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Will Searchlight and Sarah Palin fuel 'tea party' anger or organization?

Republican Sarah Palin greets thousands of fans at Nevada Tea Party rally 3-27-10

Since "tea party" members at “Showdown in Searchlight” probably needed a few days to scrape dust off their cars, now might be a good time to discuss a more vital question than whether thousands of protesters swamped the Nevada town (which, indeed, they did):

Does the "tea party" movement have staying power?

It’s a question that we members of the “lame-stream media” (we heart you, too, Sarah Palin) have been pondering in recent days.

• The NY Times wondered whether the protest movement would survive after the economy rebounded, since a number of activists are unemployed. 

• The Journal looked at whether GOP races over-saturated with "tea party" activists might hurt the Republican Party.

• The L.A. Times examined Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s reelection campaign in Nevada, a high-profile test of "tea party" activists’ (potential lack of) unity.

Were there any clues in Searchlight? Perhaps. There was an impressive turnout – about....

...9,000 people, according to police – in the two-casino, one-motel town. They stuck around despite the cold, fierce wind, sprays of dust and 38 overwhelmed portable toilets, at least until Palin spoke.

That’s a lot of passionate folks potentially knocking on doors and registering voters for November’s election.

But, as the Las Vegas Sun pointed out, the event had no candidate booths and no one collecting the crowd’s contact information in an organized fashion – both ways to turn momentum into votes.

And none of the top GOP contenders to oust Reid – including Sue Lowden, Danny Tarkanian and "tea party" darling Sharron Angle – spoke until hours after Palin and thousands of her fans had left. Presumably, some long-gone activists were registered to vote in Nevada.

There was also little direction from chief organizer, Tea Party Express, on which of the myriad Nevada candidates might best fit with the movement’s fiscally conservative principles, though California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore won the group’s backing in that state’s GOP Senate primary.

Instead, speakers devoted a lot of time to questioning whether racial slurs were actually hurled at African American Democratic congressmen earlier this month and to lambasting the press, which organizers had invited to the event.

Two things we can say with confidence:

1) One of the more interesting dynamics of the 2010 elections will be whether "tea party" members can channel anger into electoral might.

2) Searchlight is very dusty.

Related items:

Armed and dangerous, Sarah Palin fires up metaphors on both sides

Video and commentary on Sarah Palin's Searchlight appearance

Would you buy a Republican book from this man?

Tea Party loves 'Effing Big Deal' T-shirts

-- Ashley Powers

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Photo: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (12)

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You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate
energy policy.

You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn't get mad when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden.

You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn't get mad when we let a major US city, New Orleans, drown.

You didn't get mad when we gave a 900 billion tax break to the rich.

You didn't get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark.

You finally got mad when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, are all okay with you, but helping other Americans...oh h*ll no.

Tea baggers are the biggest hypocrites on earth

The Republican establishment is using Palin to channel the Tea Party people where they want them to go. It's funny to see them scratching their heads at her endorsement of John McCain over Tea Party rivals in Arizona. They can't stand McCain, but they love Sarah, and think she'd never lie to them.

The Tea Party Express is 100% a Republican organization, created out of whole cloth. Like Palin, they will always work for the GOP, and have no time for rival, grass-roots movements. And I think the Tea Party people are being fooled. According to a recent poll, three quarters of them identify as Republicans now. Hilarious to think of the party of "deficits don't matter" as somehow the great white hope of the Tea Partiers.

They forgot after just one year that the GOP is the champion of corporate welfare and industry lobbyists. Pretty amazing.

Palunn 2012
Yes, she cane!

We are in an era with some truly serious problems. We have two unresolved wars, one potential war building in the middle east, a world that may or may not be coming out of a serious recession. Paying for medical care is a serious issue - no matter how you look at it, our present system, even with reform is insane. A number of states, including mine, are having difficulty paying for essential services. We have a Federal deficit of over 12 trillion dollars. And, oh yes, an unemployment rate of over 9%. How far over? No one knows. We all want services, but we don't want to pay for them.

Does any thinking person believe that Sarah Palin is capable of dealing with any of these? Has anyone heard of any useful solutions to any of these problems from the Tea Party? Has any Republican proposed any practical solutions to any of these problems? Finally, I wonder how Ms Palin is paying for the health care of her unfortunate youngest son. I'm not criticizing; I'm just interested. I hope he is getting the best care possible.

What a LIBERAL far left Blog. Wake up people you lefties are all being taken to laundry!

Maybe there were no candidate booths or contact information booths because the organizers are aware that these are all insiders and 'like-minded' Tea Party faithfuls strictly for show- and that the Tea Party isn't really pulling any new members?

Go Sarah go... Your experience running Alaska (and it's closeness to Russia) proves you are capable of being Commander in Chief and dealing with "foreign issue"

We're rooting for you and hope you run in 2012.

I will now hit my head against a wall...

To Mr. Charles Henry, the GOP actually proposed their own, fiscally responsible, health care reform bill. This bill was a much more logical solution to the problems with the health care system, especially considering the state of the economy, than the communist approach. Please go to and read the bill. These tea party protesters know more about the health care bill that was passed than the democratic lawmakers who voted for it, and that is sad. Democrats can continue to scoff at the tea party movement and the anger of the majority of Americans who opposed this bill all they want. You have already seen what happened in Massachusetts and it will definitely carry on to November. Also, when you said "we all want services but we don't want to pay for them" you were exactly right. Most Americans don't want to work for anything. If they feel comfortable being poor and receiving handouts than that's all they will ever do. There must be some incentive to work and be productive. One such incentive was health care. It is not a right. You must work for everything and the government has made it so that everyone has basically an equal chance at success. I came from a family with a $20,000.00 annual income because my father got Parkinson's disease. Now I own my own business, go to college, and have started a family at 23 years old. There's no more room for excuses. Excuse my language but it's time Americans get up off their asses and make something of the freedom they have been so generously given. Don't let Democrats take it away from you by making you believe that hand outs are whats best for everyone. They don't want whats best for you. They want your vote.

Hey Jacob Burnett -

let's see you started a bsuness and you go to college at 23 - so... where did the money for your college education come from? Student loans? grants?
And capital for your business? Another grant? Or some unrecognized privilege of a relative with some cash to invest?
And if your father was disabled you collect(ed) social security, based on his death or disability?

Started a business - let me guess - Amway?

And hey, you're somebody's babydaddy. Couldn't afford a condom, right?

Clever, Scott Stealth, to write up a slew of unsubstantiated 'talking point' claims and erroneous conclusions as fact and question why they didn't get mad, when obviously the disagreement lies within the conclusions you list. Come back when you want to get off your delusional throne and debate these issues that are obviously bothering you. I'm all for debating the talking points and discussing them, they're there for a reason, but just because you think 'we let New Orleans drown' and 'Iraq was not a threat' doesn't mean the opposing point of view is hypocritical-- that just demonstrates that you bear no understanding of the point of view you're arguing against.

• The NY Times wondered whether the protest movement would survive after the economy rebounded, since a number of activists are unemployed.

Unlike the anti-war left, for whom the majority of protesters were never employed in the first place.

Fox News reports describe massive support for Sarah Palin and her tea party. The populist wave that will wash those socialist out of Washington. Why, in Salt Lake City, the crowd for the Tea Party Express was ..... 400 ......

What a delusional bunch. Meanwhile Obama is busy fixing the mess that Republicans made of the country.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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