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From Anti-War Hippie To Tea Party Singer: Port Chester's Chris Cassone Recalls Journey In Book

Cassone's book, "Take Our Country Back," recalls his activism in the early days of the Tea Party.

In 1969, Chris Cassone was a self-professed "anti-war hippie" who joined 600,000 fellow anti-war protesters marching on Washington.

In 2010, Cassone once again found himself in the nation's capital among throngs of protesters. But this time he was on stage with a guitar, singing to a crowd of more than a million Tea Party activists and urging them to "take our country back."

That's the title of Cassone's recently-released book, which follows his early involvement in the nascent Tea Party and the formative experiences that led to  his switch in political philosophy.

Of course, rarely do such changes happen instantly, and Cassone describes liberal friends who were "aghast" at his changing views.

"I realized I was a different person than I was in 1969 when I was a liberal marching on Washington and getting tear gassed," Cassone said. Among old friends, he said, "I was almost like a spy behind enemy lines."

Cassone chalks his left-leaning early years up to immaturity and ignorance, but points to moments in time he'd later remember as he reconsidered his world view. Driving a cab in New York City in 1970, listening to conservative radio host Bob Grant almost two decades before Rush Limbaugh would popularize the format. Walking through Port Chester as a child, asking his father about war hero William James, who was disfigured after severe wounds suffered in the Battle of the Bulge.

"I said, 'Dad, what's the matter with him?'" Cassone recalled. "And my father told me to always respect Mr. James...he's a war hero."

Long-time Port Chester residents will be familiar with James from the memorial park dedicated in his name. James was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on Dec. 16, 1944, when he was among 18 infantrymen to hold back three waves of German attackers for 18 hours until they ran out of ammunition.

Port Chester figures prominently in Cassone's book.

"Port Chester was special in a lot of different ways," Cassone said. "The time I grew up, it was special because of the way the government was being run. That's what I believe now. It was post-war, we had a booming free market society, Eisenhower was president...I want to get back to that, I want my children to have that, and I'm sure my friends in Port Chester would want the same."

Since Cassone's early Tea Party activism, his travels have taken him across the country. He's sung duets with Saturday Night Live alum Victoria Jackson, and appeared at campaign events for current Republican front-runner Rick Santorum.

Cassone admits his book contains "backstage stuff, inside baseball" from the early Tea Party movement, but said he hopes others can identify with the message and his journey.

"It's definitely not for the MSNBC crowd. I am preaching to the choir. It's a narrative for the people who were there, who were part of it," he said. "But it's also for the independents who might identify with my baby boomer background."

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Conservative NYer February 24, 2012 at 01:23 AM
"If you're not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, if you're not a Conservative at 40 you have no brain" or “Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.” Georges Clemenceau.
Lee Wolfson December 10, 2012 at 12:38 AM
There is an old cliche, that, like all cliches and stereotypes, has a grain of truth. The line is "A Conservative is a Liberal who got mugged". I wonder when Chris Cassone got mugged. I knew him well back in High School and even into his early Fordham days, and he was passonate about his music, social justice and opposition to the War in Vietnam. I admired him and recently liked his tributes to his immigrant Grandparents. I am also the grandchild of immigrants. However, I am confused how he reconciles his past with the ignorant and bigoted beliefs of the Tea Party, particularly their anti-immigrant stands, (Joe Arpio, etc.) How about global warming? The distribution of wealth? Evolution...etc. It's hardly a maturing process to sign up with a Sarah Palin or Ted Nugent. They are cartoon characters that reappear in American history occasionally and are soon forgotten. Anyone remember The John Birch Society? An Old Friend Lee Wolfson
Greg Tart December 10, 2012 at 07:35 AM
Mr. Cassone sees "the left" as self serving and hypocritical in their demands. Ultimately, they practice self deception on a massive scale, and thru the media and academia force their agenda on the rest of us. If citizens who are crushed by taxes beg for relief, why they are label bigots. If the strain of thousands of undocumented people crush the finances of municipality ( i.e. Port Chester pop 30,000, 1/2 of whom are non citizens, with a school budget of 80 million, higher than affluent Rye), and objections are raised, why to Old Friend's like Wolfson, these people are just bigots and racists. Liberals are also very anti-science : see their attempts to subdue fracking based on misinformed understandings of the different layers of water and gas in the earth. Liberals don't believe man and woman evolved to reproduce, because to them a child is not best raised by a man and woman; hence their rejection of evolution. The only argument for i gay marriage because gay people are citizens. What can you make of people like comedian Bill Maher or John Stewart, whose "cartoon" like snarky bile is subsidized by rich corporations, like Time Warner or Viacom- these shows barely attract an audience above a million. Who would remember the Weather Underground, the Rosenbergs, et cetera - if not for college campuses where liberal professors lionize these types.
Lee Wolfson December 10, 2012 at 03:33 PM
The spokesmen for the Republican Party such as Rush and Sean are ignorant and dishonest voices that argue in favor of policies that largely benefit the rich. They simply have to pay their fair share. A 15% tax rate for being a hedge fund manager? What is being contributed that deserves a nice break like that? As far as being crushed by taxes, our current tax rate is the lowest it has been since the Eisenhower Administration. I consider the Tea Party racist because of the barely disguised rhetoric of the leadership, the rascist protest banners, the code words used by Limbaugh, and the demographics of the Party (heavily White, Southern, Evangelical Christian). The anti-science angle comes naturally to this group, rejecting the most fundamental organizing principal of modern science, Darwin's Theory. Regarding gay marriage, it is not a scientifically proven fact that children must be raised by a man and a woman. ones. There are wonderful and lousy parents of any sexual orientation. Putting a high priority on human reproduction, on a planet with 7 billion people, heading toward 9, is not a slam dunk call either. The Weather Underground, like many misguided movements in our country's history, deserve study, just like the Ku Klux Klan. The context of how these groups arose is important and it is to our benefit to really learn American History, which includes well intentioned lunatics, such as John Brown and ideological murderers, like Timothy McVeigh.
Greg Tart December 11, 2012 at 05:01 AM
In 1958, the highest tax rate was 91%- after the first million dollars; 81% after the third million. If you earned 100,000 (6%) of taxpayers at that time, the rate was 33% Less than 300 tax payers were subject to the 91% tax at that time out 46 million tax payers. Liberal journalists toss about this 91% garbage to make their arguments about declining tax rates stronger.- . I think people who put their own capital to risk should be taxed at a 15% rate- not those who take funds from tax advantaged groups like Calpers, or unions, or the state pension plan of NY- add it to their own 1% of funds, like private equity or hedge fund managers- and then claim their fee is carried interest. Certainly it is union pension plans, such as Calpers, which thinks these managers contribute to society, because they use them; Democrats like Steven Rattner have become millionaires from the hidden collusion between private equity and public money. Stanford, a tax exempt institution, makes huge amounts of money from "business incubators". San Francisco exempted stock options to retain certain private equity funded high tech companies from moving. It is this group which resists limiting tax deductions for mortgages, gifts to colleges, non profits. 60% of white people vote Republican-so not all of them are concentrated in the confederacy. Unfortunately if tea party resent medicare being cut to fund obamacare, or high property taxes- liberals reject their interests not self centered but as racist.

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