In 2000, I did a rally at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds as Bay Area Chairman for Bush-Cheney that drew 5,000 people. I remember at the time, Bush Chairman Gerry Parsky told me that the soon-to-be-Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney “felt like a rock star” speaking before such a large crowd in the Bay Area.
My estimates when I spoke at Thursday’s rally was about 1,000 attendees, but according to the Contra Costa Times, the rally drew 10,000 throughout the day. Those are police estimates – not organizers’ estimates.
The Pleasanton TEA Rally received statewide press this week in the LA Times and San Francisco Chronicle due to organizer Bridget Melson’s un-invitation to “birther movement” leader Orly Taitz, who believes President Obama is not constitutionally qualified to be president. This is crazy talk, and the organizers did the right thing in ousting her from the program. Dr. Melson held an orderly rally – complete with radio talk show hosts, comedians, bands, and oh yeah – political speeches.
While there certainly were many GOP activists and Republican women’s groups, the majority of the crowd were not the usual suspects. Some told me they were unemployed (or more often “under” employed) and many had homemade signs and shirts far more clever than anything our Republican Party could have thought of.
I ran into several veterans and Pleasanton Military Families I had worked with at the “welcome home” ceremonies when returning soldiers come home to the community. I also saw the star player on my son’s basketball team with his younger brother and mom. She really wanted her sons to be part of this history and understand that government was out of control. Her husband works in the health care field and she fears innovation will be stifled due to government take-over. I also saw the father of a former baseball teammate of my son – he was playing drums in the band. Who knew?
There were tables for many of the candidates running in CD-11 against Jerry McNerney and CD-7 against Nancy Pelosi. The speeches I saw by Elizabeth Emken and David Harmer, candidates in CD-11, were stellar and well received. They talked about repealing health care, the economic horrors of cap and trade, and a government running away from the people rather than serving the people. I missed Brad Goehring earlier in the day, though his liberty-speak would have also been well received and on point.
Carly Fiorina – who appeared earlier in the day – was absolutely on the minds of rally goers. I heard several great comments about her energy and poise, and people were actually quoting her speech back to me – which says a lot.
As I am finance consultant in Assembly District 15 to Mayor Abram Wilson, I had the chance to introduce him at the rally. He stands a great chance to be the first Black Republican legislator in decades in his bid to unseat Joan Buchanan. I mention this only because of the national media’s perception that the tax and tea movement is “all white”. Wilson gave a rousing speech and his crescendo – “Sacramento is not just broke – it’s broken” had the crowd on its feat. A standing ovation followed at the end of his speech. It turns out, people really do want change.
One observation – most who were there weren’t as mad about taxes as they were about government bailouts of the auto and banking industries. Lots of “where’s my bailout” and “where’s my stimulus” shirts and signs were prevalent. This message seemed to resonate more than the tax message – and it means people are paying attention in a bad economy to what their government is doing with their money.