As I sit at my desk and wonder why I didn't wear sunscreen on my forehead, here are a few observations about the tea party at the Iowa Statehouse:
The Crowd--I estimated 400-500 people when I arrived around 11:45am. About an hour later, when the crowd seemed to be at its largest, I guessed around 1,000. State Troopers estimated 1,100. They later upped that estimate to closer to 1,500. I went with 1,500 in my tv stories. A release from the Des Moines Tax Party claims 3,000. Not sure how I could have missed 1,500 people.
The People--No one said anything racist that I saw in light of some critics who say this nearly all-white group (I only saw 2 people who weren't white) contains a lot of racists. If there were racists there, I didn't hear or see anything. Most people were extremely pleasant sitting in the beautiful sunny afternoon.
The Others--I did get my share of anti-media, uhm, shall I say, "comments", from a hand ful of people. People came out and told me (yes, I mean told, not asked) to report the REAL story. I think we did.
The Protesters--There were a few protesters to the protest (protesting a protest...does that become a double negative?:) One man wore a t-shirt about Jesus and held graphic, anti-abortion signs. He got into shouting matches with a few tea partiers. They claimed he was a liberal plant to make them look bad. We didn't include him in our story. He got away before I could try to find out who he was.
The Irony--Is it ironic that people supporting and celebrating their right to organize and express their freedom of speech demanded the protesters were escorted away?
The Party--It seemed the bulk of the people I met were or still are registered Republicans but have grown unhappy with the Republican party...too moderate towards gay rights issues and too liberal on taxes and spending. A few told me they prefer the term "conservative" to describe their political leanings.
The Demographics--The majority was white and older than 50. Not everyone was that age, of course. But the bulk of the people were. I did only see 2 non-white people out of the 1,500 people I estimated in the crowd. What does that mean to you?
The V.I.P.'s--I only saw Republican politicians (or political hopefuls) there. Here are the folks I saw: Windsor Heights Rep. Chris Hagenow, Grimes Rep. Erik Helland, Gov. candidate Bob Vander Plaats, 3rd District congressional cands. Brad Zaun and Pat Bertroche (Jim Gibbons tweeted that he was coming there, too. But I never saw him).
The Outcome--That's what I want to see. There's no doubt these people have a LOT of frustration. Many of them say taxes were there biggest issue, at a time when most Americans actually paid less in federal taxes this year. Is there anger more than that? Is it really the overspending? Is it the health care debate? Is it Obama? What do you think? I want to see if this anger will continue through the elections and, of course, at whom do they direct their anger? Just Democrats? Incumbents in general? Will they show up in large numbers at the polls? The unknown sure is fun, isn't it?!
I think I'm hungry. Time for dinner. Thanks for reading.