The Rick Santelli epic continues

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Remember Rick Santelli, the trader and commentator whose "rant heard 'round the world" so inflamed financial folk last week? Well, the tale of the stentorian-toned little trader that could is far from over.

Following his rabble-rousing harangue on CNBC, Santelli seems to have morphed into the voice of the opposition, and his "Chicago Tea Party" has become a rallying point for everyone who disagrees with President Obama's stimulus plan.

Within hours of Santelli's original February 19th speech, fans had already set up a "Chicago Tea Party" blog, a Linked In group, and dozens of fan groups on Facebook. Supporters were making plans to travel to Chicago, discussing strategies for prodding Santelli to offer specifics about his tea party, and discussing a coordinated push to delay mortgage payments in protest. As one commentator breathlessly wrote, "Wacker and Monroe is our Lexington and Concord!"

In the absence of a compelling Republican narrative, it is hardly surprising that Santelli has leaped into the breech. His populist approach has drawn together non-delinquent homeowners and financial-sector employees, two groups that feel particularly ill-served by the stimulus bill.

Santelli has also tapped into resentment about what many perceive as excessive government interference in the market. Describing himself as "an Ayn Rander," Santelli has seemed, at times, to be arguing for a return to unregulated capitalism.

Ironically, the Santelli affair has also inspired a minor battle over freedom of speech. After the rant, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs offered to meet with Santelli, suggesting that the famously excitable commentator switch to decaf. While Santelli seemed to take Gibbs' statements in stride, The Kudlow Report's Larry Kudlow accused Obama's administration of an "unprecedented White House assault" on the freedom of the press, a "blistering attack" that presaged the "worst press relations we've seen in our lifetime." Rush Limbaugh subsequently picked up the "Santelli as media martyr" banner, predicting the deployment of "planeloads of liberal lawyers" who will "go through [Santelli's] trash."

In a more traditionally political approach, The Market Ticker published a mash-up of Santelli and the Samuel Adams logo, perhaps suggesting that he represents an intoxicating brew of raw populism and energetic vituperation. Meanwhile, the National Review Online suggested a Republican dream ticket of Santelli and Palin in 2012.

Stay tuned, the traders' popular revolt may be just getting started.
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