In many ways, the rally was a lot like last year's 9/12. A virtually all-white crowd cheered as speaker after speaker -- many of them not white -- spoke early and often about how not-racist everyone in attendance was. None of the crowd members I talked to would say that Obama was either Christian or a U.S. citizen (the best I got was "only God knows what's in his heart," from a nice woman from Ohio). Taxes were pilloried, the Constitution heralded, and God repeatedly placed firmly on the conservative side of the political spectrum by speakers and audience members alike.
After a year of primary wins for the tea party all across the country, it's clear the movement has actually succeeded in many ways in reshaping the GOP. The political focus at today's event, then, was on defeating Democrats in November.
"We've got the Republican Party's attention. We've been beating the establishment all over the country," FreedomWorks' (the lead sponsor of the event) chair Dick Armey told the gathered crowd. "Now we're heading into the general election to teach the other party the same lesson."
Despite the tea party's dominance of the modern Republican Party's messaging, only two elected Republicans showed up to address the crowd today. Both talked health care -- or, rather, their promise to return America's insurance system to the days before the health care bill was signed.
The first was Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN). He said the tea party revolution is all but inevitable and predicted Speaker Pelosi will be looking for a new job after November 2. What happens after that, he said, is obvious.
"We will not rest until we repeal Obamacare lock, stock and barrel," he said as the crowd went nuts. (Pence also urged the media not to "focus on the numbers" of people in the audience, a 180-degree shift from last year's 9/12 rally when all anyone wanted the media to talk about was numbers.)
The other elected Republican to address the audience was Virgina Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, also known as Ken The Really, Really Conservative. Cuccinelli is the man who's suing the federal government to get the health care law ruled unconstitutional. Like Pence, he said the result of the tea party movement will be a return to the good old days before the Democrats got their hands on the health care system.
"I hope to kill the health care bill dead," he told the crowd to applause.