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February 5th, 2010
06:00 AM ET

The Tea Party's five key players

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Protesters march to Capitol Hill during the Tea Party Express rally on September 12, 2009 in Washington, DC."]

By John Avlon
From The Daily Beast

It’s Super Bowl weekend, but the big event in politics is the first national Tea Party Convention in Nashville.

As with all pre-game press, there’s plenty of hype that offers more heat than light. There have been last minute injuries and substitutions—wingnut Rep. Michele Bachmann dropped out from her long promised speaking role, while Sarah Palin has stuck with her $100,000 speaking fee and been rewarded with prime-time speech coverage from cable outlets during the Saturday night banquet.

There is plenty of second guessing and insider scandals—the convention’s for-profit status has rubbed many grassroots activists the wrong way. They see themselves as defenders of the American Revolution, and this twist has some asking whether John Hancock would have rented out Independence Hall and tried to make money off the concessions.

But the big game, the “Thrilla in Vanilla,” goes on. If you’re keeping score at home on cable news or via The Daily Beast, here are the top five key Tea Party players to keep an eye out for.

Keep reading this story »

Filed under: Politics • Welcome to the Tea Party
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Jamion

    Anyone who is against this should really QFT. The concept behind these is to protest the overspending and continual growth of the government. The government seems to be spending more while cutting back on important projects. They are emphasizing less on the people of the United States and more on the deep pockets. The recent NASA proposal is evidence of this.

    It is our right, no our DUTY to observe and if we feel necessary speak out against the government. I will not participate in the Tea Party, but I understand their concern and I support what they are trying to accomplish. Anyone who simply excepts the government for who they are and let them be should look at the current political situation in Venezuela to see just how wrong that can turn out.

    February 5, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  2. J. Green


    Teabaggers must be taken seriously, BECAUSE THEY VOTE.! However, most of them don't know what they are talking about. They just repeat talking points expoused by BECK, HANNITY and LIMBAUGH.

    Engage a teabagger in conversation and see what you get. I did, and this is what I got:

    She stated that Obama was taking away her rights. I asked her exactly which rights have been taken away? No reply.

    She stated that she didn't want government managed health care, that she wanted to able to choose her own doctors, that she didn't want to see rationed health care. She was a senior citizen so I asked if she benefited from Medicare? "Yes" Well is that government managed health care? No answer.

    I asked her if she had health benefits. "Yes" She named her plan. I asked her if the plan limited the doctors to which she had access. She insisted that she could choose any doctor she wanted. I asked if they gave a listing of network doctors? "Yes" So, isn't a bureaucrat telling which doctor you can see? And, doesn't the plan tell you which services they will pay for, or not? "No." Meanwhile we were sitting in a physical therapy office, where the doctor limits patient visits to what the insurance company allows.

    If teabaggers want smaller, less intrusive government, let them stay out of our bedrooms, out of our loves lives, and out of the woman's womb. Ask teabaggers which service they are willing to give up to reduce the deficit: social security, medicare/medicaid, the US military or defaulting on paying interest on government bonds? See what you get. A blank stare!

    However, as vapid as they may be, we have to address their anger, otherwise we will get more Senator Browns. Take them seriously. Assuage their anger with honesty and logic. BECK, HANNITY, LIMBAUGH feed them conservative Kool-Aid and they are drinking it with gusto.

    February 5, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  3. Judy

    I must correct my remarks about agreeing withthe tea party. Where were they when President Bush was in office. He and his Washington buddies put this country in the mess we are in. None say's anything about that Henery Paulson the Bush Treasury Sect and Obama's Treasury Sec, they all new our country was on the verge of a financial break-down. The tea party should protest against these people. All these problem's have been coming for years, financial distress the people and they will have full control. That is our problem, just we have been to blind and greedy to want to admit it or see it coming.

    February 5, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  4. Judy

    Go tea party!!! It's about time we the people stand up against this buruacratic government. The whole country should join the tea party, and go to Washington and set on the front porch of each and everyone of these officals from the White House, Congress, and Senate. Let them fork out money to care for us instead of Wall Street.


    February 5, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  5. mike-sey

    All you need to know is that the T-partiers are prepared to fork over $100,000 for a wink and a nod from Sarah Palin while complaining about government spending and waste. Pretty well says it all.

    February 5, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  6. cathy

    Wow, CNN. Thank you very much. You are giving the "Tea Party" people exactly what they want. AIR TIME, day, after day, after day, after day. Just like you did for the people that were looking out for the Insurance co.s in killing health care. Again, you should be very proud.

    February 5, 2010 at 9:33 am |
  7. John

    I love the "don't want to suger coat" the coverage comment, when that is all you have been doing for 2 years with regard to anything liberal.

    February 5, 2010 at 9:09 am |
  8. Bull

    Where was this tea party movement when the president Bush was in the white House for 8 years, we know what is behind the T party. The 8 years will not be fix in one year, this the time for American to know the truth about T.

    February 5, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  9. Danny G

    Been following your coverage: "Welcome to the TEA Party."

    Acosta gave some weak excuse why your coverage is negative, why you "have" to show the negative aspects, otherwise you would be accused of "sugar-coating" your coverage.

    I dare you to compare your coverage of attacks against Bush with your coverage of attacks against Obama.

    Open your eyes to your own biased blinders.

    February 5, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  10. vic, nashville tn

    Today Tea party convention I didn’t see any minorities , I didn’t see poor or middleclass

    They don’t care about middleclass, poor or minorities

    Nearly 600 people participating Tea party convention they don’t want to pay tax that mean they don’t want pay for the service what they are getting so they are not conservatives

    They blame Obama administration for everything but last night local (Nashville) Fox news was reporting in tea party convention limited access for media is it fair ?

    February 5, 2010 at 8:30 am |
  11. Mbeng Taku

    On a cruise ship? I can imagine the type of individuals or families who can pay for a one week trip in this present economic crisis.Most if not all are above middle class so they don't know what going without insurance or food or even shelter means to the man on the street. Have a nice time on the liberty. Don't talk for those in need.

    February 5, 2010 at 8:28 am |
  12. Lis

    Jim, why did you give so much air time - and let him talk on air essentially unchallenged - to Alan Keyes while he was saying things that were certifiably untrue, like questioning the president's citizenship? Why not air the fact (to him) that it's been proved beyond any doubt that his, just like us, an American? Why air this dead issue at all, because that's their goal, to repeat the fallacy and hope it catches on? Please don't abet that!

    February 5, 2010 at 8:24 am |
  13. Kelsey

    Alan keyes sounds a little jealous. They are really digging deep for evidence againts Obama. Like emphasizing Obamas middle name. I mean really is this second grade when we all call Tom Crespy, Tom crispy and make fun of him till he cries ?

    February 5, 2010 at 8:24 am |
  14. Archie

    Has anyone noticed that these Tea Party people are the only ones with the money to travel to Nashville or take cruises? Common folks don't have that kind of cash on hand. We're doing good to keep food on the table.

    February 5, 2010 at 8:22 am |
  15. Hilroy

    As a black man Allan Keyes should be ashamed of himself. Where were these Tea Part Expressers when George Bush was in office and spendoiing Trillions $$$ on a needless Iraq war?

    A mixed race man becomes president and you have white people joining the group and asking for the president's impeachment. They might as well wear white sheets and hoods with their racist and disrespectful signs.

    Call a spade a spade

    February 5, 2010 at 8:22 am |
  16. John Wright

    Regarding comments on the 'Cruise Ship' about "spelling vote"
    ... can you spell systemic racism ... can you spell paranoia.

    February 5, 2010 at 8:19 am |
  17. Tony

    I wander why the Tea Party is predominately white? They make the claim that, they represent the American people. America is made up of many nationalities culture and races. The Tea Party leaders do not speak out against people who attend their event with derogatory posters and t-shirts of Pres. Obama. Listen to their speakers. They attack Pres. Obama by calling him a socialist. They say things like “We are taking our country back.” Taking it back from what? I believe the Tea Party is very divisive and will move the country backwards rather than forward in regards to race relation in America. Pres. Obama is doing everything in his power to get America back to work. He has prevented an economic disaster and the economy is improving. It will take time to get America back on track.

    February 5, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  18. Joshua Wertheim

    I would love for the Green Party to merge with the Tea Party and create the Green Tea Party. I wont sugar coat my negative opinion of them, they may have bagged Sarah Palin, but if they don't turn over a new leaf I hope they get creamed in the elections. My cup runneth over!

    February 5, 2010 at 8:04 am |
  19. Kelsey Shepard

    This Tea Party ordeal. Well I voted for Obama when I was living in St. Thomas, and while they couldn't vote for him they absolutely love him down there. So tell me why did the Tea Party Cruise decide to cruise for a cause to St. Thomas? Are they really that naive?

    February 5, 2010 at 7:49 am |
  20. Charlie

    Tea Party Cruise? Floyd Brown and (I presume) his wife, talking of fellow American Patriots while on board a ship flying under the Panamanian flag. They spoke of us being on the verge of slavery. All while on a ship that is registered to a country where the minimum wage, according to Google searches, ranges between $250 to $400 per month. While they are preaching about fiscal responsiblilty and sipping margaritas, the employees on the ship most likely not make ends meet, and taxes on that ship are paid to a foreign nation. So much for patriotism.

    February 5, 2010 at 7:29 am |
  21. Ryan Carter

    The Tea Party movement was founded by fiscal conservatives therefore Sarah Palin has agreed to give the 100,000 back to the movement. Please try to keep your news fair and balanced because CNN prides itself on let the facts speak for themselves. Well it is a fact that she announced she will give the money to the movement.
    Please research it for yourself in order to correct the mistake. Thank-You.

    February 5, 2010 at 7:19 am |
  22. Mitch Dworkin - Dallas, Texas

    Floyd Brown was behind the 1988 Willie Horton ads against Michael Dukakis, Brown has a very strong anti-Obama website up right now which promotes the birther & other unproven conspiracies, and Alan Keyes lost his IL Senate race to Obama in 2004 so it is not too hard to tell where they are coming from. These people are not behaving like "average citizens," they are behaving like kooks in my opinion!

    I am sure that there are some truly concerned people who have honest policy differences with Obama and that is perfectly okay. However it is an entirely different thing in my opinion when people either carry around or justify those who carry around Obama/Hitler, Obama/Socialist, and Obama/Communist signs and when people promote riciculous and hateful conspiracy theories about Obama that cannot be proven. These people are as much of a bunch of kooks as those people who carried around and/or condoned Bush/Hitler type of signs. They are all in the same pot of stew of radicals in my opinion.

    If tea party people want to be taken seriously by me and by other moderate people, then they need to raise the level of their dialogue to where it is serious and not hateful. Nothing that Obama does will ever satisfy hateful people so there is no use in even trying to deal with them in my opinion!

    Mitch Dworkin
    Dallas, Texas

    February 5, 2010 at 6:50 am |
  23. Rochelle

    The Tea Party claims to be a grass roots movement, but they have corporate sponsors who are opposed to health care reform because it threatens the huge profit margins generated by the insurance and drug industries. The people who think they're protesting big government are being manipulated by big business. But America is going broke because of Medicare and Medicaid health care cost, 50 million Americans are suffering, and small businesses are struggling to insure their employees. Republicans know America must have health care reform, but they are misrepresenting this issue to oppose President Obama. I have little respect for Tea Party participants because so many are ractists, and because their group is being used by those with ulterior and unworthy motives.

    February 5, 2010 at 6:42 am |
  24. Wm. Matthews

    These ppl should be happy they are in the USA. No other country I know of would allow this crap to happen. These ppl I have met are all just uninformed as to what is real in life.

    The wingnut segments shows just how stupid this whole thing is.

    February 5, 2010 at 6:36 am |