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Tea Party Mon Apr 18 2011
On February 29, 2009, about two hundred folks braved the frigid Chicago winter to participate in one of 19 such rallies all around the country at the Daley Plaza. The movement had yet not had a name. President Obama was still enjoying near 70 percent approval ratings. The message of fiscal restraint and smaller government at that rally seemed odd and out of place to the public at large. After all, many blamed an inattentive government for creating the financial crisis. President Obama had ridden the hope and change of more helpful and sympathetic government. Rick Santelli had yet to have his infamous rant. Less than two months later, on April 15, 2009, the crowd numbered several thousand and the protest moved a few blocks in front of the Dirksen Federal Building. The Chicago Tax Day Tea Party was one of nearly a thousand that went on that day. All in all, about one million people protested that day and the Tea Party ("taxed enough already") movement was officially born.
Two years and three days after that first Tax Day Tea Party, the Tea Party movement was back at Daley Plaza for the third annual protest. Much has changed since that frigid day in February of 2009. The movement has a name. President Obama's approval isn't near 70 percent, and fiscal restraint and the Constitution are back in vogue.
This year's Tax Day Tea Party was sponsored by the Chicago Tea Party. It's a sign of just how far the movement has come, as the Tea Party now has local chapters for grassroots organizing. Steve Stevlic, organizer of the event, acted as the master of ceremonies and got things started with a subtle jan at a former Democratic vice president. "I'd like to thank Al Gore for this wonderful weather." The first speaker, hedge fund manager, Fox News Contributor and libertarian Jonathon Hoenig walked on stage carrying a sign that read, "not my brother's keeper."
"Our nation is engaged in a furious debate over how to reform government," said Hoenig. He then went on to chide both Republicans and Democrats because in his view neither party wants to cut the size of government, instead arguing over just how quickly it should grow. "They don't talk about cutting government," said Hoenig, "only making it more efficient."
"Today's government is huge," Hoenig continued. "Government has the wrong role."
A bloated government that violates individual liberty and threatens the very fabric of America was a common theme echoed by the second speaker, Tea Party favorite and newly elected Congressman Joe Walsh. "I decided to run for Congress because I felt we were losing our country," he said. Fresh from his own battle over the continuing resolution, Walsh gave these hopeful words: "We're making some progress and the reason we are is because you folks won't go away."
Walsh also issued the first of many direct shots at President Obama. "Every single policy he believes in is destroying what makes this country great."
Tea Party favorite and potential 2012 nominee Herman Cain was next. "The founding fathers got it right, the pursuit of happiness, there's no guarantee," Cain said.
Cain was greeted often with applause as he extolled the libertarian virtues that founded this nation and mocked those in the media who don't understand the movement, along with leveling several broadsides at President Obama. Cain concluded, "The United States of America is not gonna become the United States of Europe, not on our watch."
Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, was next and gave praise to the Tea Party movement. "The tea party nationally changed the direction of this country," he said. He then took a shot at the top three Democrats. "Three people helped to organize the Tea Parties: Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama."
Former Illinois Gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski, who's created the watch dog group, For the Good of Illinois, took on a localized angle. "We are spent," he said, continuing, "In Palatine, you are spent, your city manager makes more money than all the 50 governors."
Not all the speakers were famous. Insurance broker and local Tea Party activist Steven Tucker spoke. He asked rhetorically, "I have a question for Barack Obama, who is John Galt?"
John Galt is the fictional main character from Ayn Rand's 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged. He's become a folk hero for the movement and that novel has taken on an almost spiritual presence inside it. This rally, like almost all Tea Party rallies was filled with signs referencing the character and the book. In the novel, Galt represents the individual spirit of mankind in a society that has been taken over by an oppressive bureaucracy. The movement views this book as a metaphor for the struggle it faces against the likes of President Obama.
You might also check out Michael Volpe's piece on the Three Star bar in Chicago Heights.