21st Century Tea Party Goes Digital

On the same day that one of America’s most storied newspapers ran its printing presses for the last time, conservatives took to the steps of Colorado’s state Capitol in Denver Friday to call for an online conservative revolution. They weren’t alone.

The rally, part of a national "Tea Party" day of protest, drew around 300 people. It was the second of three Denver rallies scheduled over a two week period to protest excessive government spending by the Obama administration.

Jon Caldara, a Denver talk show host and president of the Independence Institute, called on attendees to adopt many of the techniques utilized by the left in 2008 to successfully elect Obama.

"We are not good at this," he told the crowd. "How many of you feel awkward waving signs, thinking ‘I’m not that guy’? But I guarantee you that those guys who dressed up like Indians and threw tea in the Boston Harbor all those years ago felt pretty awkward, too. Today is the beginning of a movement and we’re going to get better at this."

The protest was organized after CNBC market commentator Rick Santelli went on air to call for a Chicago Tea Party — as a nod to the Boston Tea Party of 1773 which helped jumpstart the Revolutionary War — to condemn the Obama administration’s proposal to subsidize homeowners who purchased risky mortgages. Santelli proclaimed that now is the time to "reward people who could carry the water instead of drink the water. You can’t buy your way into prosperity."

Across the country, thousands took up Santelli’s call to action. At an Atlanta rally, hundreds came out in driving rain to distribute One Trillion dollar bills with the faces of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In Tampa, the crowd was smaller but still passionate. About 30 people gathered to dump tea into a river there. And according to news reports, more than 1,000 protested in St. Louis.

In an interview with The Christian Science Monitor, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said Friday signified the largest turnout of conservatives since the anti-gun control rallies of the early 1990s.

In Denver, the day was especially poignant. Missing from the event was any reporter from the Rocky Mountain News. Just months shy of celebrating its 150th anniversary, the paper buckled under considerable debt and was forced to publish its last paper Friday. The Rocky‘s editorial page, seen as a balancing force to the more liberal Denver Post, will be missed. And while the Post declined to cover the event in its Saturday edition, conservative bloggers peppered the crowd, furiously taking notes and conducting interviews.

Caldara applauded the devotion, noting that organizers had successfully utilized the Internet over just a few days to draw the strong attendance. Referencing the Rocky‘s closing, Caldara called on participants to take responsibility for getting a free market message out to the public. More than a dozen popular blogs took up the call, featuring the event on their sites.

"We’ve got to do this because our voice certainly isn’t going to be heard from inside there," he said, pointing to the Capitol, where Democrats now control both chambers.

With the Obama administration wagering billions on its socialist proposals, Santelli and his allies find themselves in a tough spot where a political victory may mean devastating consequences for future generations already charged with paying today’s debt.

"I want the new administration to win this one," Santelli told the Chicago Tribune. "We are all Americans. We want to win this one. It’s a question whether spending our children’s money is going to make us win or not, or is it going to take its own time to heal, like a cold going away. And all this money we’re spending isn’t going to get a very good return and when it’s over, we’re going to be in the hole deep."

But as conventional media, including the Tribune, continues its decline, will the blogosphere be enough to ensure that the free market forces are heard? If Friday is any indication, conservatives are taking a step in the right direction.

Let the revolution begin.