Tea Party movement reaches boiling point at first convention hits trouble

Sarah Palin's $100,000 speaking fee angers right-wing rank and file

They came by bus, train, plane and car from places as far apart as Las Vegas, Memphis, Fresno and Boston. And they were variously livid, mad-as-hell, furious and, in a few cases, a wee bit bonkers. Welcome to the Tea Party Convention at the Grand Ole Opry Hotel just outside Nashville, Tennessee.

They come in celebration and anticipation, but quite what will transpire as the first national gathering of self-described "tea-partiers" starts this morning is anyone's guess.

The melodious country tunes you might expect in Music City will likely be absent. Rather, expect a cacophony of competing arguments, banners and megaphones, as they dig in to consider where the movement should head next and what its aims are. Another certainty: the highlight will surely be the Saturday night lobster and steak dinner featuring the event's keynote speaker, the former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

Dissent arrived early, in fact, after two main speakers and three sponsors pulled out at the last minute, alleging that the convention had become a commercial enterprise for its organisers – a group called Tea Party Nation – and that the grassroots nature of the movement was being compromised. The $549 (£348) price of admission angered many, as did the $100,000 speaking fee for Ms Palin.

The movement was born last February when a television reporter commented on air about Barack Obama's bailout plan for the banks. He called for a Windy City "tea party" to protest against the policies, making reference to the Boston Tea Party when colonists rebelled against taxes on tea imposed by Britain in 1773.

The idea caught on and since then tea party activists have sent tremors through the political landscape, first by organising rowdy town hall events over the summer to oppose healthcare reform, then convening a huge rally on the Washington Mall in the autumn, and finally sending volunteers to New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts for elections, helping to tip the results against the Democrats.

While Democrats are rattled by the brush fire that is the Tea Party, so are many in the Republican leadership. The movement is backing hard conservatives to compete in mid-term elections in November. That could hurt the Republicans nationally.

And their views represent a slice of the "Grand Old Party" that the party would rather keep quiet about in national elections. Clamouring for bellhops and registration assistants last night were libertarians, conservatives, anarchists, born-agains and, of course, a ship load of "birthers", the folk who insist that President Obama is not an American and represent more than one third of the party, according to a recent poll.

Nor is there just one Tea Party organisation. Competing for attention this week are Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Express, SurgeUSA, SmartGirl Politics and a string of other conservative groups. Among those boycotting the Nashville bash is Keli Carendar, the "Liberty Belle", a popular figure who was one of the first to stir up the movement. She and other purists worry that a ticketed convention in a fancy resort smacks of the traditional political parties.

"It wasn't the kind of grass-roots organisation that we are, so we declined to participate," said Marty Meckler, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots.

High-profile last-minute drop-outs included two members of Congress, Marsha Blackburn and Michele Bachmann.

Suggested Topics
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried