The Ball is Rolling
"Books on taxes usually sell by the dozens."
So said a conservative iconic columnist to Congressman John Linder on the occasion of the release of The FairTax Book. But he didn't mean it as a critique. Rather, he made the statement in utter amazement upon learning that the book had debuted at number one on the New York Times best-seller list.
You think the media were surprised?
Trust us, nobody was as surprised as we were when the news came (except maybe our publishers). We can't think of a book on a subject so seemingly mundane that debuted at number one. After a few weeks at the top of the list, copies of The FairTax Book became scarce—but the presses were put into overdrive, and before long the book became a nationwide phenomenon.
Our experience with The FairTax Book was a completely unexpected and thoroughly exhilarating roller-coaster ride. We learned more than we could ever have imagined about the American public and its passion for change.
We learned, for instance, that thousands of people would be willing to drive hundreds of miles just to show their support for an idea. Not for a sports team, not for a political candidate, not for a day at Disney World or the beach . . . but for an idea.
The date was May 24, 2006. The place was Duluth, Georgia, just north of Atlanta. With the help of Neal's flagship radio station, News/Talk 750 WSB, we rented a convention center with room for 4,500 people for a FairTax rally. Sean Hannity arranged to be there, and we lined up other guests like John Stossel, Herman Cain, and Clark Howard, 1 plus a little entertainment from Atlanta's own Banks and Shane.
Then we sat back and fretted. Here we were, setting up a rally in the middle of the week. After a long day at work, wouldn't people want to be home with their families? And there were plenty of other events competing for attention—including a high school graduation taking place next door to the convention center. But it was too late to turn back now—so there we sat, hoping not to be embarrassed by a lot of empty seats.
Hours before the start of the rally, the local police had their hands full with traffic. When the 4,500-seat venue sold out, WSB radio announced that any FairTax supporters still en route to the event should turn around and go home—there was no more room.
Some did . . . many didn't.
They kept coming, even though they knew they couldn't get inside. While 4,500 people celebrated and enjoyed the rally inside the arena, another 5,000 sat in their cars in the convention center parking lot, listening and cheering as the rally unfolded on their car radios. Rob Woodall, Linder's chief of staff and a coconspirator on these FairTax books, was one of those turned away.
In case you missed it:
"Rally for National Sales Tax Draws Overflow Crowd"
—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 25, 2006
After the Atlanta rally we received literally hundreds of e-mails from people who hadn't made it inside the convention center and others who had simply turned around and headed home when they heard the radio announcements. One woman who'd come all the way from Louisiana was making her way through Atlanta traffic with her husband and two neighbors when they heard on the radio that they wouldn't be able to get into the building. They turned around and went back to Louisiana but promised to be at the next rally—and early.
Now, think about that for a moment. Four people in a car drive hundreds of miles . . . for a tax reform rally? Then, when they're turned away, they don't scream, shout, and spin around on their eyebrows—but instead actually write us to apologize for not getting there earlier and then promise to make the next rally?
Our Louisiana friends didn't have to wait long. The second FairTax rally was held two months later, on July 29, in the streets of downtown Orlando. That's right: noontime . . . in July . . . in Orlando. Hot? Let us tell you about hot. The temperature on those streets was 97 degrees when the rally began—and the crowd ran as high as 11,000 people. Despite the heat and the Florida humidity, they came—and stayed—to show their support for the FairTax.
But we learned something else at that Orlando rally: that this new FairTax movement might be in for a bit of stonewalling from the media. Aerial photographs clearly showed the size of the crowd, yet at least one local television station persisted in broadcasting the "news" that only about 2,000 people had attended. We knew how many seats there were, and it was clear from the number of filled seats and the numbers standing behind those seats and down the street that this was a five-figure crowd. Somehow those 10,000 or 11,000 really sweaty people were invisible to this TV reporter.
They were all there to try to do something about taxes, mind you. Not for a football game, not for a rock concert, not for the American Idol tryouts . . . but for a tax rally.
And the momentum kept building. By Tuesday, May 15, 2007, when the Republicans held one of their first presidential debates in Columbia, South Carolina, we rented an arena right next to the debate venue, brought in Sean Hannity, Herman Cain, Banks and Shane, John Stossel, and the crew from Americans for Fair Taxation, and had ourselves another rally. About 8,000 people showed up this time, and just before the debate was to start all 8,000 took to the streets to march around the presidential debate venue with FairTax signs. The media? Well, they completely ignored us; instead they led the news with the exciting story that a small band of antiwar protestors had shown up nearby.