Tea Partiers in Doral: Who are these people?

Inside the haute Doral Golf Resort & Spa, Ron Martin's huge vinyl sign leaps out from the clutter in the Taking America Back conference exhibitors' hall.

Past slick booths selling Ron Paul-approved gold bars and offering "patriot coaching" — a two-day boot camp teaching the fine art of "turning the tables on a liberal reporter" — Martin's sign looks proudly homemade and oozes righteous fury.

"Obama's Malignancy Is Metastasizing!" it screams in jagged yellow letters.

Mark Poutenis

The table is empty when Riptide first approaches, so we grab a glossy pamphlet and head for a speech. The conference, sponsored by a conservative website called WorldNetDaily, has brought some of the biggest names in the Tea Party movement to South Florida, including Rep. Michele Bachman and Tom Tancredo.

Our mission was simple: Figure out who these people are. After all, the Tea Party is reshaping the GOP across America, nowhere more visibly than in Florida, where the insurgent Marco Rubio is cruising to a Senate seat.

Within five minutes of sitting down at our first speech, William Federer — a historian favored by Fox News — pulls up a slide of a snarling Adolf Hitler and explains in detail the Führer's (many, many) similarities to Barack Obama.

Next comes Doug Giles, a Florida pastor famous mostly for his daughter, who dressed up as a ho to infiltrate liberal voter registration group ACORN. Giles desperately cracks jokes as he appeals to pastors. "This interfaith message doesn't include the imams of Islam, though," he clarifies. "If I tick them off, then it's boom!" The audience of 200 or so aging white folks chuckles appreciatively.

The speeches are enlightening, but we can't shake the feeling we're missing the heart of the movement. Martin's simple pamphlet, emblazoned with a weeping bald eagle, calls to us. It touts his book, It's Over!, which chronicles "our chaotic decline, those behind it... and our single hope to survive: a second war of independence!"

Does Martin really want a violent overthrow of the government? We have to know.

Back in the exhibitors' hall, we find the author sitting behind stacks of his book. A squinty man in his late 50s with a cynical smirk and wide glasses, Martin is friendlier than any anti-government zealot we've ever met.

"Demicide is the murder of 10,000 or more people, and our government has killed 262 million," he cheerfully explains between stories about his business: selling supplies to hikers and hunters near the Appalachian Trail in north Georgia.

"So you think violent conflict is the only answer?" we ask.

"Oh it is, it is," Martin says, smiling happily. "I know so."

 
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