Tea Party activists rallied in the capital they love to hate on Thursday, carrying signs that read “Don’t Tread on Me” and “Follow the Constitution”. The close of their spirited cross-country tour fell on tax day, a dark marker for the conservative anti-tax movement.
Serenaded by patriotic songs, the protesters streamed to Washington’s Freedom Plaza to hear exhortations against the political order. The slogans were biting, sometimes raw: “We Want Regime Change”, “Save a Seal, Club a Liberal”, “Down with the Govt Takeover”, “End the Fed” and “Waterboard Bernanke”. Some American flags waved upside down in the breeze.
The movement opened its tour three weeks ago with a Nevada rally that drew 9,000 and heard from Sarah Palin.
According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, Tea Party supporters are wealthier and better educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socio-economic class. The 18 per cent of Americans who call themselves Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, White, male, married and older than 45.
They are likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and Obama as “very liberal”. While most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry”.
The Tea Party movement burst onto the scene a year ago in protest of the economic stimulus package, and its supporters have vowed to block the Democratic agenda on the economy, the environment and healthcare.
Asked what they are angry about, Tea Party supporters offered three main concerns: the recent healthcare overhaul, government spending and a feeling that their opinions are not represented in Washington.