“People credit me as the one who started the Tea Party,” says Keli Carender. “I feel like the tinder was already there, ready to burst into flames, and I just lit the match.”
On Presidents Day 2009, Carender organized a “Porkulus” protest at Westlake Park downtown. Appalled by what she deemed excessive spending in the federal stimulus bill, the 31-year-old Seattle actress and activist says the protest “was born out of the frustration at my opinions not being listened to.” She expected it might be only herself and her parents protesting, but 120 people took part. Word spread, thanks to Twitter and social networking, and within weeks 30,000 people had organized similar protests across the country. A television commentator christened it the Tea Party movement and a political phenomenon was born.
The Tea Party now has thousands of chapters, and Carender is recognized nationally within the movement. But Carender is a member of the Tea Party Patriots, which is not a part of the lightning-rod segment often portrayed in the media. “People are interviewed on CNN trying to be self-styled Tea Party candidates, speaking for all of us, and they say stupid things,” Carender vents. “It’s incredibly frustrating.” A self-described independent, Carender blogs as Liberty Belle (redistributingknowledge.blogspot.com) and says her Tea Party group doesn’t endorse political candidates. “We welcome anyone—Democrats, moderates, progressives,” she says. “We want accountability, which I think would appeal to everyone.”
Published November 2010
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