SAN ANTONIO — Three years ago he was merely a face in a very large crowd, standing outside the Alamo on Tax Day as Glenn Beck spoke of drawing a line in the sand.
A businessman, husband, father of five and grandfather of 14, Bruce Baillio bought a miniature “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and watched, a little sheepishly and mostly silently, as a movement was born before his eyes. Like most of America, he didn’t know then what the tea party was.
Today, he is part of what it is morphing into.
Twice a month at the Jim’s Restaurant not far from his home sets an American flag on a Formica table and leads his neighborhood tea party group — one of 23 in the San Antonio area — in a discussion. They talk about the Obama administration’s policies regarding insurance for birth control, about how to become a delegate to the conventions that help determine the Texas GOP’s leaders and platform.
In this, the first presidential campaign since the dawn of the movement, no single contender has been christened the “tea party candidate.” And what was once the boisterous focus of American politics is now the butt of Internet insult: “Ding Dong — the Tea Party is dead!” wrote one blogger.
Dead the tea party is not. Changed? Perhaps. But still very much alive, in the back room of a Jim’s Restaurant in San Antonio and many other places across the land.