In what will be one of the biggest thematic swings in my reporting career, a week after getting back from Haiti I’m heading to Nashville, Tennessee to cover the first ever National Tea Party convention.
As with any kind of grassroots movement, holding a national convention is somewhat of an oxymoron. Before dispatching me, my boss, Washington bureau chief Michael Duffy, reminded me of John Sayles’ excellent essay, the Anarchist’s Convention. And while, the contrast isn’t so sharp – the Tea Partiers don’t believe in chaos over order — it is striking to see grassroots groups whose only common theme is, arguably, small or limited government come together in a bureaucratic exercise.
Before the convention even began, it had seen controversy: Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Michele Bachmann pulled out after some disgruntled tea partiers accused organizers Judson and Sherry Phillips, the heads of a Nashville Tea Party group, of personally profiting from the venture. After all, few grassroots activists can afford the $549 registration fee. The keynote speaker, though, remains former alaska Governor Sarah Palin who has said she’ll donate her reported $100,000 speaker fee to “the cause,” which likely means her own PAC (which, apparently, has spent a good amount of those dollars donated thus far buying copies of Palin’s memoir, “Going Rogue”).
The convention begins today at 3pm and goes until Saturday night, when Palin is expected to speak at a closing gala dinner. Seminars include Tom Tancredo on immigration, Judicial Watch on the state of President Obama’s nominees to the bench and a session entitled “Correlations between the current Administration and Marxist Dictators of Latin America.” I’ll be bringing you regular blog reporters and tweets as the scene unfolds at the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center (which, by the way, is a lot like Disney World). We even have a videographer coming, for those of you interested in seeing what will surely be a very visual gathering.