens kicked things off with his new song, “We the People,” which has turned into the unofficial anthem of the tea party movement. Later in the evening, guests viewed “Tea Party: The Documentary Film,” which was created to help erase the movement’s pitchfork-mob label and explain their purpose.
Friday’s workshops focus on voter registration drives, youth involvement in the conservative movement and how to organize a tea party group.
Mark Skoda, a convention organizer, delivered a fiery speech to the crowd Friday morning, saying, “This movement is not about forming a third party. That is a guarantee to lose.”
The convention’s center lobby features vendors selling souvenirs like silver necklaces in the shape of tea bags (with an assortment of sparkly gem stones). Tea party T-shirts are flying off the mannequins.
A handful of tea partiers chose to wear 18th century garb, recalling the original tea party in Boston. While their get-ups may be fun and entertaining, convention organizers say they need to move past those kitschy displays.
“It is a maturity of a movement that understands that to receive power, one must exercise that power, and it is not done by simply holding signs above your head,” Skoda said.
Tea party organizers confirmed a follow-up event scheduled for July 16-17, and announced the Ensuring Liberty Corporation, a non-profit company established to organize and raise funds to support candidates from across the country.
Palin’s speech is expected to last 45 minutes, followed by a 15 minute Q&A session. Her $100,000 speaking fee initially raised a few eyebrows. She now says she plans to donate the fee to charities and other causes.