Joplin Tea Party A Dud

Last year, the crowd “estimate” for the April 15 Tea Party in Joplin was 1000, which, of course, wasn’t really close to the actual number. I estimated that crowd at about 500 to 600 folks.

This year, there was about half that number, probably less than 300.  So, by any standards, the Tea Party this year was a little lame.

But I did have a good time attending the event.

I talked with many people, some holding strange signs and some just standing, listening, and applauding whatever it was that John Putnam was saying.  And, honestly, some of the people holding ridiculous and blatantly false signs were actually nice to talk to.

I talked to one pleasant couple who didn’t seem like they really belonged at the event, since they didn’t sound as extreme as their signs would indicate.  In fact, after talking to them, I found that the health care reform law that upset them so much really contained a lot of stuff they liked.  The nice lady actually admitted that her views were “to the left” of her husband’s, especially on the health care issue. 

Another lady, who attended with her mother, said she thought all our representatives, Republicans and Democrats, should only get one term and then come home.  If they stay longer, she urged, they will just get corrupted. There is, of course, some truth to that.

But not all of the people I talked to were as nice.

One guy I was photographing took offense at a question I ask him about his sign. Here is the sign in question, which should look familiar because I have posted about it before:

I tried to ask him what his sign meant, which set him off.  At one point, he walked up and got in my face and threatened me, and I had to gently push him back.  After that, he seemed to calm down a little bit, so I decided to crank up the video:

Although I disagree with the guy, he had every right to tote his sign to the event and display it, but apparently the organizer, John Putnam, didn’t think so.  According to this guy and an independent witness I talked to, Mr. Putnam tried to get him removed from the sidewalk.  Presumably because the sign sent a message contrary to what Mr. Putnam envisioned for his rally.

As for other signs—messages—here are a few I saw:

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I found something rather disturbing as I read through the messages written on a long  “scroll,” provided, presumably, for folks to express their grievances against the government. Notice the “regime” reference, straight from the lips of Rush Limbaugh:

I took the time to interview a gentleman who was holding a sign that cried out for explanation.  Here’s the interview:

Finally, what is a Joplin Tea Party without a new costume gracing the body of John Putnam?  Incidentally, on KZRG this morning (an event sponsor), before the event got underway I heard Kara Marxer interview Mr. Putnam and she remarked about his nifty uniform, saying something about his “Hessian boots.” 

Gently, the head of the Jasper County Republicans reminded her that they were not Hessian boots, since the Hessians were on the other side of the fight in the Revolutionary War.  Whoops! 

[All photos and videos by The Erstwhile Conservative, so whoever borrowed one of last year’s photos and put it on John Putnam’s Southwest Missouri Conservative Network, please credit TEC in the future. It’s the Christian thing to do.]


  1. ansonburlingame

     /  April 16, 2010

    To All,


    In opposition to the overall “tone” of this blog I have submitted MY views as a proposed Guest Column to the Globe (before reading this blog). I also just posted (again, before reading this ) a blog (with interesting photo) at

    Check it out.

    One point, anticipating media coverage, on which Duane and I agree. We both unofficially estimated the gathering at about 250 to 300 attendees vice the 500 published in the Globe. Yes, smaller than earlier Tea Parties, but it was during a work day and school day.

    Finally, and with due respect to the gentleman in the second video above, he was not an accomplished debater, which Duane certainly is. But he was clearly upset with his views of progressive politics and all that it entails. However hesitantly he might express his specific views, one certainly gets the “tone” of his disagreement in general. I also heard nothing in that “interview” that was violent or even radical, just general unrest and disagreement which a lot of Americans feel.

    I would suggest to Duane that he “pick on someone his own size”. I willingly voluteer to do so publicly. Actually Duane and I already have on a radio show a few months ago.



  2. ansonburlingame

     /  April 16, 2010

    To all again,

    Duane wrote “…an independent witness I talked to, Mr. Putnam tried to get him removed from the sidewalk.”.

    I think I am the independent observer because Duane and I discussed the issue while at the Tea Party.

    First, I DID NOT overhear the conversation between Putnam and the sigh holder. BUT after that conversation, Mr. Puntnam told me that he had asked for the sign to be moved to a nearby parking lot but certainly NOT to be removed entirely.

    OK, technically, Mr. Putnam wanted the sign removed from the “sidewalk” but only in an attempt to lessen the association of the sign with the intended sentiment of the rally. The sigh holder refused (which was certainly his right) and that was the end of the story.

    No one to my knowledge was trying to exclude the sign all together but simply “distance” the sentiments expressed by the sign from the intent of the rally. I see nothing wrong with either the request or the refusal to do as requested.



  3. Duane Graham

     /  April 16, 2010


    1) I did not “pick on” the gentleman in the video. I first approached him to ask him about his sign, and he proceeded to say something that I shall not repeat, because he told me later he wasn’t really serious. I suspected that he figured out that I was there documenting the proceedings, so he quickly backtracked on the outrageous comment he made. Out of respect to him, and not wanting to ambush him, I did not mention what he said during the video interview.

    2) I also gave him a little time to think about what his answer to my question would be, before I started recording. I just assume that if someone bothers to go to a rally protesting something, and carries a sign like he had, then it wouldn’t be a problem to rattle off at least a few coherent grievances. It’s not my fault he couldn’t do it.

    3) I don’t disagree that there were folks in the crowd who were honestly concerned about the growing national debt and other fiscal issues, and many of them were very nice people (even after I shared my views with some of them), but much of the things they told me were simply myths they have imbibed from Fox or talk radio. Trust me on that one.

    4) As for the “general unrest and disagreement” you mentioned, frankly, the rally seemed to me to be much more about the Fair Tax than anything else. Since I was talking to people while the rally was going on, I didn’t have a chance to listen to the speakers. But I did so this morning, and the Fair Tax seemed to be John Putnam’s pet cause, which was reflected by the things said at the podium.

    5) As for the “independent witness,” I wasn’t referring to you. There was a gentleman standing next to me when I ask about Putnam’s effort to remove the sign from the sidewalk, and he confirmed what happened. He was standing there the whole time, apparently. And as you pointed out, I never claimed that Putnam wanted the man removed altogether.

    6) As for the photograph, I wasn’t aware that you were holding an American flag at the time of our “embrace.” I find that quite symbolic, don’t you? And now that you have published this photo, it may be more difficult for me at the next Tea Party. I may have to wear my 18th century duds, so folks won’t recognize me.



  4. ansonburlingame

     /  April 17, 2010


    If you sponsored a progressive rally in Joplin I assure you I will attend, American flag and all. Aren’t we all Americans? Would I be booed or chastized for displaying such a symbol? Good Lord! It is NOT the Stars and Bars of Dixie!!

    By the way, you may have not arrived, but one song played about 20 minutes before the rally started was in fact Dixie, which I thought inappropriate if the organizers were indeed trying to distance themselves from any racial overtones.

    Now for the “interview”. If the man (I will no longer refer to him as a gentleman based on your comment) did “let you have it” by cussing, using clearly derogatory language, etc. I WOULD HAVE PRINTED EXACTLY WHAT HE SAID and not attempted to interview him. Such comments are dead wrong at such a place, just like the boos and hisses at MacCaskills “kitchen table” talk last year and which I “railed against” publicly.

    I only “interviewed” two people (see my column if it is published but sent to you beforehand) and both were articulate and polite. I even mildly challenged the “sign bearer” whose picture you showed and HE was even nonconfrontational. Specifically, I told him “I am one of them and don’t think he hates me” in response to the “Obama hates the troops” banner displayed on his sign.

    I saw nor heard anything at all that was untoward other than the “sign” and the guy carrying a handgun. Again, if your “interview guy” acted or spoke in such a manner, I would suggest you “lay it out there”, embarass the hell out of him (if he can even read your blog) and support your cause.

    Such people deserve all the “bad” publicity laid upon them in my humble opinion. BUT and again in my view, regardless of what that one guy said to you, I hold to my opinion that the vast majority of what I saw and heard was very mainstream with a strong conservative message.

    AND indeed we both attended the same rally.



    • Duane Graham

       /  April 17, 2010


      The comment I made about the flag was that it was symbolic in the sense that two people with fairly opposite opinions, who have been free to openly and unapologetically express those opinions for more than a year now, can both stand behind the flag of the United States of America. “What a country!” is my point, a point that is sometimes lost in the shower of cynicism washing over the Tea Party movement, who often describe a country with which I am not familiar.

      As for the comments made by the guy I interviewed, it wasn’t profanity or anything like that, it had to do with guns and what he would do if all else failed. It wasn’t directed toward me, and I didn’t mean to imply it was. I hope it was just a guy attempting to express his frustration in words, rather than in real deeds. He said he didn’t really mean it when I pressed him on it, so I let him slide. There was another man standing with him who really helped my guy untie himself from what he had said.
      My whole point of attending the rally was not to ambush people, but to let them speak and by their speaking the ignorance would show. That’s exactly what happened. A lot of ignorance and misinformation, much of it coming from hours and hours of indoctrination at the hands of right-wing radio and television. I found it rather sad, more than anything else.



  5. ansonburlingame

     /  April 19, 2010

    I understand and agree with your intent. I would love to have the chance to got to a “hot” progressive rally and do the same thing. I am sure I would find the same ignorance and/or inability to express onesself there as well.

    Unfortuantely such do not occur around here and I don’t have the time or money to go to San Fransisco or elsewhere to find such.



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