Bridget Fay Transcript

Interview with Bridget Fay — a leader of the Greater Boston Tea Party — conducted at over coffee at Diesel Café in Davis Square, Somerville, Massachusetts on June 17, 2010. Interview Time: 68:18 A.J. Bauer: So, first basic questions about yourself: In what year were you born? Bridget Fay: 1981 AB: And are you from Massachusetts or what is the history behind how you got to this point in life? BF: I’m from Massachusetts originally. I went to high school in Reading; I went to college at Tufts — right down the road. I worked in Waltham at an engineering firm after I graduated. AB: What did you get your degree in at Tufts? BF: Chemical engineering and classical studies. AB: A nice mix. BF: Thank you [laughs]. AB: An interdisciplinary course. Did you go to a public or private high school? BF: Public. AB: What were your favorite subjects? BF: Probably chemistry and English [laughs]. AB: So that justifies your later interests as well — that’s great. BF: Yes. And then, actually, if you’re doing a complete bio, I went to law school at Washington and Lee. AB: What brought you from chemical engineering to law school? BF: I love learning about science, but I don’t really like working in a lab. So I did that and I was good at it, didn’t like it, and in order to continue being successful in my field I’d probably have to go get a PhD. I didn’t want to do that either. And what I really liked at my firm was writing final reports, writing grants so we could get — we did a lot of military and government projects, and I liked writing the proposals for that. So it seemed to make more sense to go into law school where I could do both. AB: What sent you to Washington and Lee in particular? BF: I loved Tufts — it’s a smaller school and the faculty really care about their students, and the students really like each other. So I wanted that in a law school and I wanted to get out of Massachusetts [laughter]. AB: I imagine. So are you a practicing attorney now? BF: I’m job hunting and I volunteer. So I donate my legal time to several public — several conservative groups in the area. AB: Have you been out of law school long? BF: I just passed the Bar in April, or rather I found out in April that I passed. AB: What would you say is your first political memory? BF: Oh you’ll love this. AB: I’m sure I will. BF: When I was in second grade my father bought me a George Herbert Walker Bush little kids biography. AB: Awesome. BF: [Laughter]. And I remember him saying that Reagan was a great president and he wishes he was younger and if it were possible for him to get a third term — but oh, Dukakis is awful and we really really want Bush to win, and that was ‘88. AB: So, obviously you come from a conservative family. How was that growing up in a conservative family in Reading, how was that experience? BF: It was fine. My family is very conservative but they’re not off the wall, if that makes sense. And they don’t try to shove things down anyone’s throats. They would kind of just lay out their values and say this is why we think what we do. So that was good — and like a lot of other teenagers I rebelled against that and was fairly liberal in high school and college, so. [laughs] I was actually more liberal than everybody else in Reading, actually. AB: That brings me to my next question, actually, which is what is your history of political affiliation? Kind of explain your trajectory there. BF: It’s — I think I’ve always called myself a Republican. And I’m sure, as you know, since you’re studying this, that people tend to affiliate with the party that their parents do. And it’s kind of entertaining because we’ve had some people in the Tea Party say they’re considering running as Democrats because people love their positions but then they see the ‘R’ and don’t like that. So, you know, I did certainly have my more liberal streaks in high school, and I think when I started working at a firm that does military technology, I think that subtly drew me to be more conservative, for a lot of reasons. But... AB: What are some of those reasons? BF: I think, when you see how long it takes to make something that the military will use, you will understand why, in peacetime, you have high military spending. Because you understand that, for example, today we’re not designing the stealth bombers of 2010, we’re designing the bombers of 2020. So I think that was one of the big ones, just the long range of it. And also, I don’t know how to sound not snotty when I say this, but Tufts has an engineering school and a liberal arts school — and everybody there works hard, but they kill the engineers. And when you are up day in, up all day up all night working, and your classes are not always fun and you’re taking things because you have to and then somebody comes up and says, ‘you’re so lucky, you’re going to make a lot of money when you graduate. Let’s tax the rich.’ You’re like, wait a minute. So I think — I guess that’s the traditional Republican talking point, but you know — it’s kind of when you see it. But, I wasn’t politically active in college. AB: When you say you took a liberal streak in high school and college, what values switched — what would you say was liberal about your beliefs? BF: I’d say, probably, economic liberalism in high school, in terms of a belief in using the government to reduce poverty — certainly socially liberal values as well. AB: So, nowadays, how would you define yourself ideologically, or do you choose to define yourself ideologically? BF: Probably somewhere to the right of Antonin Scalia. [laughing] AB: A good picture. [laughing] BF: You’re like, ‘that’s who I’m dealing with’ now. AB: No, it’s interesting. So, a conservative then, would you say, as opposed to a libertarian or something along those lines? BF: Small government conservative. AB: What are some of the political issues that you would say are top on your list — that are most important to you? BF: In law school I was very active in the Federalist Society, and I’m part of the Boston chapter now. So, from that perspective and that background — and I’ll talk more slowly so you can write. AB: No, please don’t worry. It’s recording. It’s fine. I do this more as a habit or so I can keep my place, but please keep going. BF: A lot of the concern with them — a lot of what I appreciate about what they do is in terms of de-centralizing power, ensuring that states are able to make their own decisions — for several reasons. One of them is it’s possible to get to know your state representatives. I’ve met people here who are running for office and you can actually have a substantive discussion with them. You can’t meet anyone in Washington unless you’re a lobbyist or you have a lot of money backing you. So I think that’s where some of my formerly liberal streak comes in, in terms of wanting something that doesn’t favor the hugely powerful. And also it enables people of very diverse viewpoints to live together in the same country. You know, Massachusetts — people up here like their state the way it is. People in Virginia like their conservative state the way it is, and it just helps if one state can do one thing and another state can do another — both in terms of how people live and where they can go to get something that works for them, and also that you can see what works without messing up the whole country — you know, the laboratories of experimentation idea. So I guess one of my top political issues is the opposite of what’s been going on in Washington now — which is, there’s been a lot of consolidation of power and increase in federal spending and increase in federal bureaucracy and control. And I’d actually like to see that decreased and a lot of that delegated to the states. As a young person, one of my big issues is social security, Medicare, and related entitlement spending. And I assume you’re roughly my age... AB: ‘84. Pretty close. BF: Oh my gosh. So you’ve been hearing probably your whole life that we’re the first generation to not have it as good as our parents. And a lot of that is the way the debt will work out, and that we’ll be paying for... AB: When social security runs out and etc. BF: Yes. And to me — I wish we had politicians with the guts to in a meaningful way overhaul the system. I break with a lot of conservatives in that I don’t think social security and Medicare should be eliminated. Some of it’s just because, people do stupid things in their 20s and 30s that would haunt them in their 70s and 80s, and part of it is if you’ve paid into the system your entire life you need to get something at the end. And we can change what that something else is or maybe modify it, but that needs to happen. So needless to say, that when things like the stimulus bill go through — you look at an already broke federal government that’s borrowing more money and think this is the opposite of what needs to happen. So those would probably be my big political issues. AB: What characteristics are important to you in a political leader — you may have hinted at it a bit with your discussion of state reps — but what are some of the values in a leader you look for? BF: Does it have to be somebody I would vote for or can it be somebody from either side? AB: You can either say specific people or general values you look for in leadership. BF: Well, I’ll start off with a nod to the other side — there’s a lot I dislike about Teddy Kennedy, but what I always liked about him was that he did work with Republicans in a meaningful manner. For example, in 2007 he worked with Rick Santorum to pass — and you’re like, wait, you can not get two more different politically people — to pass a bill that would give pilot funding for education relating to pre-nataly diagnosed conditions. So if you’re a woman and you find out you’re carrying a child with Down Syndrome, 90 percent of those women abort. If you’re a disability rights activist you see the problem, if you’re pro-life you see the problem. They got together and did something great for that. So that — I mean, I don’t agree with a lot of people that are Democrats and liberals and progressives, but we’re all in the same country, so working with them meaningfully is something that I look for. AB: So kind of a bi-partisanship, or where connections can be made. BF: Yes. And kind of in a larger sense, working for the good of the people not to further their own political careers — but I think everybody would say that. And then, ideally somebody, I guess backing up. A lot of the problems we’re facing in this country, for example the national debt, is that it’s politically expedient to pass something now, give benefits now and have it paid for later, because voters in 2040 aren’t going to go back and vote you out of office in 2010. So somebody who would look out — do a cost/benefit analysis of anything and own up to the costs of what they’re doing as they’re doing it. So fiscally, in terms of paying for it as they go along, or kind of any policy you have, you sometimes hear a lot of, ‘but it’s for the children!’ I prefer leaders who actually perform a very honest cost/benefit analysis. A lot of the reason conservatives are rallying around Chris Christie is that when he says things like let’s cut an educational budget, he’s saying, ‘here’s what we’re doing to our children if we keep spending as it is’ and he’s saying ‘here’s the benefit, here’s the cost’. And it’s just like — I love that. And then you can make a decision. And then of course those that are responsive to the concerns of their citizens are nice. They don’t have to put their finger up in the air and go, well, I think people prefer this — but I think they should at least be, they should at least have the integrity to address it. AB: And this next question is going to be a step into a very deep puddle, because you’re a lawyer, but what does the Constitution mean to you? You can see why it’s less of a perilous question to ask some regular person who’s read it but hasn’t studied it for three years. BF: I fall into the strict constructionalist/originalism category. So, to me it means what it meant when it was ratified and/or amended. So — I mean, we’ve seen that it’s entirely possible to amend the Constitution, so I don’t think that if the Constitution lacks something we think it should contain is an excuse to reinterpret it. I think then the proper response is to amend it. And the other thing is that the Constitution is, to me, the floor of our civil liberties. And I guess I’ll attack this from two sides. It’s not the ideal, it’s not what we want it to be, it just says what the government cannot do. And then the other side is that the Constitution meaningfully, at least as it was passed up until 1935, did meaningfully constrain the federal government. And as I was talking about earlier, I’m a fan of decentralizing power, so the reinterpretations of it that functionally enable Congress to do anything are problematic. AB: It’s nice to hear it in a way that’s very informed. BF: Well thank you. AB: As opposed to, “oh it’s such a beautiful thing.” It’s good to hear an honest analysis of it. BF: Well, I think that people have instincts about it — I hate to say right or wrong because I don’t like to make the normative judgment, but people tend — and I’ve noticed it a lot with Tea Partiers. Very few people have the inclination, the energy or the time to sit around and spend all their time becoming experts in federal statutes, Constitutional law and whatever. I mean they have good instincts and some of the negative coverage of the Tea Party has come from some of the people don’t — you know, it’s not that they’re wrong, it’s just that they cannot give you a 20-page dissertation to back themselves up. AB: You’d be surprised at how many people when I ask that question get afraid at first, because I think they’re expecting chapter and verse ... because I think they think I’m looking for the gotcha... Switching gears a bit. What role would you say religion plays in your life? BF: A tough question. I was raised Catholic — left religion entirely in high school and college and law school. And I guess in my old age I’m slowly starting to come back to it — so, hard to say. AB: Thinking about coming back to Catholicism in particular or kind of shopping around as it were? BF: Both. AB: If you’re comfortable, what do you feel pulling you back towards religion now that you’re out of school and establishing yourself? BF: Let’s see. I think some of it is that — I kind of go at this from the opposite direction. I’m very strongly pro-life and — I mean there certainly are groups like Atheists for Life and Libertarians for Life, but religion is, Catholicism in particular, has been one of the few — if not the only group that has consistently articulated why it’s so important and done that. And I think some of it is, I went to law school in rural Virginia — a school that is conservative by legal standards and a lot of my friends are very Christian and they — it’s not just like, ‘believe in Christ or you’re going to burn in hell’ but they’ve spent a lot of time not beating me over the head, that’s a little too harsh, but asking me ‘why do you believe this?’ ‘do you realize that you live your life in accordance to these values but for some reason you don’t sign on to them?’ And they’ve started to spend a lot of time debating me and it’s, you know, I’ve started to realize that they have a point. AB: That’s interesting. BF: What!? [laughing] AB: Actually I’ve talked to a lot of people in that same position that were born and raised Catholic, went away for several years and then found themselves back. And I was born and raised Catholic, wondered away for a number of years, haven’t quite wondered back yet but it’s just interesting hearing similarities in stories. So, keeping down the cultural track, what kind of music do you like to listen to? BF: Classic rock. I love the Who. AB: Is that consistent through most of your life? Grew up with it, that kind of thing? BF: I really liked classical growing up, which was my grandfather’s influence, and then I started to appreciate classic rock a lot more. I think my father’s line on it was, ‘like mother’s milk you were weaned on Rock n Roll.’ [laughs] AB: That’s a good quote. What about movies? What kind of movies do you like? BF: Very few. AB: Not a lot of time to go see movies in law school, I’d imagine. BF: I just don’t like a lot of what’s out. Let’s see, I’ll give you a few that I liked that I’ve watched recently. I loved Invictus, and in fact I tend to like uplifting movies where you watch it, you see people driving to excel and achieve and, successful or not, it’s great. Occasionally comedies are good — not a fan of romance movies. AB: And how about television? Do you watch television? BF: Not much. I got my siblings addicted to Flash Forward and I watch the news but that’s about it. Red Sox — got to go with the Sox. AB: We’ll talk about news in a little while. I’ve got a separate section for that. BF: I figured there would be one. AB: What about books — do you read for pleasure or what kind of books do you like to read? BF: I’d say almost everything — I mean there’s a few that I dislike, but I guess maybe I was overly influenced by my parents, but they read to my sister and I every night when we were growing up. And then we read — I have little siblings who are 14 and 11 and we read to them every night for years, so. I love the printed word [laughing]. AB: What are some books that you would say have really influenced your life generally speaking? Political books, non-political books, philosophical books, other books? BF: I almost hate saying this because it’s so cliché for a Tea Partier — I loved Atlas Shrugged. AB: I should play BINGO. BF: Oh my gosh, Tea Party BINGO! Atlas Shrugged! AB: Atlas Shrugged would definitely be a winner, you’ve got to get that. BF: Shouldn’t that just be the free square in the middle? AB: It should be, yeah. BF: I loved the Odyssey. I took a Homeric Greek course where we read and focused exclusively on that; read it in another class I took in college, so. And I think I’ve read four different translations of it. AB: Wow. That’s dedication. BF: And then, obviously I majored in the classics, so I like Plato. Not so much an Aristotle fan, I like Sophocles. It’s hard to say. I really liked Emerson and Thoreau. AB: So you mentioned kind of the cliché-ness of Atlas Shrugged. Why do you think it’s cliché and I guess I blew my cover by acknowledging it, but what about it touched you? Why do you think it’s a book that’s so readily picked up by the Tea Party movement? BF: Probably two different answers with what I liked about it and Tea Party people. I’ll start with Tea Party people: Actually they overlap a bit. I think what Ayn Rand did was to make a moral case for capitalism — we’re not cold-hearted; we’re not immune to the plight of the poor. And you can say all you want that capitalism is bad — everything else is worse, whatever tag lines you want. But what Atlas did was lay out, perhaps in excruciating detail, what happens under other economic systems — and when you think about it and you look around, if you’re poor in America, you’re struggling and you’re stressed but you generally have health care, sanitary living conditions, clean water. You might have seen a list out, but the poor in America like 90 percent of them own a television or something. And it’s just this way of living that far exceeds anything you come across in the world — where capitalist based systems, what they can do for people’s standard of living, it’s incredible. So we see the positives of that in America. Ayn Rand laid out the negatives of what happens in this so-called charitable system. So I think that attracts a lot of people. And then, and I don’t feel that this is a partisan statement because both sides to a certain extent in Washington are guilty of it — you take a crisis, you use it as an excuse to do more and if that messes up you double down on the bad idea. And Ayn Rand laid that out and kept showing that they double it down on bad ideas, it gets worse, they use that to increase power and then you just get this death spiral of overzealous, well-intentioned government intervention. So, and I think also with Atlas — I’m pretty sure it was spread by word of mouth. People read it and said this is great you’ll love it, and they hand it off. And that’s still how it happens — occasionally will say, oh you haven’t read Atlas Shrugged? Let me give you a copy. I don’t know how Ayn Rand would feel about giving a copy, but. AB: Maybe for a dollar or something. BF: But, so I think that’s what attracts a lot of us — and what she did is also an exaggeration of what people do. But when you talk to people about taxation on the upper middle class, you know you get two income couples that say it’s not worth it for both of us to work 60 hours a week because when you look at marginal tax rate and what they’re getting paid for extra hours, people just throw up their hands and say, ‘Not worth it.’ They’re not moving to Colorado and starting their own home-based economic system, but you get people who say not worth it to work, produce, contribute to the American economy. So, by exaggerating it she did show what people do on a smaller scale. AB: Switching gears ever so slightly once again, as I love to do. BF: Oh, of course. AB: What does it mean to you to be an American? What does that — identifying as an American, what does that mean to you? BF: Ooh. I’ve lived in Massachusetts, DC, rural Virginia and California. Which, geographically, if you stuck it over Europe — in most parts of the world these would be separate countries. And it occasionally does feel like that — but the caveats aside, I think Americans have tremendous commitment to freedom, liberty, and also equality and charity. I’m not a fan of government-enforced charity — but private charity has done a tremendous amount of good. We see people that do the relay for life, they walk for cancer — Susan G. Komen is a behemoth just by people donating to it, and that’s just health issues alone. And then you have people who donate scholarships for kids to go to college — I love that America has that commitment to individuals giving back. AB: And kind of the foil to that question — what do you feel is un-American? BF: That’s loaded, and you know it is. AB: So is ‘What is America?’ They’re both loaded questions. BF: I think what’s American is less loaded. Because if you say what’s un-American you go — it feels like you’re returning a bit to the House Un-American Activities Committee. AB: Oh, I didn’t even think of that — that’s interesting. I didn’t even make that reference when I was making the questions. BF: So, carving out the connotation of it and just answering — how do I say this — I believe in American exceptionalism. I don’t think our country is perfect, but again with our commitment to liberty we do have the ability to hold government and other people accountable through social means, other people and of course through the process of government to reform what we’re doing. So, I don’t think we’re perfect, but in terms of — I mean, there’s a reason people die trying to get here; and that women who are seven months pregnant will hike across the burning Arizona desert to have a baby here — not that I agree with them doing that. But they’re doing that because of what America has to offer. And one of the few things I would call un-American is either a belief that we are not exceptional; not that we can’t learn from other people. But anybody who believes that what we have as a country in terms of our structure, our government, or the people who inhabit it are not a model for what the rest of the world should be. And, I’m an environmentalist, I know we have problems in terms of consuming some ungodly proportion of the World’s energy, but it’s — you now we also have some of the most stringent environmental protections that you’ll have around. AB: You say you’re an environmentalist, that’s interesting. BF: I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years. AB: What made you go vegetarian? BF: The environment. It started off as being an environmental thing and then it ended up being a health thing. AB: When you say you’re an environmentalist — do you believe that there’s a role for government regulations or do you think that there’s a line too far? I guess, how does that fit in with your conservatism? BF: I have some libertarian leanings but I’m not libertarian. So I do think the government has a role in reducing externalities — the BP oil spill being a classic externality. People who are affected by it are not BP. So I do think the government has a role in upholding environmental standards — and I’m not sure it should always be the federal government. The federal government’s classic role would be something like partnering with the states, as with BP — but if you’re talking about federal lands, federal waters, that to me is a federal issue. I do think otherwise, I do wish states had more control over what goes on within their borders. But, I get concerned when the government goes so far as to — I mean effectively it shut down nuclear power, which is the cleanest, cheapest energy you can find; clean, cheap, reliable and they shut it down for our entire — there has not been a nuclear power plant built in our lifetimes, if I’m not mistaken. So, when regulation goes to the point of actually defeating the purpose, that’s irksome. And then there are some petty things like, you know, California is trying to ban a certain type of light bulb and it’s trying to do a bit of the nanny state thing, of it proposed and I’m pretty sure the howling was enough to stop it, but it prefers to be able to control the heat and air conditioning in people’s homes [laughter]. And if you look at the power of the green movement — what Americans do in terms of recycling, in terms of the fact that companies are changing everything that they do because people won’t buy their products if they’re not green. I think there’s a huge role for the free market that liberals tend to underestimate. Either underestimate it or [inaudible]. AB: A tangent question, but just to see if it dispels any rumors — do you believe in global warming? BF: As a chemical engineer — knowing the uncertainty with which I did experiments in the lab, I find it questionable that they can measure the temperature of the world with sufficient accuracy and for a sufficiently long time to be able to determine that there is in fact a discernable warming trend and that that warming trend is different from previous cyclical trends and is attributable to carbon dioxide. It’s — I think the best to say I don’t think the signal to noise ratio can support the findings. And in fact last time I checked [inaudible] actually says that the earth has been cooling down the last 10 years. And at this point you’re like, okay, “global warming denier,” “reads Atlas Shrugged.” AB: I’m not looking for labels. BF: No, I realize I can be a bit of a cliché on this. AB: No, it’s weaving in and out — there’s no cliché here. So, transitioning, and there’s two more transitions. Where do you get your news today? What are your primary sources? What are your primary methods? BF: Internet. I used to really like just because, even though I don’t always agree with their political slant. They used to do a great job of really prioritizing news stories — you’d go to their front page and go to the story and they’d have everything else. Now it’s a little scattered so I feel you have to dig for stories. I read the Wall Street Journal — so I guess newspaper on that one. AB: You read it by hand or online? BF: By hand. Dead tree — I’m sorry. But I throw it in the recycling bin. AB: I’m a former journalist I love dead trees, right? BF: So, in terms of Internet there are also some conservative Web sites that I will read as well. AB: What are some of your favorites? BF: I really like HotAir — they tend to be a little snarky, the commenters can sometimes be nuts, but just in terms of somebody saying hey this is what’s also going on. So I figure between that and CNN I get the bulk of it. And I watch Fox News occasionally. Mostly Greta. AB: You like Greta? BF: I like Greta — she’s calm. AB: She just got a contract renewal, I read. BF: Pardon? AB: I read she just got a contract renewal — I don’t know where I read that though, so you might want to check. BF: She’s brilliant and she’s so level — which I really like. Hannity gets a little hyper; there’s some screaming going on on Bill O’Reilly — I don’t like that. AB: If Hannity’s a little hyper, what do you think about Glenn Beck? BF: Never home in time to watch — I’ve watched exactly one of his shows. AB: Before the Internet, which I don’t know if we are old enough to remember that, but before the Internet what was your primary source of news then? BF: That’s a tough one — New York Times, actually. Mostly by default because I was at Tufts and I didn’t have a television and I didn’t get my news online and we just got it via the — you know they had tons of New York Times delivered to campus, so. And then in high school I just don’t think I paid much attention. I don’t know — my parents always had the Boston Globe delivered on Sundays, so I’d read that. AB: What — do you listen to talk radio at all? BF: No. AB: Generally speaking what are your opinions of the news media? BF: Oh dear. AB: This is a masochistic question, being a former journalist. BF: It’s hard to say — it depends so much on what — I can’t even divide it by news sources because even among some there are blatant partisans on both sides and then there are some that don’t actually come out and say that they’re partisans but when you read it it’s really clear what side they’re on. There are some that try to be objective. Whether or not they succeed is a different issue. AB: Do you think journalists can be objective? BF: Yes. AB: Do you think any news sources are particularly objective or do you think it’s kind of hit and miss throughout? BF: I think it’s in a lot of ways always hit or miss. Of course I always, not always but I tend to agree with the viewpoints presented on Fox News — I’m conservative, they’re conservative, we line up. But I don’t think — I mean they do say they’re fair and balanced and they will bring the other side on, but they’re out there and will say we’re conservative. So, that is their bias — so I don’t know, I think it’s always hit or miss, that’s why I try to get a conservative side, get a liberal side and figure that I’ve got both. AB: Kind of read between the lines of the two of them. BF: Yes. AB: And, what are your opinions of journalists? BF: Hard. I don’t know. I mean I personally know very few of them so it’s almost impossible to say. AB: Have you been interviewed at all for Tea Party-related things? BF: Yes. AB: How have you felt you’ve been portrayed with that? BF: Let’s see. I helped to put together the Tax Day 2009 Tea Party and I was interviewed by ABC’s local affiliate and I found it very telling that my interview was not anywhere to be found, not even on YouTube, but they chose to instead present people that were, not just dressed up in colonial costumes but, not very necessarily able to give cogent explanations of the issues. So it seemed a bit to be — as one of my friends who’s liberal commented, you use too many polysyllabic words. So I’ve had that. AB: Not good for sound bites. BF: Sound bites that don’t, that they didn’t agree with us so that made us look good. And, let’s see, I think I’ve been occasionally interviewed by some smaller groups and the coverage has generally been fair. I’m not sure if it’s just been that I’ve met nicer people or more honest people or more conservative people — check one — but also, over a year ago we were not taken seriously as a group. And as time has gone on people have started to see the power of the movement so attempts to dismiss it have lessened, and I think journalists understand that making fun of it puts their own credibility on the line. AB: This fits well with the next transition, which is how and when did you hear about the Tea Party? And how did you go about getting involved? What drew you to that as opposed to some other form of activism? BF: I think I first heard about it on some of the conservative blogs — like Michelle Malkin was talking a lot about it. And then Eric Odom, who I vaguely know, had set up a Facebook page with a list of all the Tea Parties that were going off in April and I think this was sometime in late February or early March 2009, and I just kept looking for Boston on there. And I thought, Boston will come up, and then Boston will come up and then Boston will come up — no one was really starting a Boston group, so I created a Facebook page, I thought I could create a quick Web site and then I’ll do this and get the ball rolling and hopefully someone will jump in and take over. And the next day I got 12 e-mails from people saying ‘help me help you’ and I realized I was working on a Tea Party. AB: That simple, huh? BF: Yes. And I found Christen on the Internet — she was also working on one, and we joined forces and she’s been dedicating herself for the last year to this, and in an absolutely unbelievable fashion. AB: What about the Tea Party as kind of a symbol or a unit for activism appealed to you? BF: Grassroots. There’s a lot about the Bush administration that I didn’t like. There’s a lot of things that Republicans as a group or as the RNC do that I don’t like. And, I think, as much as people would like — as much as some people are in this because they’re against the Obama administration specifically, this all did start with the Bush administration and just got worse. So I think a lot of it is that it has the potential to be a movement that holds both feet, the sides of both parties to the fire — the feet of both parties, oh my gosh. I hope that’s not a direct quote. And I do like the fact that it’s, it’s still run by a — Christen was a stay-at-home mom until a year ago and okay maybe it’s cheesy but there’s a lot of that that appeals to me — that people can just go and get involved and do something — participate in the American political process. AB: With the 2008 campaign, were you involved in the McCain campaign at all? BF: I phone banked for McCain and Palin towards the end and that’s about it. AB: Going back to the primary that year, were you a McCain supporter throughout or did you switch around? BF: I was a Romney supporter. AB: And you just, when the writing was on the wall you switched — were you hesitant to switch at all? BF: I was a Romney supporter; he suspended his campaign I think on the day before the Potomac Primaries, where I voted — so I made a protest vote for Ron Paul. But, you know, I certainly think that McCain was the better alternative to either one of the Democrats, whether Hilary Clinton of Barack Obama. I had known of Sarah Palin and loved what she was doing in Alaska long before McCain picked her, so when he did I was thrilled. AB: So you had actually heard of Palin before? How did you become aware of her before the pick, and were you surprised by the pick? BF: I spent the whole summer debating my father and I was saying — he was saying I don’t know who should be the VP, maybe it should be Romney. And I said, no it should be Sarah Palin. Who the heck is Sarah Palin? AB: You should have gone to Vegas. BF: I had heard of her because a lot of the — again the Internet — a lot of very conservative bloggers had picked her up; she became a hero to the pro-life movement when she gave birth to Trigg in April. So she was an extraordinarily popular governor who had taken on her own party, tried to, you know, stand up for conservative values and was doing it all as a mother of five with a disabled son — and that was wonderful, so. But, no, I was surprised beyond all belief. I thought I’d hear the pick and have to say it should have been Sarah. AB: Did you at least get to call your father and gloat? BF: Yeah. I actually told him — I was just home from law school and he and my step mom were out on the driveway doing something, sealing it, and I ran outside and screamed, ‘John McCain chose Sarah Palin!’ And he looked at me and was like, ‘How?’ AB: That’s awesome. BF: I mean some of my friends had the same thought. I think one of my friends said, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it’s Sarah Palin.” Someone else said, “Dreams can come true” — all those conservative whack-jobs. AB: What would you say are the main values of the Tea Party movement? BF: Small government, capitalism, but capitalism in the sense of how it’s meant to be, not in terms of businesses getting favors from government. Obviously individual liberty — huge free speech advocate. And I think you do get some conservative/libertarian split on social issues and people who call themselves conservative, as opposed to libertarian, tend to be pro-life. AB: Is that the main social issue that you think is the distinction? BF: Pro-life, gay marriage and the role — you do get some, almost, statist conservatives who think that religious ought to take a strong role in government, one that I tend to disagree with because I don’t think it wins any converts, first of all, and I do think that the message is best spread through other means. AB: One thing I’ve noticed and a few people have said to me is that there are a couple of different camps within the movement. Do you see that as well? BF: I see it and I like it. AB: If you were to try to define the subgroups of the movement, how would you define them to someone trying to figure it out? BF: How do I say this? It’s tough because I have the most experience with the Massachusetts Tea Party and I think as a whole we tend to be — I’m sure you’ve read our mission statement, we’re focused on a few core issues. So I don’t know if we’re necessarily more monolithic, but our focus is different. I do think though that within the Tea Party camp — some of them you get are very pragmatic, I know I’m one of them. You get some people who are very principled; you get a huge conservative/libertarian divide, again mostly that splits on social issues. Then you get people who have — then you get some people who say let’s end the Fed or people who say let’s get rid of social security and then you get some people who say let’s just reform. So I think that you get divides within what you see as the ideal amount of government — we all agree that it should be much less than it is. AB: That’s one thing that I think is so interesting about it is these varying degrees. What do you think is behind the ability of the movement to coalesce and not fragment at these — oh I think we should get rid of the Fed, oh no I think we should reform the Fed. How do you see it able to keep together despite those differences so far? BF: Common enemy? I hate to say it but a lot of it is that — maybe that’s not even the best way to put it. ... A lot of what people, you know kind of in the different groups, would like the government to be is so far away from what we have that we’re not even at the point of discussing those issues. You know, we’re trying to get the Federal government to not create a permanent bailout fund for Wall Street and to not regulate the Internet and things like that. So we’re not even onto discussion whatever else issues happen to be. AB: So baby steps? BF: Yeah. The first skirmishes are here within the Tea Party, but the battle is here — it’s not. AB: So, after the election were you immediately looking to get involved in political activism or — I know you say you phone banked, but other than that? BF: I was nominally a member of the San Diego Young Republicans, but I was not political. The Federalist Society is explicitly not political, it’s more social policy and legal scholarship. And it wasn’t immediately after the election — I mean I looked around at the country and said I think you all are taking crazy pills, but, let’s see how this ends up. And I kind of just thought, oh they’ll overreach. I never thought Obama was a centrist and I thought okay he won’t act as a centrist, people who thought he was a centrist won’t like him and things will restart themselves in 2010. If you asked me November 4th or 5th or whatever, the day after the election, that’s what I would have said. AB: Do you still feel that way? BF: No! [laughing] I never thought they would be this. I never thought that there would be this much over-reaching. I mean, if you start with the bailouts — and yes I know Bush signed them, and a lot of us were furious with that. The stimulus was insane and they’re starting to think that — what we’ve lost six million jobs since it was signed? And then when a lot of this was being passed on incredibly narrow votes — even some Democrats wouldn’t do it. And when the majority’s Democrats — and the easiest way to identify it, because it’s a political party — when a majority of Democrats is in the House and the Senate they can pass whatever they want. The fact that they’re struggling to pass these things shows that there’s revolt amongst conservatives, moderates and even some liberals. I mean healthcare was absurd — it’s a — Massachusetts has a 70-page bill for the one that we have. The Federal one deals with everything from healthcare to student education and a lot of us feel that if you pass something that affects each and every American — it’s not a majority vote, at least not a simple majority, get it on a super majority, get people behind this. I mean, say what you want about — and conservatives will say a lot about the New Deal, but at least there was broad-based support for that. So, and then you get to things like re-writing the Chrysler bankruptcy laws to secured creditors. I mean, I’ve taken a bankruptcy class, I’ve been through law school. You look at that and you think this is madness. So I never thought I would overreach like this. And, I think though what a lot of what you’ve heard people say is a comparison to the Clinton years. I do think, Bill Clinton is very liberal, and certainly Hilary is as well, but they’re not politically tone deaf. And I do think they at least try to walk the line between upholding their principles and understanding that the government in our country — that not everyone agrees with them. And I just don’t see that out of the current administration and Congress. AB: What do you feel the media consistently gets wrong or misses about the Tea Party? BF: Anger. We’re not. I think Christen’s line is, ‘look at what’s happening in Washington, why aren’t you angry?’ But it’s not that we’re out stomping our feet, hurling things or, as the media would have it, running around assaulting everyone. It’s that we look at what’s happening, we thing that it’s not helpful for our country and then we try to do something productive and change it. When you talk to Tea Partiers they’re not angry — they’re motivated; they’re on fire to change things and get active and, when I host my meetings in Reading there are always so many people who say they’ve never gotten involved in politics before this and they just see what happens and think I can’t take this anymore, I need to get involved and I need to change things. So it’s not an anger that turns to violence, it’s an anger that turns to passion and enthusiasm. And you just consistently see “Angry Tea Partiers.” AB: What do you think motivates most people who come out to the meet-ups, maybe not so much the rallies, but — maybe both. What do you think motivates them and gets them to come out, mostly? BF: I think it’ll be some of the same things that motivated the anti-war activists during the Bush administration. They voted. They made their opinions known. And when things happened that they felt were inappropriate they voiced their concerns, maybe they even went so far as to call their Congressman. They talk to their neighbors and hear that they don’t like it. They see the opinion polls that Americans have serious qualms about that; their qualms are not being addressed, and still Washington does what it does. And I think people finally say I have to keep doing more because they’re riding roughshod over us — so I think it’s the desire to do something to change things. So the Tea Party rallies themselves, and the Tax Day Tea Parties enable Americans to stand up and say we aren’t some fringe minority of five people who hate this — I mean there were over a million who came out for the first Tax Day Tea Party rally in 2009. So it’s a million people who almost never protest coming out and saying we don’t like this. So there’s a tendency by the media to say, oh you’re a fringe group or you occupy some tiny portion of the electorate and the values tend to be much more inclusive than us — but I think some of it was saying no, we’re going to be counted. And some of it is a desire to change things, but I think that’s what really motivates people to come to my meet-ups. They want to meet the candidates — they want to find out how they can help. I did a literature drop recently for a conservative candidate and a lot of people said, how can I help, what can I do. Because just voting wasn’t enough; voicing their concerns wasn’t enough. AB: Last question and then I have one last open-ended one. BF: I can’t believe somebody wants to know this much about my weird mind. [laughing] AB: I find it fascinating. What — you mentioned that you had some problems with Bush toward the end, especially. Why do you think the movement didn’t erupt then and waited until after the election to get started? BF: Scale. AB: Scale? BF: Well, there’s a wonderful graphic that the Congressional Budget Office has, if you send me a reminder I’ll e-mail it to you, and it shows the deficit by year in the Bush administration and the Obama administration. And the Bush administration’s like this big and the Obama this big. So for me it’s like taking what I disliked about Bush and then putting it on steroids. I think for a lot of people — if you look how Obama campaigned. He said he would balance the budget every single year. And he said that after the September 16 economic collapse. And I say that because if it were pre-existing promise you could say times change. No, he made it afterwards. He had almost everything in front of them, said he’d balance the budget — said I’ll go through the budget line by line, eliminate unnecessary programs. For anti-war people, I’m not one of them, he said I’ll close Guantanamo Bay and then what he did was the exact opposite. You go from I’ll go through the federal budget line by line to remove unnecessary programs to a trillion dollar stimulus, most of which was distributed to governments, and basically became a giant government thing. And then taking over GM and Chrysler — it’s like he said this, he did this and I think that infuriated a lot of moderates or people who lean conservative, may or may not have believed it and said are you kidding me, so. AB: And the last question is there any question I didn’t ask you or anything else you’d like to add? BF: As I said, I can’t believe anybody wanted to know this much about this corner of my brain. AB: Well, thank you for giving me a tour. — Interview conducted by A.J. Bauer —

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