Category Archives: Politics

Up Close with the Tea Party on the National Mall

UPDATE: I have just been reminded by many diligent readers that “Tea Baggers” is widely accepted as a negative term.  At the risk of sounding oblivious or insensitive – and just plain naive, I was using it as a term of affection. But I digress – and at the chance that someone will not read my piece based on the construct of the word in a title, I have changed it. It has been a teaching moment for me and with it, I’ll leave a lesson for you here: don’t judge the book of Erica America by the cover – it’s impossible to pin my ideology because every day it is in some way shaped by the stories I hear and the people I meet. I’m just your eyes and your ears. My opinions are rarely inside the fold… and when they are you will know.

READ THE POST BELOW. KEEP AN OPEN MIND.

saw something unusual today at the Tax Day  Tea Party Rally – and it wasn’t bright yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags or the woman dressed in a revolutionary gown. It was a woman wearing a Politico employee t-shirt with a name tag that had the logo for Cision – a PR service that collects information and data. What was she doing? Handing out a “Census Form” to a group of willing, middle-aged people at the footsteps of the Washington Monument. Trying to uncover who, demographically, these so-called Tea Partiers were.

The Tea Party  – a rapidly growing movement that started supported in part by initiatives of Freedom Works, a conservative advocacy group in Washington, DC, has spread like wildfire to the states with messages about high taxes and an expanding government – that resonated real time. If your’re web savvy, all you have to do is check out the Tea Party Patriots web site, and scroll through, state-by-state, to see the hundreds of membership organizations and data of a growing group of well, pissed off Americans. But before today, I always thought Tea Partiers were racist, homophobic jerks?

Is the Tea Party misunderstood or is the misunderstanding about the Tea Party? I decided to find out.

As I walked around the National Mall, cutting through a current of signs, I stopped to talk to normal looking people. Did I profile “normal?” You bet. I’m an Indiana Hoosier so nothing about Midwesterners, manufactures or miners seems unusual to me. And as I walked, that’s when I met Jerry from New Jersey.

Jerry was a clean-cut, Country Club looking guy.

“I’ve been involved in the Tea Party for a little over a year now. We’re here looking to make a statement that we’re not ok with what the government is doing. Congress and the Administration. We’re in a rapid slide that is – well taking us to a place that is not the way I think of America.”

“The government can not spend money like they do,” a gay man with his partner, told me.

“It’s going to back up this country. Why am I here? I think its collectivism, the fact that we’re getting together with people who have like minds. We’re peacefully assembling and petitioning our government.”

I do love a good demonstration of the First Amendment.

On my way out, I stopped by the concession stand (I was famished) and before I could find a hot dog, I found something better. A bubbly woman from Pennsylvania with a sign that read “Taxed Enough Already.” When she sat down at the picnic table, I squatted in front of her, held up my camera, and we talked.

“Everything you touch or buy, you’re taxed on,” she told me.

“I have 14 grandkids. Some are in college, and they don’t know what it’s like yet to pay for their own rent, their car, and insurance. Sooner or later they will find out – and when they do, they won’t be happy. We are taxed to death.”

Like everyone else – I asked her: “How was it doing your returns?”

“I am retired and my taxes – well, you’d be surprised how much you pay – retirement income, it’s pretty amazing. I also just lost my Uncle, like a week ago. And now I’m finding out what the death tax is all about. It’s absolutely horrible. I can’t not believe the money he earned, he paid taxes on, the money he saved, he paid taxes on, and now that he died, we’re paying taxes on. It’s been taxes three times over. That’s insane.

So with that, I packed up my gear and made my way through the crowd one more time to my walk home. What just happened? I wondered to myself. Are these people made to be completely fictitious characters on TV – mainstream news – to serve some kind of pre-existing media narrative? Or are they, as I tweeted this: “Americans are worried, broke and tired of career politicians. Can we blame them? #TeaParty.”

Turns out I have no idea if Politico and Cision will be making their survey results public – or if it’s something for their internal marketing and targeting purposes. Either way, I commend the idea. So basic yet so important.

There will be more to come from me on the story of the Tea Party. The Express is moving and I’d hate to miss a good ride.

Posted via web from ericaamerica’s posterous


THOUSANDS OF IMMIGRANTS LINE UP FOR CHANGE

Thousands of illegal immigrants fearlessly met  today on the National Mall. With an estimated 100,000 people in tow, the presence of illegal immigrants and activists from states like Illinois, Rhode Island, California and Florida, seemed to offer a physical reminder that they want to be next up for change.

In 2008, Hispanics, a large sub group of the Latino population in the U.S. voted for Obama 2-1. His promises to bring them out from the shadows, keep their families together and recognize them as legitimate contributors to the U.S. economy got them out to vote. Yet more than a year into his Presidency, immigration reform hasn’t taken priority – yet.

There is an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the nation’s shadows. Continue reading

The Social Media Swing State: MA's Special Election

2008 was a year for Democrats. Led by President Obama, Obama for America utilized social networks, text messages and online organization to get a record number of people out to vote. But today, it looks like the Republicans are about the pull out the social media win. The real question is: will the Senate seat come with it too? Contestants in today’s special election race for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s seat, Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley, are about to find out.

CNN’s Audience Interaction Producer, Eric Kuhn, wrote a post Monday morning “GOP Candidate Dominates Social Networking in Massachusetts,” and pulled numbers of Brown’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to make the GOP case. Kuhn was right, and today Brown’s numbers continued to grow. (Below are the most up to-date stats).

At this moment, more than 110,078 people on Facebook have taken sides and more than 15,338 people on Twitter are tuned in. Brown leads Facebook with 92,964 fans compared to Coakley’s 17,114. He also has a clear lead on Twitter with over 7,000 more followers and listed nearly 600 times. Brown’s approach to social media is also more effective, especially in his use of Facebook. His campaign staff uses the page to funnels news, information, and behind-the-scenes campaign photos. Coakley’s Facebook Page reads more like a resume.

I left a comparison of YouTube out, but I should make one quick point. Brown is burying Coakley. Search for “Martha Coakley,” and you are likely to find, top fold, clips that Brown’s campaign have uploaded about her. Fatal flaw for Coakley’s campaign – to not play offense on one of the most searched web sites in the world.

The gamble is just as dire for the Democrats, who have 60 votes and health care reform at stake with today’s election.

Side-By-Side (As of 2:10AM Tuesday)

Scott Brown (Republican)
Facebook: 92,964 Fans
Twitter: 11,472 Followers

Martha Coakley (Democrat)
Facebook: 17,114 Fans
Twitter: 3,866 Followers
ActBlue (Fundraising): Raised $1,276,289 from 14,668 supporters

20-year-Old Uses Facebook and Micro Donations to Run For Mayor

Glenn Stegall isn’t your average University of Georgia senior. On November 15, 2009, the 20-year-old political science major announced his candidacy for Mayor of Athens-Clarke County. The election is on November 2nd, and while Stegall is not the first ambitious undergrad to go after the college town Mayorship, he has a new advantage: a Barack Obama fund raising model, Facebook, and a life that began in poverty and transcended into the middle class – an advantage that he thinks, sets him apart.

“I believe being able to live in both poverty and the middle class allowed me to see two different worlds,” Stegall told me via e-mail. “I hope this unique experience will give me the insight and understanding a public servant needs to serve a diverse group of citizens.”

Athens-Clarke County is a city of about 100,000 people. As Stegall pointed out in our GChat video interview (see clip below), Athens is one of the poorest city in the United States. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is also one of the most unequal cities in terms of income. Could a 20-year-old possibly have the life experiences to address such a dreary reality?

“My life has also prepared me for this journey. I grew up in a small south Georgia town. The socioeconomic status of just about everyone was poor. Most people I came in contact with on a daily bases had little education…The difference I can make by simply talking about the issues, and raising awareness is worth my effort alone. If we wait for the perfect time to help people, the problems they face may not persist anymore. Our ability to help may not be the same. So I say why not, why wait, and why not step up to the plate now.”

But perhaps what is most intriguing about Stegall’s run is his ability to stay in the race financially. The top contender who has yet to announce his candidacy, Spencer Frye, has raised over $11,000, according to the Athens-Clarke Board of Elections. Stegall has a little over $3,000 on hand, a surprising amount for a candidate who has only been on the trail for two months.

Frye’s contributions have come from less than a dozen individuals. Stegall – over a hundred.