Free Markets, Free People
National Tea Party Convention running into problems
Since it’s in my backyard, I’ve been curious about the national Tea Party Convention scheduled for Nashville from February 6 to February 8.
My initial hope was to do some coverage of it for QandO, perhaps with some video. I contacted the organizer Judson Phillips, who politely let me know that press credentials were extremely limited. Undeterred, I replied, asking if I would be allowed to do video and such if I paid the rather large entrance fee ($549). No answer, I’m afraid, probably because right after that inquiry the event sold out.
I didn’t take it askance, because I’m sure he’s got his hands full. And I fully understand his desire to have some measure of control over press coverage, given the often biased coverage of Tea Party events in the legacy media.
This morning I noticed that he also turned down Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit). That was downright silly. If I had to choose one person with the right combination of strong understanding of the Tea Party cause and a very large megaphone, it would be Glenn.
Glenn pointed to an article on Politico detailing the trevails faced by the organizer. The event was intended to be for-profit, which apparently Judson didn’t work very hard to communicate to the sponsors, one of which pulled out after learning the details.
The for-profit thing seems to have run into trouble too, as it appears that despite selling out, the event might lose money. It makes me wonder how much experience the organizer has. I’ve done events with several hundred people. It takes massive amounts of planning. Getting the details right can be costly and staggering in terms of time. Plus he’s picked the Opryland Hotel, where I have a bit of past experience. They are expensive, and are they charge for things you might not expect; I wouldn’t be surprised to see a line item on their invoice for air breathed by the attendees.
It appears that part of the problem is a contradiction at the heart of the event. It’s billed as a “working convention”, which implies that it’s not about getting publicity. But having Sarah Palin as a headliner pretty much guarantees a lot of attention. Given that the attention will be there no matter what, if I were the organizer, I’d be working hard to make it favorable. Sympathetic bloggers such as Glenn are an obvious way to do that.
I want to see the Tea Party movement do well. I also recognize that the generally amateur nature of the movement has been a part of its charm, because it contrasts so strongly with the dreary professionals who dominate politics.
But the downside of amateur efforts is the potential for mistakes that pros wouldn’t make. I think we’re seeing some of them in this case. Given the distaste of the legacy media (and legacy politicians) for the Tea Party movement, they’ll use any opportunity to make it look bad. I’m afraid this national convention is shaping up to be just such an opportunity.