Conservatives are showing they know their way around the Internet just as well as liberals, as hundreds of organized "tea party" protests are planned across the nation Wednesday.
The protests are in part a backlash against what some view as excessive government spending and bailouts. Heralded on videos and blogs, the movement also appears, in part, a reflection of a general anger among people who contend the government takes too much from their pocketbooks. “TEA” stands for “Taxed Enough Already,” according to teapartyday.com, which lists organizers and their phone numbers. Want to find a tea party Text “teaparty” to 69302. Or get on Twitter or Facebook. Conservatives have borrowed a page from President Obama’s Web-savvy style which he leaned on heavily during the ’08 campaign and still uses to push initiatives. “I think there has to be a new Republican party. The Republican Party we’ve seen over the last few years hasn’t done too well,” said party strategist Keith Appell. As many Americans rush to file their 1040 forms on national tax day, cheering crowds across the country are heaving huge coolers with “Tea” painted on the side into bodies of water, harkening back to the pre-Revolutionary War protests in Boston, Massachusetts. In those 1773 protests, colonists dumped tea into the harbor in a show of defiance against British rule and the British Parliament’s attempt to levy taxes on the American colonies without allowing them representation in the body. Protesters on Wednesday said like their colonial forebears, they felt that their voices were not being heard by their government.
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At one protest Wednesday morning a sign read, “I read as much of the stimulus bill as my Congresswoman.” Another read, “You can’t put lipstick on socialism.” Borrowing an often-quoted phrase that Republican Sen. John McCain has used, another protester held up her statement: “Stop generational theft.” iReporter Ed McQueen is a 44-year-old litigation consultant. He told CNN.com that he’s heading to a rally in Chicago on Wednesday. “I have no problem paying my taxes, but when no can tell us where this amount of money is going, no one can sketch it out for us, just seems like an injustice,” he said. “All I hear about [from the Obama administration] is how [it values] ‘transparency, transparency,’ but I don’t see that. … That’s a joke,” he said. “I did my taxes this year, and I noticed that I’m paying as much in taxes as I did the first year I got out of college.” “I don’t have a deep political leaning,” he said. “Now, what is a normal citizen supposed to do” McQueen heard about the tea party events from his father, a working-class businessman in a small town in Ohio. iReport.com: Check out McQueen’s story On February 16, bloggers in Seattle, Washington, were the first to bring conservatives together for a rally against what they see as too many government handouts to banks, the auto and mortgage industries. Protests followed in Colorado and Arizona. The embers turned into a raging fire when later that month, CNBC personality Rick Santelli went off on Obama’s policies live on air. “The government is promoting bad behavior,” he said, his voice loud. He asked why Obama would make Americans who pay their bills subsidize the mortgages of “losers.” Santelli said he wanted a tea party to happen in Chicago, to stand up and angrily demand “No more.” Cheers erupted behind him on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange floor, a video of the rant became viral, and Santelli was compared to Howard Beale, the fictional “mad as hell” anchorman in the 1976 movie “Network.” Fox News star Glenn Beck wept on air, apologizing for his tears by saying that the bailouts made him “fear” for his country. The outrage spread. Rallies were held in the Midwest and the South. iReport.com: Boston tea party Pajamas TV, a conservative Web site that says it gets about 1 million viewers a week, ran streaming video from several protests. PJTV hired McCain campaign poster boy Samuel Joseph “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher to act as a reporter at one of the protests. At least one video shows a protester asking Wurzelbacher if he would like to waterboard Obama. “I don’t approve of that,” said Pajamas TV CEO Roger L. Simon. “I would like to hope, and I think, that most people are respectful.” Liberal tea party critics aren’t buying it. They call the protests “Astroturf,” saying they aren’t real grassroots events, but are organized by old-fashioned Republican Party bosses. The White House has plans to counter the tea party message with an event to remind Americans that the president cut taxes in the stimulus package. iReport.com: Tax protest brewing in San Antonio In remarks in Washington on Wednesday, Obama said he’d been true to campaign promises to lessen the tax burden on most Americans.
“My administration has taken far-reaching action to give tax cuts to Americans who need them while jump-starting growth and job creation in the process,” the president said. A tax cut enacted April 1, Obama said, “will reach 120 million families and put $120 billion directly into their pockets.” According to the IRS, the plan offers a refundable tax credit of up to $400 for working individuals and up to $800 for married taxpayers who file joint returns.