The Problem With The Tennessee Tea Party Convention


Slowly but surely, conservatives have been disassociating themselves from the Tea Party Convention taking place next week at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center*.

Freedomworks declined to get involved from the get-go. The American Liberty Alliance pulled out. Erick Erickson at Redstate had serious concerns about the event. Now, Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Marsha Blackburn have withdrawn from the event, leaving Sarah Palin as the only major draw.

Many people may be wondering what’s going on? Sarah Palin’s still scheduled to speak and there are still some great groups like Smart Girl Politics and Eagle Forum still listed as sponsors. Are they bad people if they show up? What’s the issue anyway?

First off, my coblogger, Melissa Clouthier, wrote what I thought was the definitive piece about this convention a couple of weeks ago. It had original reporting and quite frankly, I don’t think anyone has written something better since.

Melissa’s piece had lots of inside dirt and it made the Tea Party Convention look pretty bad. Before it went live, the two of us talked about whether she should write it at all. I can tell you for a fact that there were other conservative news outlets (No, I won’t be telling you who) that had some of the same information Melissa did and they chose not to run it. However, there were also liberal outlets that had the story and we thought they were holding the story to try to embarrass everyone at the last minute. So, our thinking was that it was best to get the information out there and give people a chance to make their own decisions with plenty of notice. Besides, news is news, no matter who it makes look bad, and the people have a right to know what’s really going without being shielded from the truth.

Still, it’s important to note that this isn’t really a story about Sarah Palin — although people will be watching closely to see if she still attends. At this point, even if Palin would like to walk away, the whole convention falls apart if she doesn’t show and a lot of good people would be disappointed. Besides, Palin has already said she “will not financially be gaining anything from this”, although she was a little fuzzy on what she was going to do with the reported $100,000 plus speaking fee.

This also isn’t really a story about the groups that are sponsoring the event or the Tea Party movement as a whole. The sponsors aren’t doing anything other than trying to help the movement. Moreover, the Tea Party movement is going to continue onward and upwards no matter what happens next week.

What this story is about, in my estimation, is one guy elbowing the rest of the grass roots in Tennessee aside, so he can try to make a “million from this movement.”

Now, I don’t mind people making a profit. That’s capitalism, baby! But, a lot of people gave freely of their own time and money because they were concerned about where this country is going and they’re going to be shoved to the side so this guy can run a “for profit” Tea Party event that takes advantage of the hard work they did without giving them anything in return?

Personally, I don’t have any interest in supporting these little tinpot messiahs in Tea Party Movement who see a leaderless grassroots movement and think, “Wow, if I’m willing to screw over enough people, I could really exploit this thing!”

The Tea Party movement has been a tremendous positive note for the country and honestly, I don’t think this event reflects badly on the movement as a whole. Moreover, I don’t think it’s always bad to have outside groups coming in to help out with the Tea Parties. Groups like Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity have done a great job on that front — and their hearts are in the right place. Heck, I can’t even root for this event to be a failure, because Sarah Palin, the sponsors, and the people attending this conference didn’t create this problem and they don’t deserve to be hit with the splash damage.

What I will say is this: The guy running this event, Judson Phillips? I don’t like the way he handled this, the way he treats people, or the way he’s trying to take advantage of the Tea Party movement. If this event turns implodes, it’ll be his “bad karma” coming back to bite him on the behind. It’s too that so many decent people will get hurt in the process if that happens.

* Originally, this post said the convention was taking place at Dollywood. However, I got my Tennessee vacation spots muddled. It’s actually at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center.

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