There aren’t many places where Orly Taitz is a celebrity. But on the West Lawn of the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, Taitz — the Moses of the birther movement — signed at least a few autographs. She was there along with a crowd that filled the lawn for the “Audit the IRS” rally, an event that some expected to be the biggest tea-party gathering since 2010. The event, which sprawled over four hours and countless speeches, drew tour buses full of anti-tax activists and coincided conveniently with an earlier press conference hosted by Republicans who oppose the Senate’s Gang of Eight immigration bill.
In a way, it was a smorgasbord of what’s left of a movement that had its heyday during the early years of President Obama’s first term. While the Tea Party began as a group with a narrow focus (opposing tax hikes and the Affordable Care Act, in particular), the afternoon’s attendees represented a variety of the concerns now found on the right, from opposition to abortion and the Common Core to birtherism and militias. Common targets, besides the obvious, included prominent members of the current Republican establishment — Senator John McCain, Senator Marco Rubio, and Speaker of the House John Boehner.
One woman hoisted a sign that had two bright blue plastic balls hanging off the bottom of it. One side of the sign read, “HEY BOEHNER TRY GROWIN’ A PAIR!!” and the other said “HEY BOEHNER SINCE ODUMBO TOOK YOURS, TRY THESE.” The size of this sign blocked someone behind her from seeing the stage, and he protested loudly.
“Down, dumba**!” he yelled.
The woman looked around and lowered her sign.
“He’s rude,” said her companion.
That was during Glenn Beck’s speech. The erstwhile Fox News host, who now runs his own television network, was the event’s functional headliner, delivering a lengthy talk about the dangers of usurpatory government and the importance of religion in defending freedom. He also invoked the leaders of the civil-rights movement, comparing the oppression of African Americans in the 1960s to the travails of the Tea Party.
Beck wasn’t the only big-name speaker. Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee all spoke, drawing lots of applause and, in the case of the first two, rumblings from the crowd about 2016. A panoply of House members spoke, too, including Tom Price of Georgia, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, and Matt Salmon of Arizona. So did conservative media staples, including Dana Loesch, Jim Hoft, and Sonnie Johnson.
But it wasn’t just media darlings. A litany of tea-party leaders detailed their interactions with the IRS to a highly sympathetic audience; one attendee carried a sign that said, “The IRS is the Belly of The Beast.” Another expressed a more Taitzian sentiment, reading, “NEXT TIME . . . ELECT AN AMERICAN.” A third, on a slightly glummer note, said “America Is F.U.B.A.R.! Thanks to OBAMA – Dictator-in-Chief.” Another banner, often spotted at conservative events, simply had a green arrow directed upward with the caption “Appeal to Heaven.” Nearby, an artistically oriented protester drew a toilet and captioned it, “Eliminate the IRS.”
That little sign, for the most part, was a concise summation of the afternoon.