Values Voters' Angry Afternoon Tea

The afternoon of the first day of the Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC, continued the morning’s themes: denunciations of the Pelosi-Reid-Obama axis of evil and celebrations of all things Tea Party – and the insistence that the religion and values agenda of the Religious Right is inseparable from the Tea Party’s limited government goals.

Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum kicked off the session with a reprise of his current stump speech, a denunciation of secularism and an assertion that we can’t have economic freedom without virtuous people, and we can’t have virtuous people without lots of religion in our public life. Like other speakers, he called this November’s elections the most important of our lifetime.
 
Gary Bauer made it clear he was vying for “angriest man” honors, hectoring the audience with bitter complaints about liberals treating the Constitution like toilet paper and the president trying to “set one class against another in the rawest class warfare.” He insisted that “this country is in shock about what’s being done to our nation.” The country is “sick and tired of being lectured by liberal elites.” Bauer claimed, ridiculously, that “almost none” of America’s elites believe the 9-11 attacks were caused by radical Islam. When he attacked Obama and Bloomberg for defending the rights of Muslims to build a cultural center in New York, shouts of “traitor” were heard from the audience. (In contrast, there was only scattered tepid applause when Bauer described as “foolish” the Florida pastor who threatened to burn copies of the Koran.) Bauer ended with a graphic recounting of the violence that took place on the 9-11 flight brought down by the passengers, and demanded that people show the same kind of mettle in taking back America.
 
Delaware’s new GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell urged people to remember how despondent they felt in the early days of the Obama administration, when conservatives were told, she said, to curl up in a fetal position for eight years. “Well,” she exulted, “how things have changed.” O’Donnell also railed against the “ruling class elites” who look down on Tea Party activists and insisted, “there are more of us than there are of them.” She said Tea Partiers are shouting back at these would-be masters, “You’re not the boss of me!” She encouraged people to keep fighting. “We aren’t trying to take back our country, we ARE our country.”
 
The afternoon’s “surprise guest” was not Sarah Palin, as some had speculated, but Dale Peterson – the guy from Alabama whose choppy, quick-edited, gun-toting ad running for agriculture commissioner became a YouTube sensation. Peterson was seemingly meant to be the authentic voice of Tea Party America. He said Obama hates America and is doing all he can to bring down America. Peterson later told journalist Sarah Posner that he doesn’t believe President Obama was born in the U.S.
 
A Tea Party panel brought together three activists who told stories about their own transformations from being moms and conservatives who minded their own business to becoming activists.  Activists Katie Abram and Billie Tucker said their Tea Party work was guided by God waking them up early in the morning with instructions, the same way, one said, God does with Glenn Beck. Tucker describes a disagreement among organizers of their local tea party group. When one argued against adding moral issues to the mission, Tucker responded, saying “God did not wake me up for four months at four in the morning to say, ‘Billie, we’ve got a tax issue.’ He woke me up because he said my country doesn’t love me like it used to love me.”
 
Amy Kremer of Tea Party Express said her group’s mission was focused on fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets; she credited Rick Santelli’s rant about the mortgage meltdown with lighting the fire. Kremer, who worked for Joe Miller’s Senate campaign before heading to Delaware to campaign for Christine O’Donnell, urged activists to focus on the fall elections. “The time has come to put down the protest signs and pick up the campaign signs and engage,” she said. “If we’re going to truly effect change it’s going to be at the ballot box.”