I WENT TO my first Tea Party rally Sunday at the Cuyahoga Falls River Square pavilion.
Tea Party? I did.
April 15. Tax Day. Even tried to blend in as a regular guy by wearing a faded sweatshirt and jeans. Like the ordinary taxpayer that I am. With this crowd, I figured it couldn't hurt .
Listened to strident speakers. Strolled around, peeking at the literature in booth after booth for more than 90 minutes, but finally gave up when the speakers started to repeat themselves to the several hundred Tea Partiers who showed up from at least four counties with the latest right-wing T-shirt fashions, signs, bumper stickers, petitions and flags. (One shirt had a target on it and warned that if you could see it, you were "within range.")
I believe most of the angry groups in America where represented by at least one T-shirt to embrace the rally's theme of "Rescue America". The John Birch Society, National Rifle Association. pro-lifers and anti-taxers, constitutionalists, freedom defenders, EPA haters - I may have missed a few, but you get the idea.
A huge inflated eagle facing Broad Street told me the sponsors weren't shy about spreading patriotic thoughts. Nor was the Republican mayor of the host city, Don Robart, who welcomed the throng by declaring his pride in seeing so many Tea Party supporters seated in the sun-splashed amphitheater.
Unable to contain his joyous moment for his town, he declared that the "Tea Party is the social, fiscal and moral conscience of America." (Got that, New York to California? A little over the top, don't you think?)) The mayor then settled down and spent the remainder of his time there working the crowd.
But it was an African-American preacher, Theodore Wilson II, who commanded the stage with a long assault on everything-Obama-administration to a 99.9 pct. white audience. He even went after the critics of the Republican-driven Voter ID movement. And we know that would deny votes to certain people that the GOP would prefer to stay home, don't we? I did catch him saying nice things about the Rev. Franklin Graham, who is not sure that Obama is an American.
But why focus on this one of several inconsistencies in what turned out to be about a gathering heavily shaped by religion, from abortion to same-sex marriage, and condemnation of the government. (I wonder if Wilson got a glimpse of the bumper sticker that referred to Obama as the "big African ass"?)
There were a number of pols slated to speak later, including State Treasurer Josh Mandel and State Sen. Frank LaRose - but I doubt that they could have added anything fresh to the narrative.
As I left the scene, it occurred to me that I hadn't heard Mitt Romney's name mentioned even once. I went to the Summit County Republican Party booth to inquire about it to the chairman, Alex Arshinkoff. But nobody seemed to know where he was.
On the way out, I was approached a couple of times with puffy bios of Mandel that mentioned his time in the military. It reminded me that this whole event was being hosted by a mayor who opposes a minor change in the city's Natatorium's fees for a wounded Iraqi veteran who happens to be a partner in a sex -sex marriage. Do you think you could talk some patriotic sense into him, Josh?
On the other hand, as a Tea Partier yourself, maybe you agree with him.