Tax Day Tea Party Rally, Des Moines IA

Read the Radio Iowa story about today’s event here. At noon, when the event was to start, state troopers estimated the crowd at nearly 700.  An hour later, more people had trickled in and the crowd estimate rose to about 1200.  By about 2 p.m., the estimate was between 1500 and 2000.  That’s less than half as many people who turned out for last year’s Tax Day Tea Party Rally at the statehouse.

I asked Drew Ivers,  Ron Paul’s 2008 state chairman, about the turnout.  (There were many Ron Paul supporters in the crowd, wearing a variety of Ron Paul t-shirts.) Ivers had anticipated turnout would be down this year for the Tea Party event.  He says many people go to a rally, believe they’ve done their duty and voiced their opinion, then they check back out of the political process.

The other notable thing about today’s rally:  I found just one person with a poster that had Barack Obama’s name on it and the man holding that poster was holding the side with the Obama reference against his chest.  The wording on the other side said: “WITHOUT ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ GOVERNMENT WOULD NOT EXIST.”  (TV cameras caught some posters with Obama’s name; I walked through the crowd at 11:50 a.m. and again at about 12:50 p.m.)

The handwritten posters I saw had general themes, like “where are the jobs?” and “just plain fed up.”  I’m fairly sure three people spoke to the crowd before Obama’s name was even mentioned from the lectern. A group of fifth graders from Johnston who were there with their teacher mentioned names like Charlie Rangel, Alcee Hastings and Timothy Geitner.  The crowd laughed and applauded the kids’ schtick, which was “Hey Washington, D.C.  Are you smarter than a fifth grader?”

One of the boys asked: “Why does President Obama spread the wealth when socialism has never worked?”   The biggest applause line for the kids: “Why does our government demonize big oil when the government makes more in taxes from the sale of a gallon of gasoline than the oil companies do?”

Doug Burnett, the event’s first speaker, urged the crowd to stress the positive rather than the negative.

“Let’s watch our words.  Thoughts become attitudes, attitudes become words and words become actions.  I hear too often people saying, ‘I’m scared.  I’m scared for my country. I’m scared for my way of life’ and I don’t doubt the sincerity of that sentiment, but I do question the accuracy of the words.

“Scared is negative.  It’s powerless.  It’s debilitating.  Scared is what happens when you wake up in the middle of the night to that bump, right?

“We’re frustrated.  We’re angry.  We’re concerned and trust me, many times I look at our elected leaders and I see the boogey man, but we are the Tea Party and we aren’t scared of anything.  Are you scared?  We don’t do scared.

“Think of words that are positive and accurate, like ‘I’m engaged. I’m empowered. I’m moved to action.'”

A final note: the Des Moines Tea Party organizers said they wouldn’t allow “politicians” to speak at their event, but…

Bob Vander Plaats, a GOP candidate for governor, attended the event in Des Moines but did not speak.  However, State Senator David Hartsuch, a Republican from Bettendorf, was allowed to speak.  Hartsuch donned a white lab coat and spoke as “Dr. David Hartsuch” as he is an emergency room physician.  Hartsuch was the GOP candidate in Iowa’s first congressional district in 2008.

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