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'Boiling Mad': A Tea Party Origin Story

New York Times reporter Kate Zernike has found the original seed of the Tea Party movement -- and she isn't anything like the old, white Christian conservatives that polls and photos from rallies might suggest.

She's a half-Mexican math teacher with a nose piercing who enjoys doing improv theater on weekends.  Her name is Keli Carender and she's just the beginning of the Tea Party story Zernike tells in her new book, Boiling Mad.

Zernike tells NPR's David Greene that Carender's frustration with the stimulus package, bank bailouts and the collapse of the economy drove her to take after the anti-war protesters of her native Seattle and organize a protest.

"She calls up a conservative radio host and she e-mails Michelle Malkin, the conservative blogger, and they both give her a plug for her protest and she gets about 200 people there," Zernike says.

"She really is the germ of this movement. And about a week and a half later is when what everybody calls 'The Rant' happens."

"The Rant," delivered from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, is CNBC reporter Rick Santelli's critique of President Obama's proposal to help homeowners who can no longer afford their mortgages.  In it, Santelli proposes the idea of having a tea party in Chicago, and that, Zernike says, is what sparked some major organizing.

"A bunch of young conservatives who were all on Twitter start tweeting about ['The Rant'] and they agree that they're going to have a conference call that night to plan tea parties," she says. "There are about 50 of them on a conference call that night. They have a conference call every night that week and a week later there are tea parties in somewhere between 30 and 50 cities across the country."

Between the libertarians, the social conservatives and the suburban moms, Zernike says it became clear that even those original conference call organizers weren't all coming from the same place.

"It's really hard to put a label, or put a face on the Tea Party," Zernike says.

And yet they all came together with one goal in mind: to defeat the democratic majority in Washington.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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