Tea Partiers descended on Opryland Hotel from all over the country Thursday night.
“Members of Tea Party Nation, fellow patriots, welcome to the first National Tea Party Convention.”
The convention itself was capped at just 600 participants, but more than 100 reporters are covering the event.
Former Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorodo revved up the Tea Partiers by slamming big government, which he says has only gotten bigger under the Obama Administration.
“People who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English [applause] put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. Name is Barack Hussein Obama. [hisses]”
Some of the training sessions include “defeating liberalism via the primary process” and “correlations between the current Administration and Marxist Dictators of Latin America.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is scheduled to speak to the Tea Party convention Saturday evening.
Organizers initially planned to make most of the conference off limits to all but a handful of media outlets. In the end, almost everyone was allowed in except local TV and newspapers, including The Tennessean.
The delegates bring their own views of what the Tea Party is and should be.
Part of the reason for the convention is to chart a course for where the Tea Party movement goes after a year of rallies against bank bailouts and big government that attracted thousands.
Diane Canney of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, says the movement is all about fiscal conservatism.
“There’s all ages, all races. We have several gay members in our group. When I tell people, they look at me like, ‘no way.’ Yeah. If you truly know gay people, they like fiscal responsibility too.”
But others like Grant Sowell from Tupelo, Mississippi say social issues should also be part of a Tea Party platform.
“I do personally bring in the social issues. As a youth pastor, if someone is gay, for instance, I don’t condemn them. I share God’s love with them and God’s truth. And I council people and I’ve helped many people come out of that lifestyle.”
One of the sessions in the convention is “why Christians must engage” and another is “5 easy fixes to the high cost of mass immigration.”