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I Attended a Tea Party Rally this Afternoon and Here is What I Learned

By: Steve Johnson

9/12/2009 - 30 Comments

The Tea Party movement started a few weeks ago based on the historical Tea Party revolt against the additional tax on imported tea.

Most of the recent Tea Party rallies have been in major cities, so I was surprised to see a rally in my town in central MN.

I wanted to see what is really going on at these rallies and more specifically if a real authentic movement is underway. 

The speakers included several state congressional leaders, pastors and even a few political bloggers. The town of St. Cloud has 50+ churches and 3 major universities. It was good to see the public gathering in support of real change in the direction of the economy.  There were a lot of quotes from the constitution and the founding fathers that supported liberty, freedom, the free market economy and low taxes and small government.

They told us how the current policies of the President are undermining our freedoms, destroying the economy with support for big businesses and big government while starving the small business sector and killing job growth. 

The keynote speaker was Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, elected in 2006, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is the first Republican woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota. Like Sarah Palin, Michele has been very outspoken and critical to the policies of Obama.

The objective of the Tea Party rallies is to take advantage of the frustration of the public by the impact of the recession and the dropping approval rating of Obama and the entire Democratic Party.  The idea is to use this opportunity to awaken the public, educate them about what is going on and how the current policies are affecting the economy.

As a free market economist, I couldn’t help but agree with the speakers, but the question I have is how much support is really there?  Is the impact of the recession really enough to spark a revolution and create true change in Washington?  To be honest, I didn’t see that level of support.

The gathering crowd clapped and cheered as each speaker delivered their strongest points, but I didn’t see the spark of a true revolution.  I was hoping for more, but remember this is primarily a liberal town surrounded by three very liberal universities.

Don’t get me wrong, many Tea Party Rallies have resulted in a major movements in which many 2010 candidates are starting their campaign and have already raised millions of dollars in support, like Peter Schiff and Rand Paul

To truely build momentum for big changes, the Tea Party was missing two key things;

Missing two key things;

1. Influential Leaders

With 50+ churches and over 100 pastors in town, many of which I know personally, I only saw three pastors.  With three major universities and hundreds of professors that speak to student’s everyday, I only saw two professors.

Without the king pins at the rally, I don’t see the foundation for a major change in MN. I didn’t see the local newspaper or any major media outlet.  The most exciting conversation I had was with two political bloggers. They were perhaps the most influential leaders at the event.

The only problem was that they are not economist. They probably don’t understand what the real economic problems are and are probably more focused on their party while ignoring the fact that the Republicans ran the national debt higher for eight years.  The solution is not a Republican president, it's stopping the printing of money – the true source of the economic crisis. 

One of the bloggers was Cary Gross, who blogs at  I couldn't remember the other guys blog. I asked them for a business cards so that I could remember their blogs but neither they nor I had blog business cards.  This was the first time that I realized that I need business cards for my blog.

2. An Educated Public

The public is confused and uneducated.  The public doesn’t really understand what free market capitalism is or what socialism is or what fascism is.  All they know is that they don’t like being unemployed or paying higher taxes or losing their health care.  The true source of the economic crisis is unknown to them. The booming economy allowed the public to ignore government policy for so long that they no longer have any understanding of what government is suppose to do.  

In the last decade the internet has increased the access to information by 100 times, yet the public understanding of economics has decreased. This decrease in public education has increased the influence of influential leaders. The media, the pastors and the educators are more influential then ever before because their opinions are not questioned. 

The result is a state of confusion, as the public is easily persuaded in one direction by a gifted speakers and then the next day persuaded in the opposite direction by another influential leaders.  The public has no foundation of knowledge that they test against what they hear people saying.  And because they have no foundation of understanding they primarily vote with emotions.

We live in a Post-Modern culture, where sound reasoning is easily discarded.  The facts don’t seem to matter and the truth is relative to ones feelings, while faith and hope are based on the human good will (which does not exist). 

This way of thinking makes the politicians focus on emotional arguments rather then facts. Yet sound money and a sound economy are based on statistical facts and logical reasoning.

Gifted emotional speakers lead the crowd.  This was clearly demonstrated by Obama on Wednesday night when he discarded the facts about how much his healthcare plan is actually going to cost the nation and how overwhelming he wants the government to control the entire industry. 

The truth is far from him but it doesn’t matter because he has the uncannily ability to attach his policies to the emotions of the people.  Even as the ice is beginning to crack all around him, he is still able to convince a lot of people that he will pull it off - regardless of the rationality that the nation is broke. 

This way of thinking is noted by Byran Caplan in his book, The Myth of the Rational Voter.




Many Democrats will lose their seats in the 2010 elections and congress may lose control of the House and Senate, but until the young people get involved and the public gets a new found education, I don’t see a major change in direction for the economy. 

After the 2010 elections, the President and congress will be in gridlock for the next two years without any major policy changes. At best we can hope for is gridlock so they don't cause any more damage by creating more bad policies.

The Ron Paul supporters are perhaps the only group that understands the devastating effects of the monetary policy on our nation, and without a major change the economy is not going to get any better and more likely to continue to get worse. 

A few days later a read about the Washington DC Tea Party Rally and discovered that 1.7 million people attended. There is the story on that.

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