How do you get your mind around something like this rally that happened right in the middle of the state’s most liberal congressional district?
Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin and, on the undercard, Gov. Tim Pawlenty. All on one stage before thousands of passionate conservatives. T-shirts and banners (“Palin-Bachmann, Our Dream Team.”) Conservatives bouncing to the tunes of — gasp — Bruce Springsteen as they awaited the arrival of the stars. People coming to the Minneapolis Convention Center at 5:30 in the morning for a 2 p.m. event. (“I didn’t want to miss any of this,” said Joan Peron of Coon Rapids.)
Let’s start with the star attractions, Bachmann and Palin. The thousands standing on the concrete floor for hours didn’t just like these two, they adored them. Everything about ’em, especially when they ripped into Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or President Obama. The people booed those three with the same gusto they cheered Bachmann and Palin.
Those gathered especially seemed to like the cute stories. Palin, for example, told the story of how she first met Minnesota’s 6th District congresswoman.
“When we first met, she had traveled to Alaska to see about what we could do to have energy independence. I knew we’d be buddies right away, because she was saying, ‘Drill here, drill here, drill here.’ I replied, ‘Drill baby, drill.’ And then we both said, ‘you betcha.”’
Big, big cheers. You betcha.
Still, what was all of this about?
Thousands of people on a gorgeous April afternoon standing inside on a concrete floor, waiting and waiting.
It had the feel of a presidential campaign event, not a congressional campaign event. Republican Party officials, in fact, couldn’t remember a congressional campaign event ever attracting this sort of crowd.
But, interestingly, this wasn’t necessarily a Republican crowd. Speaker after speaker — from Pawlenty to Rep. John Kline to the stars of the show — referred as often to “conservatives” and “Tea Party” members as they did to Republicans.
Before the event began, Tony Sutton, the chairman of the state’s Republican Party, noted how un-party this crowd was. In fact, he said, the biggest benefit to the state party was that so many of the 11,000 people who requested free tickets were not people on the party’s mailing list.
“Now we have them identified,” said Sutton. “That’s 10,000 new people we will have to go out and work for us.”
Was he baffled by this huge turnout?
“I sometimes think that we in Minnesota don’t realize what an important voice Michele Bachmann has become for the conservative movement across the country,” Sutton said.
Perhaps the slogans on the t-shirts best told the story of who these conservatives are. The slogans weren’t about party, or even specific candidates.
“God Bless the USA.”
“Be A Citizen, Not a Subject.”
Those t-shirts underscored the message that conservatives/Republicans are the people of “no.”
And Palin assured the crowd — her crowd, Bachmann’s crowd — there’s nothing wrong with that.
“What’s wrong with being the party of ‘no’ when you see what Obama, Pelosi and Reid are doing to this country?” she asked.
The crowd agreed with cheers. Loud, long cheers. There were so many conservative cheers Wednesday afternoon in the heart of Minnesota liberalism.
The Bachmann campaign, by the way, said the site in the 5th District, Keith Ellison’s district, was selected because it was centrally located for people coming in from the sprawling 6th District. It was helpful that the convention center also is handy to the Hilton Hotel where Bachmann and Palin were going for a big-buck fundraiser. $10,000 would get you photographed with Sarah Palin.
But this event surely will help DFLers raise money, too. They’re inspired to generosity by Palin and Bachmann, much as the conservatives are inspired to get involved by the current administration.
“I hope they pour a bunch of money into the 6th District,” said Sutton. “I hope they pour as much as they’ve got because it’s all going to be wasted.”
Back to the rally.
Not surprisingly, by 1:45 many people, who had entered the convention hall with such passion, were a little weary.
Not even the Go Fish Guys, a Christian rock group that wears hockey jerseys all with the No. 10 (in honor of the Ten Commandments), could fire them up, though when they explained that “we use our music to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ,” there were some nice cheers.
After the Goldfish Guys sang a song in honor of moms, then dads, then the National Anthem, the speakers took over.
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen was first. “Washington’s broken even worse than I imagined,” he said.
Next up, Rep. John Kline. The Democrats in Washington, he said, “are roaring down the tracks, taking away our freedoms….Our liberties given to us by our creator are being snatched away at a terrifying pace.”
A little more applause.
Then, Gov. Pawlenty.
“We live in a time when the federal government is taking over our companies,” he said. “Our largest insurance business, they own or control our mortgage industry, they’ve taken over student loans, and now they they’ve taken over a good portion of health care….Have you had enough?”
“We have a government debt too big to pay off and national leaders too small to do anything about it…. Have you had enough?”
He said he was delighted to be at the same rally with “two great leaders” and left the stage to very nice applause.
It was star time.
Bachmann and Palin stepped onto the stage together. But then Palin stepped to the back of the stage and Bachmann walked all around it, waving, smiling, waving some more.
“Welcome to Minneapolis,” she said.
She looked around the crowd. “Take that, liberals!”
Then, she quoted Sean Hannity, who was on hand, doing his television show right from the convention center.
“As Sean Hannity says, ‘Let not your heart be troubled. We own this country!”
She was outraged by terrorist attacks at Ft. Hood, Texas, and in Arkansas. Outraged even more because, she said, that the Obama administration says, “we’re not supposed to use the word Islamic terrorist anymore.” (The crowd booed.) “Note to self. You might change the terminology but you can’t change reality.”
She attacked the new nuclear arms compact (we won’t fire nukes at anybody who complies with nuclear treaties). She attacked Eric Holder, the attorney general who dared “give the underwear bomber the same rights as a U.S. citizen.’’
And she attacked “Obama care.’’
“Repeal Obama care,’’ she said to cheers. “….You better believe it baby. That’s what this girl is all about.’’
The administration has messed with the Constitution, it’s taking over private enterprise. It’s even messing with God.
“God gave us our rights!’’ she said.
“Government can’t take that away from us.’’
First to go, Pelosi and Reid.
“We’ll make him a one-term president.’’
“A rock-ribbed, bold conservative president,’’ she said. “That’s what this country is all about.’’
She didn’t say who she had in mind.
And then she introduced Palin, “who is one of us. As drop-dead gorgeous as she is on the outside, she’s 20 times more beautiful on the inside.’’
Palin took over and quickly won over the crowd by praising vets and saying “that it’s good to be in the Land of Lakes, where you’re proud of your guns and religion.’’
Ecstasy in the crowd.
“I love being in Minnesota,’’ she said. “You all sound just like me.’’
She asked if there were Tea Party members in the crowd.
There was a big roar.
She praised the Tea Partiers, saying, “we’re ready to take our country back….These people are not afraid to speak out. Like Michele.’’
Draped in necklaces and wearing a stylish outfit, Palin even made a crack about teleprompters and writing notes on her hand.
In this case, she said, she’d written the number of kids (five) and foster kids (23) Bachmann and her husband have raised or cared for.
“That was palm worthy,’’ she said, holding up her hand for the crowd to see. “I had to write that on my palm, the poor man’s version of the teleprompter.’’
She “goshed” a little, praised hockey moms, ripped Washington pols (“they’re becoming addicted to opium. That’s O-P-M, other people’s money’’). And, of course, she praised her co-star.
“My goodness gracious Minnesota, Michele has the courage to stand for you.’’
The crowd, mostly white, tending older, cheered and cheered in the heart of Minnesota liberalism.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.