Lady Liberty

Keli Carender, Political activist

By Matthew Halverson March 15, 2010 Published in the April 2010 issue of Seattle Met

Image: John Keatley

IT WAS THE best twenty bucks Keli Carender ever spent. The 30-year-old conservative Beacon Hill blogger who goes by the name Liberty Belle and is credited with launching the Tea Party movement waved a $20 bill in Democratic Washington Congressman Norm Dicks’s face last summer and dared him to use it as a down payment on health care reform. And in the process, she issued a rallying cry that socialism-fearing Libertarians everywhere could get behind: Come and take our money from us. On April 15, she’ll deliver that message to Washington liberals during her second-annual Tax Day protest.

LEGAL PLUNDER, that’s what it is.

BASTIAT’S THE LAW—that’s where I got the term plunder. You’re deeming one person more needy and worthy than the one who earns the money. You’re saying they’re more needy than me.

I’LL TELL YOU RIGHT NOW, if there was some kind of endowment fund or private foundation that helped poor people get medical care, I would give money in a heartbeat. I don’t want people to be sick and not be able to go to a doctor. I just don’t think it’s moral to force someone else to pay for it.

THINK ABOUT WHAT GOVERNMENT IS: At the end of the day, government is a force. And what is force? It comes at the end of a gun.

MY NOT-VERY-POLITICAL FIANCÉ told me I needed to start a blog. He loves discussing politics with me, but at one point he said, “I’m happy to talk about it with you, but that’s all we’re talking about right now, and I’d really like to have other conversations.”

IT WAS JUST A PERFECT STORM: an outgoing person, educated, passionate, a go-getter. I’ve been performing for years, so I wasn’t afraid to stand up in front of a crowd. At the first protest, I wasn’t like, “Who’s going to emcee it?” Obviously I was.

I DID AN INTERVIEW ON TV, and after it aired a guy I work with came up to me and was like, “I saw you on KING 5. I’m surprised. You sounded smart. I mean, I know you are, but…” And I thought, Oh I get it: You think everyone in the Tea Party is crazy.

I’VE NEVER TOLD ANYONE WHERE I WORK. I don’t like to tell because I don’t want my workplace to get inundated with complaints or have the windows broken.

WHEN I WAS IN THIRD GRADE, I LOVED JESSE JACKSON. Loved him. I had no idea what he was saying, but I loved to listen to him speak.

FOR A LONG TIME, I just ignored how blue Seattle was because I wasn’t politically active. I had my viewpoints, but I kept them to myself. And honestly that was harder than it is now that I’m open about my beliefs, because I’d have to sit through people saying really awful things about me. But they didn’t know; it wasn’t their fault I sat there in silence. At the end, I was more ashamed of myself because I didn’t stand up for myself.

WE’RE SUCH SOCIAL CREATURES. At school, you don’t want to be the kid with no friends, and I think that even as adults, we still have those fears of being ostracized. I remember moving from a school where I was a little quiet to another school and thinking, This is going to be different. I’m not going to be quiet. I’m going to make friends. So I made that choice. And it worked.

BELIEVE ME, life would be a lot easier if I had different viewpoints.

I LIKE TO HAVE DEBATES WITH MYSELF. I’m totally open to being swayed, but I have yet to find someone who can sway me fully.

IT MUST FEEL GOOD to take people you disagree with or hate and make fun of them with a sexual term. But technically, a teabagger is the one who’s dominant. So really, I’d rather be the teabagger than the teabaggee.

ON YOUR STREET, do you know who the needy are? Do you know if someone’s a widow who’s maybe on food stamps? Do you know who has really bad arthritis and needs someone to come over and vacuum their house? People used to know these things.

I WANT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO PAY NO TAXES during the year and then have to write a check at the end of the year, just so I’m acutely aware of what they’re taking. I want to know. I want it to hurt.

I’M NOT AN ECONOMIST. But when George Bush said he had to—what was it?—let go of free market principles to save the free market, that was the most ridiculous statement I’d ever heard.

I’M TELLING YOU, we’re everywhere.

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