A drinking game based on conservative buzzwords ends in sobriety at the Take Back Utah rally.---
The Take Back Utah rally invited everyone who loves the open spaces of Utah to join their revolution during the group's Saturday rally, which began at Liberty Park and ended at the State Capitol, on their recreational vehicle of choice. In that spirit, I decided to ride my 10-speed bike. To survive the expected hell-fury and "Don't Tread On Me" anger, I also planned a drinking game: Every time a speaker used the phrase "environmentalist," "sovereign" or "Obama," I would take a pull from my flask of whiskey.
A child's birthday party forces me to skip the opening ceremonies at Liberty Park and the OHV parade, so I ride my bike to the Capitol at noon, arriving about 30 minutes later. On stage, a jazz band sets the tone for the subdued rally to come. While news reports had the parade topping 5,000 participants, all I see are a couple of hundred people sprawled across the lawn. Many have blankets and chairs. Children run everywhere. With the exceptions of a few camo-clad hunters and geared-out motorbike riders, most people are simply wearing jeans and t-shirts. This so-called political rally has morphed into a day at the park.
The band stops, and the event's host takes the stage to introduce speakers. He also implores people to stay active, preach to their friends about the importance of access for all on public lands and call their congressman. When he says that, a man passing me tells his wife, "Call you congressman, huh. Try it. They never do shit for us." That will prove to be the most angry sentiment I hear all day.
The first speaker is Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, a master of bombast who has never shied from spouting conspiracy theories. Yet, when he speaks, he simply introduces all of the other legislators, most of whom are wearing t-shirts goofily tucked into their still-crisp jeans. Some have donned cowboy hats, which almost never works for a politician. He mentions "environmentalists" once, so I take my first -- and last -- tug from the flask.
The rally becomes a genuine Friendship Circle when Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, leads the crowd in a sing-a-long of "This Land Is Your Land." He makes it kitschy by switching out a few places for local landmarks, but they don't change the overtly socialist message of the Woody Guthrie song.
Things get even weirder with Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, a co-founder of the Patrick Henry Caucus who deserves at least some credit for tapping into the anger that eventually grew into the national Tea Party movement. His short speech has only one highlight: a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.
The speeches continue in this vein. There's no anger, no shaking fists at the demons of socialism or the Evil Empire—and thus, no more whiskey shots for me. It's almost like the group has seen their victories and decided to celebrate, peacefully. It doesn't make sense. After all, things aren't actually much better than they were a year ago and Obama is still president.
Last year, this rally proved to be a harbinger of things to come nationally. It brought together a lot of disparate groups that a shared a common frustration with the direction of the country, which is the same thing the Tea Party began doing in earnest a couple of months later. So, is it also a harbinger this year? If so, today's rally and my unexpected sober ride home through the City Creek Canyon may indicate that the Tea Party activists, who have shook the political landscape for the past year, may very well be nearing the end of their uprising.