Keli Carender, the young Seattle woman widely acknowledged as the founder of the Tea Party movement, spoke to about 30 members of the 2nd LD – 29th LD Republican Club last week in Parkland.
In Seattle’s Westlake Park in 2009, Carender organized a protest against President Obama’s financial stimulus program, and about 120 frustrated conservatives attended. From there the Tea Party movement ignited nationwide.
In person however, Ms. Carender does not look like a political powerhouse upon first glance. She looks much younger that her 31 years, and with her embroidered jeans, artsy cotton blouse, and lime-green Converse All-Stars sneakers, she could easily be mistaken for a typical college student.
Once she starts speaking, however, the depth of her convictions come soaring forth. She is especially articulate when she relates how disconnected she feels from the power and policies of government, particularly the federal level.
“I called Senator Patty Murray to complain about the stimulus package, and got a message saying her mailbox was full,” said Keli. “Then I wrote letters to both Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell, telling them of my opposition to the stimulus, and I received letters back that said, ‘Thank you for your support!’” she said to raucous applause.
To her very enthusiastic audience, Ms. Carender said her journey in becoming a voice for millions of Americans actually began in a very personal way – frustrations with her liberal friends and colleagues.
“I got fed up living in a place where supposedly tolerant people are really intolerant,” Carender said, describing her social interactions with peers – many of whom were fellow comedians in the Seattle club scene who loudly objected to her conservative viewpoints.
“I got sick of hiding my feelings,” she added.
Keli decided she had two choices – one, accept not having a voice and going with the liberal flow of things; or two, holding a protest.
Going into action, she started a blog to voice her conservative views, and developed her Internet political identity, “Miss Liberty Belle.”
“When I decided to hold a protest at Westlake Park, I didn’t know if anyone was going to show up other than my parents and me,” she said.
But two weeks of emailing associates she had met in a handful of conservative gatherings led to support from local conservative talk radio hosts.
The Westlake event was termed the Porkulus Protest, and a follow-up gathering a week later drew 300 people, with 1,200 participating in a third protest two weeks after that.
Nearly two years later the Tea Party movement is now well-known and Keli works for the Tea Party Patriots, one of the organizations that has coalesced out of the many grass roots protests.
Reflecting that organization, Keli’s presentation in Parkland was very organized, concise and polished.
“We’re going on the offensive,” she announced to the Republican Club members.
Describing her plan of action, Keli declared that the federal government has “way too much power,” and she wants to “bring it back to the states.”
Keli’s main objective is wresting control of health care away from the feds and allowing the states to choose what kinds of social programs it desires, if any.
“We are advocating the end of Obamacare,” she declared, adding that she champions the dissolution of Medicare and Medicaid as well.
“The federal government has had control of healthcare for years and they have failed miserably,” she announced.
However, Ms. Carender did not say if she advocated the transformation of the Veterans Administration health care system to a private operation, such as with an adoption of a voucher payment plan. The federal government owns and operates the 172 hospitals of the VA, the world’s largest network of hospital care, and a voucher system has been advocated recently by congressional Republicans as a replacement for the federally managed Medicare and Medicaid programs.
However, Ms. Carender recognizes the enormity of her goals.
“To change the system you first have to change the electorate,” she said. “We can’t change the elected officials until we change how the electorate thinks. We have to educate the people – one person at a time – and that takes a lot of work.”
As a result, Keli is advocating a transformation of her grass roots protest movement into one of hyper-local political action.
“We need to become watch dogs of every aspect of government,” she said, and described how effective just one person can be monitoring a school board meeting or a local town council.
Keli clearly sees the penetration of Big Money and Big Power into even the smallest of governmental entities.
“The tentacles have grown in deep,” she said. “It’s allowed local government to get bigger, state governments to get bigger, and the federal government to get much, much bigger.”
Keli’s specific role for herself is to guide the Tea Party Patriots to be neutral watch dogs of government, and to advocate for certain issues and pieces of legislation.
Overall, Ms Carender said, the Tea Party Patriots have three main objectives: fiscal responsibility, a free-market approach to economics, and a strong commitment to constitutional government.
As their first overt political action, the Tea Party Patriots are seeking to form a health care compact with other states that would allow those states to opt out of federal regulations and give individual states more say in how health care is delivered. Keli said that Georgia and Oklahoma are two states that are discussing this kind of political alliance.
One element of health care that she would like to see abolished are the mandates that states impose on health care insurance companies. Specifically, she railed against regulations that require women who have had hysterectomies to still pay for maternity care benefits in their group insurance plans.
However, Carender did not acknowledge the benefits of group insurance plans, as costs and risks are spread over a large number of people to the general betterment of all. For instance, Keli did not discuss in her example of hysterectomies how women would be charged more for their operation if they didn’t have the benefit of a group plan.
In the question and answer session that followed her remarks, Ms. Carender gave more specifics to her intentions.
“I’m really disgusted that people get health care for free with Medicaid (the entitlement program for poor Americans),” she said.
Her comments came in response to a statement made by a member of the audience, Jack Francis, who spoke rhetorically and said, “If your health care is not important enough to you for you to provide for it, then why should it be important to me.”
Such personalized and ego-centric thinking reflected much of the discussion. At no time did any audience member or Ms. Carender voice a vision for how society should care for ill and disabled people.
Along those lines, when asked to describe her personal view for health care, Ms. Carender interpreted the question to mean what kind of medical insurance plan she desired for herself, and not the larger question of the health care system that she is planning to espouse for Washington state in any potential compact with other states.
In conclusion, Ms. Carender acknowledged that the Tea Party movement is “messy and inconsistent,” but she clearly feels – and articulates superbly well – the anger many people have over how little power they have in their lives.
© 2011 The Mountain News – WA
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“Free market, unregulated health care has resulted in exorbitant costs for medical treatment and medications. Insurance companies are out for profit not care. Elderly people no longer working, young people without fringe benefits on their jobs, low-wage workers without health care benefits, cannot afford these costs. In fact, no one really can. Why is it so hard for these Tea Party people to see that it is not “big government” that is the problem….it is government in bed with big Corporations that is the problem. We need to clean up our government!
“Government for the people” is the major “mandate” of our Constitution. This means protecting the common good by regulating Big Corporations, insuring safety from greedy business out for profit and to heck with maintaining infrastructure, insuring democratic, honest elections instead of Supreme Court appointed Presidents and voting machines that “mis-count” votes in favor of the currently most paid for, Corporate approved politician. Our Federal government doesn’t have too much power…it has NO POWER! All the power is with the elite and Corporations! The fact that Republicans say this is the “spin” that has made words just gibberish. The only thing our government is doing is expanding “empire” through war and military spending! Oh, and tax breaks for the already wealthy. Why are the Tea Partiers not complaining about this stuff? Why are they so stuck on these mundane issues of immigrants, paying other people’s health care costs, abortion, gay issues? Why? Because the Republican party (namely the Koch brothers) have paid for, supported and brainwashed these people into DIVISIVENESS! Divide and conquer…that is the agenda.
If Ms. Carender feels unheard by her government she is not the only one. All of us are unheard by our government. Dems and Repubs. both. We live under a military industrial complex that is out to “globalize” the economy to the point that we are all part of a third world nation. We are Corporatized to the point of Constitutional, rule-of-law negation. All of our elections and politicians are “bought” by Corporations and power elite who want to send us all back to the “Robber Baron” age and beyond. We may all be working for low low wages soon.
Ms. Carender is working against her own best interests and won’t realize this even if her life depended on it. Things just aren’t bad enough yet for most middle class people to realize that the end of democracy and “freedom” is at hand.
“Frustrated Conservatives?!” How about frustrated people? We’re all in the same boat. Our government is unresponsive to its people and has been since Ronald Reagan! The economic theories propelling this Nation off a cliff are part of Milton Freidman’s voodoo economics which have proven that so called “free market” economics does not work! We need a new plan.
Tea Party people are all so hyped up on “fairness” i.e., meaning: “It’s just not fair that I have to pay for some bleep bleep bleeps health care. Yes, the system is corrupt and ineffective, but saying that more power should be given to the individual state’s is like saying that the wolf should be in charge of all the baby chicks. What’s really not fair is that middle class white people feel entitled to the very best health care and can’t be bothered to see the poverty all around them, feel empathy for their fellow human beings, realize that the only reason they are where they are is because others fought hard to insure that there was a middle class. And by the way, do the Tea Party people not see that the “middle class” is disappearing by leaps and bounds more every day?
Medicare has a proven track record. It is big Corporations who are afraid that a Medicare for all system will cut into their profits that are spreading the propaganda that Medicare is too costly. NO!!! It’s private insurance companies that are too costly!
I suppose Ms. Carender doesn’t believe is Social Security either? Really? Well, I’d like to see how she feels when she,as a young person, cannot get a job because everyone over 65 had to go back to work and took all the jobs, or people who should retire can’t because they don’t have any money saved for old age so have to work till they drop. Or does she come from a rich background (and never raised kids) and has plenty of money to put away for her old age? And her kids college? And her ever increasing health care costs? Or do the Tea Partiers advocate Euthanasia? Perhaps we should just all take a little pill and be recycled?
Paula, you ask a lot of “whys.” I have an email into Ms. Carender asking her why she thinks conservatives are conservatives. From that might come some answers to your questions.
During her remarks, she said that liberals were liberals because they instinctively befriend the “underdog.” I think it is fair to speculate that she would further claim that liberals have a kind of default setting to help the poor, the down-trodden and the marginalized. By extension, Ms. Carender clearly does not.
Bruce, You must have been listening to a different speaker and I know you mischaracterized my comments. None of us advocated for casting the ill and afflicted aside. I advocate that charity is not best served by government. You also failed to mention that I am the father of one of those most significantly affected.
I didn’t notice any mention in your article about the fact that the cost of those who don’t pay is passed on to those who do or their insurance companies. Driving the cost up, not some conspiracy between politicians and medical companies.
COBRA 1985 (signed in 1986) mandated that any healthcare provider that accepts medicaid/medicare funds must provide care to those who need it. Many Americans use ER’s as their insurance policy.
We have a large number of Americans who pay for luxuries, not food, shelter, and clothing, but luxuries like cable, internet, and excess instead of buying insurance. Shouldn’t we allow people to be held accountable for this choice?
Private charity is far better suited to provide care as they can better assess the need. This is far more efficient when family, neighbors, and the local community help their own. Far too many want to be generous with other peoples’ money and not their own.
Every person that was in that room works hard for what they have and I know that most of them contribute generously to charity and also their own time to help others. I cannot say the same for anyone I have heard bash them. Yourself included.
In closing I will call you on your attack on Ms. Carender. Her comments about the underdog were in describing the book Underdogma. Her comments regarding the invasive hand of the government were directly related to the lack of sustainability of our current spending levels at both the state and federal levels.
How charitable is it to break the very source of the taxes that support all these social programs?
The Healthcare Compact does address how she feels we should address this issue. Did you bother to investigate what exactly that meant? Are you concerned that the State of Washington would cast those truly impoverished and disabled aside? Not a chance.
I look forward to a response from you. I see now why you waited so long to post your story.
Why the presumptive personal attacks on me, Jack? You claim to know why it took a week for me to post this story. Okay – you’re on, tell me and our readers why. Is it because I didn”t have the courage to stand behind my words, and I tried to sneak a story past the Republican Party of Pierce County? If the latter is the case, then where did I get the moxie to challenege you now?
And how or why did you decide to lump me in with other “bashers” as being uncharitable, cold-hearted to the needs of those around me.
Lastly, there is much I could argue with in your overall commentary, but let me just address your charge that I mischaracterrized your comments. That I simply do not understand. When you made your remarks questioning why folks should pay for other people’s healthcare if they themselves don’t think it is worth finding the money to do so on their own, I acknowledged to you that you had hit the quintessential nail on the head. That is the central issue in the healthcare debate. I told you so in the meeting with Carender, and you seemed to welcome that acknowldgement. No? Did I misread you? If so, then exactly what did I get wrong?
Lastly, lastly, I do agree with you on one point. Yes, we did hear very different speakers. That is one of the reasons I love covering the happenings of the 2nd LD Repubs. I hear stuff that I would never dream of back in “Bruce World.” It is also one of the reasons I cover Republican Party events. Often, I and many Mountain News readers do not have an inkling of what conservative folks really think, or why. I think it is vital that liberals and conservatives know what each is feeling, and to walk away from our exchanges with at least a sense of how the others have come to their positions.
I don’t think you are wrong, Jack, or even that Keli Carender is wrong. I just see some very serious consequences for the implementation of her policies and expressed attitdues, such as the dissolution of Medicare and Medicaid.
Bruce, I really wasn’t attacking you, I was attacking your representation of a factual event with multiple parties present. I’ll give you the fact that my parting shot was ad hominem but everything else was directed at your representation of the meeting I was at.
Your selective quoting of my statements gave your readers a skewed perspective of what it was that I was addressing and that was exactly what you said we didn’t speak about: How do we care for those who truly are in need without providing for those who should be providing for themselves. As for the charity, take off the adversarial glasses. I cannot say, in other words I am unable to, and not simply may not say for others. You may spend your day in charitable pursuits and give away a fortune. I am unaware of what you do in this sense. I know many of the other people and have worked with them in charitable causes and been with them when we have collected to help others. Therefore I can speak somewhat of their charity.
In closing, I’d be interested if you might read how you have characterized my post and how you feel I have portrayed you and then read how you supported the first writer who lumped all the Tea Party together. Your first writer who speaks of divisiveness yet you are perpetuating divisiveness through your writing and your portrayal of our group. Paula may do well to look at what is driving costs up. She may also want to ask why the democrats didn’t address all these issues when they could have rammed them through congress with ease. We don’t know what “Freemarket, unregulated healthcare” is like because our system is nowhere near that. You may want to ask yourself if you’re betting on the right horse.
Also, you never did respond about the way we should address this issue yourself nor did you mention anything about the http://www.healthcarecompact.org site and the proposals made. How would you fix the problem?
Thanks for the softer tone, Jack.
Let’s work our way back up the post. Yes, I didn’t write about the details of the Tea Party compact or any other proposal. In my view, my piece was about Keli Carender and what she said or didn’t say. I didn’t hear her discuss in any substantive way her view, or the Tea Party view, of what kind of health care system we need and how we’re going to pay for it, and that’s what I wrote.
As for your suggestion that we implement a vast system of charity, well, that’s what my grandparents had, along with the concommitant construction of Swedish Hosptial in Brooklyn for the Swedes, Parker Jewish Home for the Aged in Queens, etc.. For some it was fine; others not so good. Look what happened at Charity Hosiptal in New Orleans during Katirna. Lots of those patients died, and a number of caregivers went to jail because they got overhwlemed, possibly panicked,, and started passing out chemical tickets to another reality. In my judgement, we can can do better than that. I certainly hope so.
On a more personal note, how should I take care of my 87-year old mother 3,000 miles away if she’s desperately ill? Call her priest? What’s he going to do? Take up a collection? That’s a pretty iffy plan, Jack. Mom wracked up seven grand a night in the hospital last October after she fell and broke four ribs, couldn’t function, and then got suicidal. Then, it was another 50 K for in-hospital rehab and another chunk for assisted homecare.
As for me, I was bedside, dude, as soon as American AIrlines got me to JFK. 94 days worth.
On the other side of things, all my blessings and healing thoughts to you and your kid. If you’d ever like to tell us the story of your journey caring for a sick child, let us know. We’d be honored to hear it.