“It’s not fear. It’s not anger,” says Becker. “It’s vigilance and concern.”
“We’re not angry people,” says Doll. “I don’t think we’re afraid of anything, or we wouldn’t open our mouths.”
When I ask if it’s fair to compare the rise of their movement to the birth of feminism, Doll bristles. If anything, she says, today’s conservative women reject feminist ideals. She remembers when “the feminism thing,” as she calls it, began “creeping into our magazines” in the 1960s. Women were being inundated with articles about the “drudgery” of being a mom and how to avoid the boredom of housework by finding paid employment. “They were really putting our job down,” Doll says.
Not that it’s easy to do right by a family and be politically active; for Becker, juggling both has been a challenge. “I think that’s part of the problem we all have, because we are moms and we all volunteer for stuff, whether it’s the school or the library or church . . . it’s hard to get involved,” she says. “I don’t necessarily say I’m into politics; I say I’m in this to fight for my freedom. I don’t care about politics. I don’t care about marketable politicians. I want a statesman who will be a good public servant for me and everyone I care about.”
As we start to wind down our conversation in the library, Sue Bican, cochair of a Tea Party Patriots group in Milaca, Minnesota, presses into my hands a stack of cards. In big red letters above a photo of an adorable infant, the cards read, “Protect Baby DNA: Say NO to Government Ownership of Newborn Blood Spots and Baby DNA Warehousing.” The cards refer to the government’s policy of keeping blood samples (“blood spots”) from infants, which started in the 1960s with screening for genetic defects and diseases. The women raise the issue of privacy and wonder aloud if it could be part of an attempt to clone babies. Soon my lap is filled with Bican’s literature: A bumper sticker urges me to “Join the revolution. Health care: Resist. Repeal. Reclaim”; a 40-page booklet called “Sustainable Development or Sustainable Freedom?” bashes the United Nations’ Agenda 21 policy on the environment.
“This has everything to do with all your freedoms,” Bican tells me. “This is the head of the snake.” She says I need to read this material to understand the threat posed by the Democrats. “Are we too late, folks?” she asks the group. The other women allow her to get on a roll, and they tell me that Bican is happy to let me keep all these brochures and flyers because she has more in her truck. “You probably have a file cabinet in your truck,” Doll cracks.
“I have two totes full!” Bican says.
Three of these women went to D.C. for the health care rally. Bican and Becker became friends on the bus and later spent five hours pounding the pavement, going from Senator’s office to Senator’s office to urge their elected officials—in the words of their heroine, Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann—to “read the bill!” Joined by a friend passing out IMPEACH OBAMA stickers, Becker headed to the front lawn of the Capitol to watch Bachmann rip sections out of the 1,990-page health care bill and hand them off to the crowd of thousands to distribute to lawmakers. And that’s how Becker and I first met—in a sea of American-flag clothing, somewhere between the man in the tricorn hat waving a DON’T TREAD ON ME flag and the women with the bullhorn singing their own Tea Party version of “Yankee Doodle” (“Stop the spending and the debt, we don’t want communism . . . We are here in Washington, please read our Constitution/Can you hear us now, you fools, our voices are in the millions”). “I’m here representing 1,000 people,” Becker told me then. “I don’t think it’s the quantity of the numbers that matter; it’s the passion of the people who are here.” She’d made the trip because she’d heard Bachmann publicize the event on Fox News: “She exudes truth. I completely trust her.”