For the first time since they began organizing two years ago, Tea Party groups in the Palmetto State are coming together for a state convention, to be held on January 15 and 16 in Myrtle Beach -- scheduled to coincide with the Fox News presidential debate. All the Republican candidates are invited to speak.
"It's a unique opportunity for the presidential candidates to address people that will really understand the issues people talk about," said organizer Joe Dugan, who is the state coordinator for the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition. "What we're talking about is five to six hundred activists, people who are engaged in issues that surround our country. This is not the ordinary public citizen watching the news on a sofa. These are people who meet regularly and they have decided our country is in such peril they need to stand up and take action. There has been just a tremendous amount of networking, planning that has gone on between these groups to try and save this country."
So far, members of eighteen different Tea Parties and grassroots organizations have signed up to be part of the event committee. Myrtle Beach has an especially active conservative grassroots community; about a month after Rick Santelli's rant on CNBC in February of 2009, a Tea Party event there drew over a thousand people over the course of a day.
"I think that we are in the greatest struggle this country ever faced, a greater struggle than the American Revolution," said Dugan, who is also chairman of the Myrtle Beach Tea Party. "We had an enemy 3000 miles away and we had a huge country that was not even settled yet that we could run to escape the control of the British on our colonies. During the Civil War, the worst that could have happened is we could have lost half our country. In this case we are in danger of losing our entire country to financial collapse and cultural decay. We are at a point where if we do not choose to preserve this constitutional republic, we can see an example of what it will become. Look at Europe, a socialist system that has utterly failed them and the dominos have started to fall. I think that we must get back to our constitutional principles and free markets where the government does not choose winners and losers."