That Washington

Original Tea Partier, Seattle Conservative Activist, "Liberty Belle," Bails on National Tea Party Convention This Week

By Chris Kissel February 3, 2010

The national Tea Party convention in Nashville this week is brewing (zing!) dissent among some of the original hardcore conservative activists. Some people aren't going because they feel the movement has been hijacked by corporate interests and hucksters.

One of the people credited with founding the Tea Party movement, conservative blogger Keli Carender, is from Seattle. (I interviewed her in Westlake Center in February 2009 when the movement was just getting off the ground.)

Carender is listed as a speaker at the Tea Party website for this week's event (Sarah Palin is keynoting), but in an email message Carender tells me she "will not be attending the convention after all."

According to an NPR story about her yesterday, Carender—a Seattle hipster who works at a social service nonprofit for low-income people— still hadn't made up her mind about going, thinking out loud that she doesn't want the movement to be too centralized—"If you have a machine, you know exactly how to attack it, exactly how to shut it down," she says. "If you have 3 million machines coming at you, you don't know where to turn."

Carender also gets a shout out in this week's New Yorker feature on the Tea Party movement:
Another early agitator who merits a retrospective footnote is Keli Carender, a.k.a. the Liberty Belle, a blogger and “random woman,” as one admirer says, “from Seattle, of all places.” Carender was a week ahead of Santelli in voicing her dissent; her mistake was choosing the wrong animating metaphor. Borrowing terminology from Limbaugh, she organized a Porkulus Protest in response to the economic-stimulus bill, and tried tagging Democratic leaders with epithets like Porky and Piggy and Porker. (Not the least of tea’s advantages is the ease with which it can be converted into a handy acronym: Taxed Enough Already.) But Carender identified a tactic that would prove invaluable in the months of raucous town-hall meetings and demonstrations to follow: adopting the idealistic energy of liberal college students. “Unlike the melodramatic lefties, I do not want to get arrested,” she wrote. “I do, however, want to take a page from their playbook and be loud, obnoxious, and in their faces.”

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