WASHINGTON -- On Saturday, the Tea Party movement ended its latest big act: the Tea Party Express, a coast-to-coast series of rallies to protest where government's taking the country.
It started with Tea Party activists boarding buses in Sacramento, Calif., August 28, and holding major rallies in 34 cities. They wrapped up with a march tens of thousands strong through the streets of Washington D.C. to Capitol Hill.
The key to what fires up the multitudes coming to Tea Party events can be found in what the "Tea" in Tea Party stands for: "Taxed Enough Already."
Click play for analysis from Phil Kerpen of Americans for Prosperity.
The Tea Party people are plenty "teed" off about big taxes, big deficits, big government, and what they consider Washington over-reaching into almost every facet of American life.
Marcher Cindy Columbia of Tolland, Mass., summed up the sentiments of many others.
"We need to stop spending money. We've got to take back our rights. I really feel strongly that the government is imposing, over-reaching; it's like a power grab. And it's got to stop," Columbia said.
Trae Creager's entire family came from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to march in D.C. Creager, 18, is worried about the trillions of dollars of debt the government's running up, piling tens of thousands of dollars of debt on each young American like him.
"I just want to have my future. I want to have my money, my freedom and my guns. These liberals need to keep the change. I don't want it. And in the words of Reagan, government is not the solution to this problem, government is the problem," Creager said.
Darla Terhune's whole family took off from work and school in Sheridan, Indiana.
"We came to protest against the high taxes. And I am very upset about the czars. We had Van Jones in there for weeks and weeks. They were telling about how he was a self-professed communist, how he said the white people are poisoning the minorities. I mean on and on. And we do not want these kind of people having the ear of the President of the United States," Terhune said.
Often the Tea Party people are accused of being nothing more than an angry mob. Terhune wore a T-shirt that showed seven of the most famous Founding Fathers, surrounded by the words "The Original Angry Mob."
John Olsen of Mercersburg, Penn., marched by in a black T-shirt with the words "Right Wing Extremist" emblazoned across his chest. Why?
"Department of Homeland Security issued a statement saying that anybody opposed to abortion was a right wing extremist," Olsen explained. "So if that's the definition, I'm a right wing extremist because I'm pro-life," Olsen said.
One of Olsen's big causes is opposing the health care overhaul. He has no doubt as it's now written it's a threat to senior citizens.
"You can't cut $500 billion out of Medicare with a 30 percent increase in the Baby Boomers coming into Medicare without having rationed care. And I have no doubt in my mind, based on what Rahm Emanuel's brother Ezekial Emanuel said, that there will be rationing and there will be euthanasia. They'll just write off people and discard them after they reach a certain age," Olsen said.
"Don't Kill My Nana!"
Near Olsen, a young boy marched by with a sign that read, "Don't Kill My Nana!" And a senior citizen was waving a sign that said, "I want God to call me home, not government to send me."
Olsen introduced us to his friend, Dr. Brian Holmes of Greencastle, Penn., who had some choice words for any government takeover of health care.
"The delivery of health care is so complex, it took me 27 years to become a neurosurgeon. And I get troubled when politicians go to a seminar for maybe a weekend and they think they really know more about the delivery of health care than physicians," Holmes said.
"My concern is that the government doesn't really do anything well on a large-scale. And when they talk about saving money with efficiency, that would actually be a first. Yet we're gambling 20 percent of the economy and the whole health care system on this wishful thinking," he added.
Holmes wore a T-shirt showing a bunch of sheep following a Democrat donkey in diving off a cliff.
John Ryan, a senior citizen from Billings, Mont., marched along waving a sign that said "Defend Life." He's concerned no matter what Washington politicians say, the health care overhaul will use his tax dollars to pay for abortion.
And he's upset about the language in the health care legislation.
"It's so loosely worded, it could mean almost anything, including withholding and rationing from the sick and the older people," Ryan said.
Don't Really Care for Obamacare
Many of the protestors carried signs blasting "Obamacare" and President Obama. One showed him dressed as a doctor holding a hypodermic full of his health care overhaul and saying, "Now this is going to hurt a little." Others accused him of being everything from a liar to a socialist to an outright communist.
Marcher Sandy Shanks of Cincinnati, Ohio, had harsh words for Obama.
"When he said 'change,' he forgot to say what kind of change. If he would have said 'socialism,' everybody would have said 'No! We don't want that,'" Shanks said.
This worry about the country drifting towards socialism was pervasive throughout the crowd.
Troy Christiansen of Dallas, Texas, said, "The leftward shift in the political landscape is unacceptable to me. We're moving more and more toward socialism and away from free markets, free enterprise, and individual liberty. And that's not what this country is about."
Laureen Angelo of Ocala, Fla., carried a cartoon of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that said "Trade in our Congress Clunkers." She was upset with Congress, saying, "They need to give the country back to the people. Stop socialism. This is not the right direction for the country."
Many religious believers filled the ranks. They have their own problems with the words of politicians in Washington.
Dorothy Musser of Lima, Ohio, said, "When we are told that we are no longer a Christian nation, I just can't even hardly process that."
A Pox on Both Parties
The Tea Party movement is non-partisan. Many in it feel both Democrat and Republican leaders have done great damage. One marcher carried a sign that read, "A pox on both parties for bankrupting my country."
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., endured a hailstorm of criticism in the media for yelling at President Obama that the president was lying in a speech to Congress Wednesday. But one sign at the march read, "Vote out ALL incumbents except Joe Wilson."
Opponents have said the Tea Party movement is actually tiny in numbers, but makes a big impression because of how loud it is.
But the massive crowd filling Pennsylvania Avenue for block after block appeared large enough to dwarf most other marches and rallies held in the city.
Those who dismiss this movement as consisting of just a few folks on the fringe may be surprised at just how big, and thus, influential it may be growing.
But as this huge mass of humanity made its way down Pennsylvania Ave., its members were concentrating on the issues, not their own numbers.
Marcher Cindy Columbia said, "We need to go back to the Constitution. And stop all the band-aids, stop all the regulations, stop all the taxes. Stop everything! Just let's start from square one again."
And Cincinnati's Sandy Shanks summed up what many in the crowd said:
"We're all out here for one reason. This is our country. And they're supposed to work for us, not us for them."
*Original Broadcast Date: September 12, 2009.