There may be plenty of disagreement in political rallies of thousands, but Oakesdale resident Ken Hanson’s opinion on taxes is one that was nearly universal at Thursday’s Tea Party gathering in Spokane.
“As the government continues to increase taxes and put more and more regulations on us, it’s impossible for us to prosper,” said Hanson, a farmer and owner of an irrigation supply business who brought his sons to the event.
Thousands gathered near the floating dock in front of the Spokane Convention Center to rally around conservative ideas and protest the direction of the country. Participants held signs, many aimed at President Barack Obama, taxes or health care reform.
There were American flags and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and dozens of signs, including “Stimulus: Audacity of dopes,” “Socialism and Marxism are in our White House” and “Get the UN out of Spokane.”
Kirk Smith, vice president of the Tea Party of Spokane, which organized the event, said members of any party or no party are welcome in the Tea Party.
“We’re not here to do the dirty work for the Republican Party,” Smith said. “We’re here to do the dirty work of the people.”
More than 3,000 attended, and Tea Party President Dan Selle estimated the crowd at 5,000 or more.
Speakers at the event listed concerns about “death care legislation” and infringements on property rights.
State Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, criticized Democratic legislators who voted to allow tax increases without a supermajority.
“You can’t tax us out of the recession,” she said.
Not all the statements were popular. John Waite, who owns Merlyn’s and hosts a local political radio show, praised not only U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (who enjoyed strong support in the crowd), but also Dennis Kucinich – the Ohio Congressman who almost didn’t vote for health care reform because it wasn’t liberal enough. (Waite was later booed after recommending that voters choose third party candidates).
Top billing went to Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who won a standing ovation for his speech that focused in large part on the importance of states’ rights. He criticized the 17th Amendment of the Constitution, which gave citizens the right to pick their U.S. senators. Until 1913, they were chosen by votes of state legislatures.
Otter asked the crowd to “assert our rights under the 10th amendment of the Constitution.”
That amendment says “powers not delegated” to federal government in the Constitution “are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
Otter also stressed that folks wishing to change the direction of government do so legally and peacefully.
“If we disregard the rule of law, we’re going backwards in a big way,” he said.
As folks walked into the rally they could sign petitions for conservative causes including gun rights, repealing tax increases, nullifying federal health care reform and giving sheriffs the “authority to arrest rogue federal officials.”
A couple other groups usually not associated with conservative causes took advantage of the large crowd, as well. At least two people roamed the audience to get signatures for a proposal decriminalizing marijuana.
Michael Lyons and Pete Cleary said they found some support.
“They preach about the federal government intruding in their lives,” Cleary said. “The drug war is a pretty good example of that.”
Austin DePaolo, who ran unsuccessfully for the Spokane School Board last year, even found people willing to sign a petition for a ballot proposal that would raise taxes aimed at lowering the dropout rate. He got four signatures in about 20 minutes. That’s a bit less than he’d expect in most crowds, he said, but not bad considering the Tea Party’s concern about taxes.
One person DePaolo failed to persuade to sign his petition was Laura Carder, who defeated him last year in the primary for school board.
Carder, who lost to incumbent Rocky Treppiedi in the November election, said she’s concerned that Obama and Congressional leaders are purposely trying to anger the public “so somebody might go berserk” thus allowing them to declare martial law and “shut down the electoral process because they know that they’re going to lose big time in November.”
“That is a possibility,” she said.
In some ways, though, Carder said Obama has been good for conservatives.
“He has awakened people out of their state of apathy,” she said.