"'It's getting more comfortable to say 'I'm a conservative' in conversation,"" said a 27 year old Californian. "Obama has been great for us," said another.
8/27/11, "Conservatives upbeat at 2 Bay Area gatherings," SF Chronicle, by Joe Garofoli and Carla Marinucci
"They've been dismissed as the inconsequential, angry, funny-hat-wearing political fringe. But conservatives and Tea Party activists at lively celebrations in the Bay Area say they're beginning to be recognized as something else as the 2012 elections loom: a mainstream movement.
With two big gatherings - a California Young Republican Federation convention in San Francisco on Friday and a Tea Party Express gathering in Napa on Saturday - it wasn't so lonely being a conservative in the Democratic bastion of the Bay Area....
Looking out on a field of hundreds of picnicking Tea Party activists at the Napa Valley Expo - many of them holding signs blasting bloated government, high taxes and skyrocketing debt - Russo said the armies of just regular people represent "the zeitgeist of the times."
The Napa site bloomed with signs, bumper stickers and buttons that reflected discontent with the country's direction: "My shovel is ready: where is my job?," "RU seeing RED yet?" and "Stop socialism."
Once dismissed as "AstroTurf" - a term of derision meant to cast doubt on the grassroots claims of its adherents - the Tea Partiers have proved to be an enduring movement that reshaped Congress in the 2010 elections and already has been a force for both candidates and themes in the 2012 GOP presidential field, Russo said.
The Tea Party Express, for example, will for the first time sponsor a major presidential debate, a Sept. 12 event in Florida to be broadcast on CNN.
"It's not about social issues. It's just about how we don't want to spend more than we actually have," said Joyce Ellis, 57, of Walnut Creek, a former production manager and a member of the East Bay Tea Party Express. She said when she joined the movement,
- "I thought I'd be the only one. ... I saw I wasn't."
In San Francisco, where more than three times as many voters (30 percent) decline to state a party preference as register as Republicans (9 percent), a statewide convention of 300 California Young Republican Federation members gathered to hear a trio of conservative stars, UC Berkeley law Professor John Yoo, author Ann Coulter and blogger Andrew Breitbart....
"This is a unique moment for people to say, 'The hell with it.' The country is going to hell in a handbasket, and the progressive, silver-haired, ponytailed politics doesn't work," Breitbart said in an interview.
In both crowds, the mood was ebullient among conservatives.
"The movement is maturing," Amy Kremer, a former flight attendant who is chair of the Tea Party Express, said as she prepared to address the Napa crowd. Hundreds sat in lawn chairs, listening to country singers, rappers and comedians, all with a conservative bent.
While Democrats have long railed against the Tea Party movement, she said, "we are the biggest threat to the Republican Party, because we want them to be conservative - and we will shine a light on them."...
One Young Republican, 27-year-old Alameda resident Andrea Newman, said she feels "optimistic in a way that I didn't four years ago. It's getting more comfortable to say 'I'm a conservative' in conversation."
"Obama has been great for us - a lot of young Republicans are finding each other," said Matthew Del Carlo, a 34-year-old native San Franciscan who directed the California Young Republican Federation convention in his native city....
8/27/11, "Lloyd Marcus Reporting from Tea Party Express V," Lloyd Marcus, American Thinker