The Art of the Tea Party: Grandma's Not Shovel Ready

Every movement has its images, and the tea party movement is no exception. While conservative speakers are making their case in the main ballroom, an exhibition hall downstairs is packed with various groups selling their wares and ideas, no one better than the tea partiers (though the NRA's faux rifle range comes close).

Yes, there are one or two fellows walking around in full tea party regalia, but the tea partiers are getting savvier, and are packaging themselves professionally. One popular stand belongs to the makers of the documentary movie Tea Party: The Documentary Film directed by young filmmaker Pritchett Cotten who could barely keep up with attendees wanting to shell out $15 for a copy. "There's no distribution, it's just grassroots for now" says Cotten, but the movie is selling well online—good for him and his executive producer, who maxed out all his credit cards to make the film.

The movie is about five Tea Party activists, including a young African-American man and a white pastor, tracking the "grassroots individuals and their transformation from hometown rallygoers and rally organizers to national activists in the 9/12 March on Washington" according to the movie's promotional materials. "It's not a hit job and its not propaganda," says Cotten. "We nail the Republicans, we nail the Democrats, we nail everybody."

While the tea partiers are getting nods from speakers, including Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who said it's a mistake to dismiss them as "country bumpkins" because they "like to shop at Wal-Mart" and don't go to "Chablis and brie" parties in northern California, their images may also be going home with attendees in the form a new book being launched today Grandma's Not Shovel-Ready!: Signs from 9/12 and the Tea Parties of 2009.

One favorite sign of Colin Hanna, who compiled the pictures for the book, reads "Marxism is the Opiate of the Asses." Under it, he says, "is the Democratic Party donkey logo. There is just so much within that."