Texas Teabagging Not So Sweet

Wednesday's anti-tax protest show tensions in the conservative movement

If the Republican Party was hoping that yesterday's mass teabagging was going to be purely an anti-Obama event, they might end up being more worried about the cracks it shows in the image of conservative unity.

The lunchtime event at City Hall attracted an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 people: Good for a local event, but still easily contained within the plaza. Since it attracted both speakers and attendees from across a large slab of Central Texas, its significance as a mass movement will remain questionable – especially since the speaker roster featured Republican heavy hitters, including Gov. Rick Perry and Republican Party of Texas Chair Tina Benkiser, who should get big crowds anyway.

While many of the placards on display were straight-forward Obama-bashing (see the photo-gallery for a selection of the signs) quite a few aimed swinging blows from the Ron Paul end of the party at the GOP leadership. While Benkiser happily railed about how the Obama economic plan was "what happens when you let the hogs take over the farm," Michael Barre of the Travis County Republican Liberty Caucus was explicitly critical of both major parties. There was even a good showing for the Constitution Party (not exactly big fans of the GOP or the Dems.)

The meme seemed to be that this was all just about re-establishing the Constitution. Ex-state rep Rick Green (whose defeat by Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, in 2003 is often seen as the real beginning of Democrat dominance in Central Texas) claimed that these gatherings were "the first shots in the second American revolution." While he toned that down to say it would be fought "not with bullets, but with ballots," considering the ugly scene in the Senate Transportation Committee yesterday, that may not be the note he meant to strike.

But there seemed to be as much anger against the governor's mansion as against the White House. Robert Morrow, founder of Conservative Republicans Against Perry, summed up the mood of a chunk of the crowd when he took on the governor's legacy directly, calling him "a fraud and a phony when it comes to small government." The accusations were the same ones that Perry has faced since last session: The margins franchise tax, forced HPV immunization, not really a conservative.

There's no real surprise there: Paul's support in no small part flows from a discontent from the right and small-l libertarians about the recent direction of the Republican Party. More worrying for Perry might have been the smattering of signs and t-shirts for Wharton County GOP chair Debra Medina: As Perry tacks to the right and launches vaguely veiled smears against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison before next year's primaries, he's heading straight for the political territory that Medina is aiming to colonize. Morrow added, "It's not that (Perry's) trying to co-opt (the protests), he's scared about the primary, that's he's going to lose in 2010, so he's going to pretend to be a conservative for a year."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Republican Party of Texas, Rick Perry, Teabag protest, Teabagging, Constitution Party, Conservative Republicans Against Perry

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