EVERETT — They came bearing American flags, anti-tax signs and a distinct distaste for big government.
Around 100 people gathered near the Snohomish County Courthouse on Friday afternoon for a tax day tea party rally — one of many being held in communities around the nation.
Too often people define the tea party by what they think the group is against. This event was about defining what the tea party is for, said Charlie Brown of Marysville, a member of the Sno-Isle Tea Party, which organized the event.
What the tea party is about is a limited government that adheres strictly to the functions of government spelled out by the U.S. Constitution, he said.
“The federal government is far beyond its limits, and it needs to be checked,” Brown said earlier this week. “We need to actually get a grip on government so it does what it’s designed to do.”
Brown said the local tea party movement is focused on gathering itself for the next election cycle. That means finding the right people to put forward for office.
People who associate with the tea party’s limited government values may not agree with everything about the Republican Party, Brown said. That’s led to a vote-splintering situation in this state where voters approved conservative-minded initiatives but not like-minded candidates.
“It’s going to take time to build a coalition for the next major election cycle,” he said.
Friday afternoon there was lots of talk about needing to unify.
It was clear from the varied messages given by speakers that political beliefs, and what it means to be part of the tea party movement, can vary tremendously.
Conservative politicians including Bill Cooper, the Snohomish County Republican Party chairman, addressed the group. He talked about some of the stalwart Republican values, such as personal responsibility and fiscal conservatism, that set the party apart from Democrats.
He also acknowledged that the tea party movement tapped into something many people believe in but couldn’t find in either party.
“Republicans were hoping something would come along and fix the system,” he said. “Hope isn’t a plan.”
Other speakers included attorney Steve Pidgeon, who called Barack Obama an “illegitimate president” not born in the United States and said he should be removed. Former state representative candidate Shahram Hadian, of Everett, told the group he is deeply concerned about Islamic fundamentalists infiltrating the U.S. government.
In the audience, Libertarian Bruce Morton of Lake Stevens said Hadian’s message “made my stomach turn.”
He’s attracted to the movement because of its messages of fiscal conservatism and limited government. He doesn’t like when social issues enter into the picture. The tea party movement draws people with various types of beliefs. They “intersect at fiscal responsibility,” he said.
Barb Lillard of Everett came because she doesn’t like what the president is doing. Obama, she said, is moving America toward socialism and removing fundamental rights.
Other than voting, Jeanette Sumpter of Mill Creek said she hadn’t been politically involved for most of her life. She votes Republican although she doesn’t agree with everything the party does. Particularly troublesome, she said, was the spending under President George W. Bush’s administration.
“I didn’t want my grandchildren paying for our debt in the future,” she said.
She’s since become involved with two other grass-roots organizations, including a group that focuses on U.S. Constitution education. That group has allowed her to connect with others who share her core values — something she said is mostly absent from mainstream media and American culture.
The tea party movement’s message of back-to-basics government is appealing, she said.
Ashley Watkins, the wife of former congressional candidate James Watkins, echoed some of those sentiments.
“Republicans are attacked for so many things that aren’t true,” she said. “We do love the environment, we drive hybrids, recycle and are concerned about our water, and we don’t hate gays or the poor. We would all love to be able to give enough to bring everyone out of poverty, but there just isn’t enough money.”
The solution, she said, resides not with a government handout but with communities and local organizations.
“The government needs to stick to what it’s supposed to do — protect our freedoms and constitutional rights — so that we can have the opportunities to better ourselves,” she said. “The government should be a safety net for those who can’t help themselves, but not a hammock for those who can.”
Everett High School intern Jacob Espinola contributed to this story.
Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197; firstname.lastname@example.org.