The first thing I noticed while walking through the crowd at Ft. Lauderdale’s Tea Party rally the afternoon of April 15, 2010, was the absence of alcohol. Living in Ft. Lauderdale one becomes accustomed to the inevitable drinking at virtually every event, even those for the older sets (Jazz Brunch, Fiddler on the Roof at the Broward Center, School Board Meetings, etc.). I guess this really was going to be a “tea party”, much to my disappointment.
The second thing I noticed is that the crowd was not as large as I expected. I had read earlier in the day that 10,000 people were expected, but shortly after 4:00 p.m. the crowd on Broward Boulevard was only several hundred. Upon returning a couple hours later after having retreated to my ivory tower, the crowd had grown to probably around 1,200. I do not know who has the job of official crowd-size predictor in Ft. Lauderdale, but that person is, to put it nicely, unreliable. Our New Years Eve block party is yearly promoted as 75,000 celebrants flocking to downtown Ft. Lauderdale, but those of us that live in the real world know it is more like 5,000-8,000 tops. I like to imagine this person’s job interview. Question: How many crowds would you say you have predicted in your life? Answer: 40 to 45 thousand.
The third thing I noticed: people in the Tea Party do not like taxes AT ALL. Also, it seems taxes are an extremely recent innovation of our oppressive government.
Being of a more liberal persuasion, I was ready for the worst…but the crowd was quite well-behaved: I witnessed no violence toward the few kids in anarchist/socialist-symbol t-shirts making fun of the tea partiers, even toward the kid in the hammer and sickle t-shirt with the words “Deez Nutz”. One of these young agitators stood near the small stage where speaker after speaker droned on about the horrors of Nancy Pelosi. A tea partier standing next to him held high a sign reading “Saboteur” with an arrow pointing down at the kid’s head. One couldn’t help but notice the sign was two-sided and the other side’s arrow pointed directly up at the man on stage demanding immediate military action against Iran.
I also was pleased to encounter a table set up by the Sunshine Republicans (a local gay-Republican group) handing out condoms with the word “Love” written on the packaging. I asked a man working the table if they had taken any grief from the larger tea party contingent. He replied that “a couple of people had said things to him, but that’s the great thing about freedom: people don’t always need to agree.” True that…people do not even need to agree on the facts, as the crowd could not get enough of the many speakers completely misconstruing Obama’s recent (at that time) statement that the U.S. would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states who are party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. There were no thoughtful statements as to why such a position would not effectively deter non-nuclear countries from developing such weapons, only that Obama was waving a white flag to the terrorists. Encouraging people to believe such things through such obviously misleading distortions is not helpful.
But overall, I found the tea party to be fun, as long as one is able to take it with a grain of salt. If you ever choose to attend such an event, expect pleasant conversations with nice and sober people holding horrifying signs. But be wary of statements from the speakers. And be double-wary of every crowd-size prediction for any event in Fort Lauderdale at all places and times.