D.C. Tea Party: Republicans Should Not Be Rejoicing Quite Yet

On a rain-soaked Wednesday morning, for nearly four hours, people streamed into Lafayette Park across from the White House for the D.C. tea party protest. What unfolded was not exactly what the organizers, the media, or the Republican Party expected.

The rally started off with a glitch that wound up as a blessing in disguise for the organizers. Organizers had originally planned two rallies, one in front of the Treasury building about a block away and one in the park. After being assured by police that the Treasury location would be available, organizers were informed early Wednesday that they could not gather there. As a result, two locations were combined and a larger, more impressive gathering came together in the park. At its peak, the crowd topped 1,000 -- perhaps 1,500 by an informal count.

These were hardly professional protesters -- or dyed-in-the-wool Republicans. Many said they had never attended a rally before. One woman sporting a pink umbrella and pig-shaped balloon explained that the bailouts, spending, and lack of personal responsibility motivated her to come out from a Virginia suburb. Indeed, there were many out-of-towners -- students from Pennsylvania, a couple from Kentucky, and many parent and children combinations. The dad from Maryland with his 11-year-old daughter said he'd never been to a political protest in his life but found it unconscionable to pass on thousands of dollars of debt to his daughter. It was in some ways a throwback to a bygone era of homemade signs, colorful costumes, and non-professional politicians. Not a single elected leader spoke from the small makeshift stage.

So what do these people want? While labeled a "tax protest" by many media outlets, the most common items mentioned by those attending and speaking were bailouts, runaway spending, the growing deficit, "generation theft" (i.e., passing on an unsustainable debt to their children and grandchildren), and a  loss of personal accountability. It was the sort of protest the Wall Street Journal editorial board would have designed if they were asked to come up with their ideal rally.