Today is the 5th anniversary of the 9/12/09 Taxpayer March on Washington. It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since the tea party movement burst onto the scene in a big way and gathered in one place at one time – the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. What started as smaller grassfires of protest in cities across the country in February 2009 became a conflagration of taxpayers’ outrage at big government in September 2009.
I remember the first tea party protesters, Mary and Ron Rakovich, from the Fort Myers area, in Florida. In early February they took to the streets with a dozen or so protesters and told President Obama that they were not happy with his big government assault on our liberty. Only a few days later more protesters gathered in places as diverse as Mesa, Arizona and Overland Park, Kansas, and sounded the alarm that the American people had to wake up from their slumber. The Paul Revere of this movement was a reporter for CNBC, Rick Santelli. On Feb. 19th he went on a rant on live television as he railed against the big government policies of the Obama administration. Thousands of folks around the country were watching, including me, but within a day more than a million people had viewed the rant on YouTube. Santelli called for a new tea party protest, in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Some of us reached out to CNBC through our producer contacts, but they made it clear that they would not be organizing any tea party rallies. So, a few dozen of us got together on a conference call to discuss how we might go about organizing a national protest the next week, on Feb. 27th.
I wrote a blog post with instructions on how to organize a tea party protest, and posted it on my blog The Conservative Revolution. I emailed it over to Michelle Malkin and Glenn Reynolds, who both linked to it on their blogs. My site nearly crashed in the next week but I was able to give guidance to hundreds of tea party organizers around the country. It was pretty simple, actually. I just told people to show up, bring signs, make them legible, bring friends, family and co-workers, contact the local media to cover it and be sure to collect email addresses. The first tea party protests occurred in more than 50 cities across the country, and I gave a speech at the event in DC. Some liberals snickered when I said that this was the start of a grassroots revolution that would sweep around the country, and even around the world, but that’s exactly what happened over the next few months.
Brendan Steinhauser is a national political strategist focused on campaigns, media, and public policy.