Protestors vow to form "one giant Dick Armey"
Across the United States, thousands of Americans spilled into city streets to protest government spending of the Obama Administration. They are not just ordinary protestors, however. Instead, they have adopted a method of releasing their pent up frustration borrowed from the Founding Fathers: having a teabagging party.
Weary of endless government bailouts, the teabaggers warn that Obama is erecting a socialist welfare state. They believe that the government has no business inserting money into the free market, and that the market should decide which business come and go. "In short, what we teabaggers are saying is, 'Suck it up,'" says Richard Head, the organizer of TeabagAmerica.com, one of the many Internet sites devoted to teabagging.
That message grabbed the interest of conservatives around the country, and the Internet helped swell those ranks even more as many conservative teabaggers went online, eager to meet like-minded individuals. "I was just online one night, searching about teabagging," said Harry Peters of Seattle, Washington, "and after a few visits to other sites, I happened to click on a link about a teabagging party right here in Seattle."
The teabagging party Peters attended took place outside of a men's restroom near the Space Needle. A dozen men gathered around the entrance, with pairs of men occasionally ducking into the restroom to "get hot water" for their teabags. "It's disgusting what the government is ramming down our throats," said Mr. Peters as he waited for his turn. "We have to get off handouts and stop begging the government to fulfill our every need. People need to be more independent." Mr. Peters, who attended Washington State University on the G.I. Bill after serving in the U.S. Army, is a contract manager at the Boeing Company.
The desire to join in on this teabagging seemed universal among conservatives, regardless of age or geographic location. In Des Moines, Iowa, large numbers of teabaggers from rural areas surged into the capital, attracted by news of teabagging activities in the state capitol. "All Obama wants to do is just keep handing out free money to people," said Randy Johnson, dressed in vintage eighteenth century knee-high pants and silk stockings as he dipped his teabags into a cup. "Well, let me tell you, you can't have a democracy when you're ruled by welfare queens." Mr. Johnson is a farmer who sells most of his corn crop to ethanol processors.
While the rallies mostly focused on taxes, they turned to other issues that have gotten a rise out of conservatives. At the Des Moines rally, many talked about the state supreme court's decision to make same-sex marriages legal. "What kind of example does that set for our children, especially for young boys?" Mr. Johnson asked as he sipped his Chamomile tea from a cup that read, "I [heart symbol] Mike Huckabee."
"The idea of two men doing what Randy and I do in our most private moments...well, it gets me pretty hot and bothered," said Mary A. Johnson, Mr. Johnson's wife of 38 years. "Marriage is about family values, like raising children or baking pies or watching our favorite shows like Wife Swap, which Randy and I just love."
Mr. Johnson added, "The left is trying to get us to swallow this homosexual agenda, and I for one am going to spit it back in their faces."
At a rally Phoenix, Arizona, immigration was perhaps even more of a rallying cry than taxes. A group calling themselves "Ye Olde Teabaggers"—disguised as Native Americans like the original participants of the Boston Tea Party—addressed the crowd. "These immigrants come here to take our land, our food, and our livelihoods," said Robert Knobs, a Pittsburgh native who moved to Phoenix to take a job as a Wal-Mart manager. "They are destroying small-town America as we know it."
Initially, this anti-tax movement was relatively small and appeared to lack any real staying power. However, once the idea of teabagging was introduced, the movement grew very quickly and hardened into a political phenomenon. "The key to stimulating a grassroots political movement is you have to have some fun," said Glenn Beck, the conservative television commentator who is one of the most ardent proponents of teagbagging. "That's why we started with teabagging. It allows us to play around and have a little fun before we get down to business."
The rapid climax of the teabagging movement at these tea parties hints that this grassroots movement may have had a helping hand from prominent conservative groups. Specifically, FreedomWorks, an conservative political organization headed by former Congressman Dick Armey, is alleged to have pumped a large amount of liquid assets into the movement. While Mr. Armey downplayed his contribution, teabaggers at the Atlanta rally where Mr. Armey was to speak acknowledged the contributions of the former House Majority Leader. "Separately, we are but a bunch of little Dick Armeys, getting out the conservative message in little dribs and drabs," said Hugh J. Toole, the head of the Atlanta teabagging branch. "But together, we can come together as one giant Dick Armey and unleash a huge outpouring of conservatism all over America."
Likewise, many pundits at Fox News served as mouthpieces for the teabagging movement. "I love what teabagging is doing for conservatives," said television host Sean Hannity. "It tells you everything you need to know about us: that we're not just going to lie there and take it, but instead we're going to be aggressive and not stop until we get what we want."
Hannity also believes that the movement is here to stay. "All this teabagging isn't some giant tease for conservatives. We're going to keep pounding this message home."
At the end of a long day, many teabagging participants looked tired and exhausted, even if they glowed with the pleasure the events clearly gave them. "I feel great, but I'm ready to relax," said Mary A. Johnson after the Des Moines rally. "That's why my girlfriends and I are going to finish our day of teabagging with a group facial."
Ms. Johnson turned and hollered to her friends, "Come on girls, let's go to the spa. I just got my tax rebate!"