The New York Times might think the Tea Party is dead, but the Tea Party disagrees. A little over four years after the first Tea Party protests in 2009, people from around the country gathered on the lawn of the Capitol to celebrate freedom and fight against an intrusive federal government.
Yesterday's Audit the IRS Rally, hosted by Tea Party Patriots, featured speakers ranging from senators and congressmen to local Tea Party group leaders. Glenn Beck received adoring cheers, as did Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul.
Tea Party Patriots announced the event only two weeks ago. With such short notice, it seemed unlikely to get a big turnout. Yet, with the help of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, hundreds of Americans filled the west lawn, carrying signs and wearing shirts with slogans like “1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual” and “Give me liberty, keep the change.” Others decided IRS no longer means Internal Revenue Service, with signs that said “Illegally Restricting Speech,” “Internal Rotten Scoundrels,” and “Intimidate, Retaliate, Silence.”
"Don’t Tread on Me" flags flew high, as did American flags. Many wore red, white, and blue, while others wore the shirts of their local Tea Party and 9-12 groups.
“No distance is too far to travel,” said Rita Anderson, who came with the Mississippi Tea Party. “The IRS is out of control. They need to be abolished.”
Janice Walker traveled over 1,350 miles from Edmond, Okla., with her daughter, Lynnette Robertson, to be at the rally. After hearing Glenn Beck call for listeners to attend, Walker asked Robertson to join her on the cross-country road trip. “There’s so much going on,” Walker said. “We wanted to stand united with other people with conservative beliefs.”
While it would have been easier for Walker and Robertson to stay at home and watch the rally on C-Span, they felt it was important that they be there. “There are so many Americans who don’t care,” Robertson said. “Ignorance is not okay.”
While the IRS's targeting of conservatives might have catalyzed the rally, it was only of many things on the minds of attendees. “It’s piling on at once,” Robertson said. “They’re stealing every freedom we have.”
Speakers and attendees alike talked about abolishing the IRS, but also discussed their concerns about the NSA, Benghazi, and the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill. While the issues may have seemed disparate, attendees connected them all to the role of government. Speaker K. Carl Smith explained it well: “Leave us alone and mind your own business,” he said. “Stop trying to be our provider and just be our protector.”
These people aren’t crazy, despite what some in the media would have you believe. They’re normal Americans who are upset by the size of government and outraged that groups like them were targeted by the IRS for their beliefs. They’re watching what’s happening in Washington, and they don’t like it.
Charlie Oldaker of North Carolina had never been involved in politics before, but recent events have convinced him to pay attention and join the Triangle Conservatives Unite overnight bus to D.C. “I have been AWOL up to now,” he said. “Things have just gotten to the point where I felt like I had to show up.”
Jeanne Miller, from Louisville, Kent., came with the Louisville Tea Party. A grandmother of three, Miller worries about the country’s future.
“I think our conservative values are eroding and I think we’re losing our freedom,” she said. “I want my grandchildren to grow up in a free country.”
If the strong turnout at yesterday's rally is any indication, there's still a chance they might.
Images courtesy UPI.