Thousands of Tea Party supporters flocked to Washington, D.C.’s Freedom Plaza Thursday from all corners of the nation to voice their strong opposition to President Obama and his economic and domestic policies. The protesters drawn to the nation’s capital on Tax Day were collectively seeking change—but a starkly different kind from what Obama promised during his 2008 campaign.
The two-hour rally, filled with singing, dancing, comedy, a prayer, and even an appearance by Joe the Plumber resembled a family-friendly event unlike the recent hostile crowds that protested congressional passage of major health care legislation. Yesterday’s gathering largely called for smaller government and lower taxes.
“We are here to let the Congress and this administration know that we don’t support their runaway spending and their use of federal tax dollars as Monopoly money to throw around,” said David Martinez, a federal government contractor from Northern Virginia.
Many who took part in the demonstration said they believe they are being overtaxed and that the federal government is mishandling funds.
“Just having filed taxes--for the first time doing it myself-- I am waiting for a refund,” said recent college graduate Lindsey Souza, 23, of Bethesda, Md. “They [the government] want their money immediately, but I am still waiting for mine.”
But much of the crowd’s hostility was focused on Obama and his health care and job stimulus policies. One protested complained that the new health care overhaul law was being “forced down our throats,” while another said that the president’s costly job stimulus program amounted to “nothing more than piling more debt onto future generations.”
“I almost disagree with every bit of legislation he has pushed,” said Teresa Tatum, 47, from Ringgold, Georgia. “I think it’s leaning way towards socialism, and I don’t think that is a good idea for our country.”
A majority of the people at the rally, including families, senior citizens, and young people, were first-time activists calling for fiscal responsibility and a return to conservative principles. Most said they were not looking to put a third party on the ballot, but instead sought reform from within the two-party system.
“We don’t want a third party because all that would do is split the vote,” said Lloyd Marcus, a self-proclaimed tea party mainstay and singer/songwriter of the American Tea Party Anthem.
“We want to be a driving force in making the major parties realize the will of the people-- whether that’s Democrats or Republicans we don’t care. We just want them to pay attention to us.”
According to a new New York Times/CBS news poll, 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters are Republican, white, male, married and older than 45. The poll also showed that Tea Party followers are better-educated and wealthier than the general population.
“I’m not a radical….I have two kids, a family, and I have better things to be doing at home,” said small business owner Brad Bowden of Beauford, South Carolina. “But I have to put my money where my mouth is and show up and support the people that are actually trying to make change.”
The dress code varied from women sporting tea-bag-stapled hats to entire families in matching colonial-era outfits. Most everyone held signs with slogans such as, “Don’t Tread on Me,” and “Washington—We are not your ATM.” An estimated 1,700 to 2,000 similar Tea Party rallies were held nationwide, according to The National Tea Party Federation.