Saturday, February 6, 2010

Nashville Convention Not THE Tea Party Convention

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The group, Tea Party Nation held a convention this weekend in Nashville and I'm not there.

How can this be? I'm conservative, in the "new media" and a supporter of the Tea Party movement. How did it come to pass that I'm at home while a mediafest seems to have broken out in the Volunteer State?

I guess I can mark it down to "poor communications." When I first learned, in December, that "The Tea Party" was having a national convention, I was initially excited: a get-together of people who believed in limited government gathered in one place within an eight-hour drive. What luck!

I emailed Sherry Phillips, at the Tea Party Nation website and waited.

And waited. Not hearing anything, I emailed a second time. Nothing.

After a third email request about media arrangements, I received a reply on December 29 from Ms. Phillips.

Hi - Could you please tell me which organization you are with again?

For general information regarding the press:

We thank you for your interest in being present for the First National Tea Party Convention to be held at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN February 4 -6, 2010. Press will be allowed in a designated section of the lobby of the convention only and will not be allowed inside the convention. There will be no media allowed for the banquet with Sarah Palin. (Bold type in the original.)

I was disappointed: it was hard to see how a convention could be effectively covered from outside the convention. In the meantime, there were rumbles from people who had helped start Tea Party Nation complaining that Sherry Phillips and husband, Judson, had usurped the group.

There were stories of sponsors unhappy and bailing, as well as speakers withdrawing. Most of the tea party groups in Tennessee declined to support the Nashville effort, at one point threatening to protest outside the Opryland Hotel.

There were also complaints about the price of admission, $549, and about the Judson's pocketing of any proceeds from the event.

Some leading Tea Party activists also declined to attend. Philip Glass, the director of the National Precinct Alliance, said in a statement his group was "concerned" by the potential "exploitation of the grass-roots movement."

The walk-up to the convention did feel somewhat corporate. This tea party revolution brought to you by Lipton (joke). But one convention sponsor is a Madison Avenue based website called Tea Party Emporium. At the emporium one can purchase an $89.99 sterling silver and quartz crystal tea bag lapel-pin to "flaunt your patriotism in fashion!"

It was not Glass' sort of Tea Party. "The majority of the people in this movement cannot even afford those tickets," Glass told me, adding that he still wished the organizers well. Glass' group aims to fill local political posts with "constitutional conservatives."

The press picture remained muddled right through this week. First, only conservative press was invited, then others. Apparently, within the last week, the media doors were thrown open--though not everyone got the memo.

The Christian Science Monitor noted that there were 200 media people present--opposed to the figure of "600" convention attendees.

Original story at DBKP: Nashville Convention is Not THE Tea Party Convention

"Convention spokesman" Mark Skoda said that his group "worked with media that are friendly."

“We desire transparency at this convention and have worked with media that are friendly to the Tea Party movement as well as those that have not been seen to be supportive of our efforts.”

Skoda said of the 120 media organizations that asked to cover the convention, the group credentialed 111 members of the press.

Obviously, I was in that select group of nine who did not get credentialed, though I had to be among the first to inquire. The Tennessean also wasn't credentialed, apparently because it wrote about the controversies between the Judson's and other locals who were forced out of the Tea Party Nation--among other reporting.

So, here I sit, waiting out the snow, eight hours from Nashville.

Nashville Tea Party Tickets

Which gives me time to point out a few things:

1- This is not "the" Tea Party convention. It is "a" tea party convention. One would hope that a non-profit organization holds a convention in the next year and has someone who doesn't make last-minute changes in their media policies. Some of us are on a strict budget.

2- The talk about this convention's controversies meaning that there is dissension in the Tea Party movement is just that: talk; and mostly, it's just talk from those who cover the Tea Party movement the least and with the most animus. You know, a lot of the press organizations that ended up in Nashville this weekend.

3- Though others disagree, I don't think speaking at the Nashville event will hurt Sarah Palin. She is a symbol of popular unrest with the political elites. One appearance at a controversial event likely won't hurt her.

This convention may have been well-meaning, but it obviously was an attempt by a few people to ride the Tea Party 'brand' to the bank.

That a number of powerhouse speakers attended, as well as a who's-who of the New Media is promising. It means that whenever the next Tea Party convention is undertaken, it could really be something to behold.

And hopefully, more than "600" people--who had to shell out $549 to get into an event that they helped start--will be able to attend and show their support.

by Mondo Frazier
image: Mobility for Independence

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