I got through about three sentences of the New York Times profile of super-hip Tea Party activist Keli Carender before I burst out laughing: not at Carender, or her politics, but at the way those around her celebrate her coolness.
Parts of the Times profile, which is centered around Carender's life as a Tea Party celebrity of sorts, and arguably the first Tea Party member, read a bit like a Skip-It commercial from the early 90s or some such: "Hey kids! Check it out! There's a new conservative on the scene and she's wearing a nose ring and doing her thing! Oh yeah! It's awesome! Dig it yeaaaaah! Oh yeaaaaah!!!" Yes, Keli Carender wears a nose ring. And she's an actress. And she's a Tea Party member. Didn't I blow your mind this time, didn't I? No? You mean your a part of the generation who grew up with people of all political backgrounds wearing piercings and taking acting classes? You don't say!
Perhaps the saddest aspect of the "new face" of any conservative movement is the desperate attempt to claim some kind of hip credibility by throwing someone out there who doesn't exactly fit the old white dude in bow-tie stereotype. It assumes that the other young people watching said movements are so fucking stupid that they're swayed by a nose ring, as opposed to policies and belief systems, two things that Carender herself is focused on as a member of the Tea Party. Keli Carender shouldn't be a model for the new conservativism because she's an actress with a nose ring—if anything she should be a model because she's organizing, protesting, and taking an active role as far as her political beliefs go.
Kate Zernike of the Times does point out that the real "unlikely activist" factors behind Carender perhaps lie more in her upbringing and even in her life with her "Obama-voting fiance," though the quote from a fellow Tea Party member regarding Carender's nose ring and actress status seems to imply that those around her are perhaps more impressed that they have a liberal-looking young lady on their side as opposed to a young woman who is incredibly driven, organized, informed, and dedicated, which is frustrating.
Still, the piece is interesting in that it provides a glimpse into the Tea Party movement, and the dedication and organization members like Carender put into it. It's almost enough to make you think she's a less extreme version of the Tea Party protesters we see out there, though this quip from her blog, "I will not allow corrupt socialists and communists to infect this country without a hard, hard fight," is a reminder that hardcore conservatives, and Tea Party members, come in all shapes, sizes, and facial piercing categories.
[Image via Kevin P. Casey/The New York Times]