Tea Party Convenes, Attendees Assail President Obama, Big Government

Nearly 600 conservative activists, ranging from the energized to the eclectic, have convened in Nashville, Tenn., for the first-ever National Tea Party Convention, angry at Democrats and Republicans alike.

The first night's speaker said the country "put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House," referring to the president by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, and launching a tirade against the "cult of multiculturalism" that led to his election.

But former Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Republican from Colorado, also had words for the 2008 GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

"Thank God John McCain lost the election," Tancredo said, adding that a McCain presidency would have been a repeat of what he called "Bush 1 and Bush 2," with big budgets and a lackluster stand against illegal immigration.

The 2008 election served to galvanize the right and the people in the crowd at this convention, he said.

The "delegates" here are overwhelmingly white, generally on the high side of middle-age and universally, and very deeply, fearful that their freedoms are threatened, that their grandchildren will be saddled with an incalculable debt and that their nation's best days are behind it.

But the aggrieved attendees hope that their movement can reverse the trend and save America's heritage, and that they've now got the momentum they need to pull it off.

"They want to be able to pass the blessings of freedom along to their children and grandchildren," said Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, the sponsor of the three-day conference at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center. "That's why I'm here."

Tim Peak, a Phoenix charter school director, said, "I'm excited. It's the first time in a long time that I've had some hope for some kind of reversal in our national policies."

Tea Party Convention: 'Paradigm Has Changed'

"Things are changing," said Catherine Tenek of Suffolk County, N.Y. "The paradigm has changed."

Tenek, a self-described "everyday blue-collar worker" who operates heavy machinery such as forklifts and payloaders, couldn't pay her own way to Nashville from Long Island. So fellow members of the Suffolk County 9/12 Project raised money to send her on their behalf. She wore the group's yellow sweatshirt, featuring the coiled snake of the colonial Gadsden Flag, along with its "Don't Tread on Me" tagline.

"I'm here to learn how to organize for America," Tenek said, nearly invoking the name of the Obama grass-roots effort, Organizing for America, but adding after a beat pause, "The conservative way."

Tenek hopes to learn enough here to help fellow activists take on their congressman, Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., whom Tenek described as "a Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barney Frank rubber stamp."

Yes, Tenek acknowledged, Long Island is largely Democratic.

"But we can see what happens to Blue territory when you look at Massachusetts," she said.

Last month's victory by Republican Sen. Scott Brown for a seat that Democrats had held since 1953 has invigorated the Tea Party movement and infused this conference with an energy even organizers hadn't expected when they planned the event months ago.

Among the weekend sessions for attendees, along with talks titled "Correlations Between the Current Administration and Marxist Dictators of Latin America," is a panel that will discuss "Where the Tea Party Movement Goes From Here."

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