‘Peaceful but angry’

What do the tea partiers want?

I stopped by the tea party demonstration last Thursday (April 15) in the Chico City Plaza, mostly out of curiosity. Who are these people, I wondered, and why are they so angry?

They were a colorful lot—in terms of clothing (lots of red T-shirts), pennants and posters, not skin tones—and, this being Chico, friendly and easy-going. I estimated there were 250 of them at the time, but they came and went, reflecting the casual, almost leaderless nature of the event. Most were middle aged or older, and all looked well-fed and prosperous.

I talked with Tracy Bissett, a Chico woman with a bright smile and a quick laugh. She held a sign that read: “Peaceful but angry.”

“I can see you’re peaceful,” I said, “but why are you angry?”

“I’m angry that enough people didn’t care when our teleprompter-dependent president said he wanted the country fundamentally transformed,” she replied. I asked her what she thought he meant by that. “He wants a government takeover, like in health care.”

Her comments were fairly typical of those I heard: The nation is overtaxed, Obama is leading us to socialism, the Democrats are responsible for the bad economy, and they’re leaving our grandkids a mountain of debt. The tea partiers want to “take back our country,” as if some alien force has conquered it.

Off to the side, local blogger and prankster Quentin Colgan and some cohorts staged a counter-demonstration, appearing dressed as the Mad Hatter and other characters from Alice in Wonderland and holding a real tea party. They had petitions for tea partiers to sign allowing them to protest their hatred of socialism by dropping out of Social Security and Medicare. And they passed out fliers noting that Ronald Reagan had tripled the national debt and George W. Bush had again doubled it, and asking, “Where was the Tea Party?”

Truth is, if Obama hadn’t sunk billions into the stimulus, the economy would be much worse today. It makes no sense to blame him for doing what nearly every reputable economist, including many Republicans, said needed to be done.

Don’t tell that to the tea partiers, though. Despite evidence that the economy is improving and we’re working our way out of recession, they’re convinced that, as one man put it, “our nation has lost its way.”

Toot Your Own Horn Dept.: I’m pleased to report that the CN&R picked up some nifty awards in the 2008-09 competition sponsored by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. Entered in the large-weekly category, the paper took home two first-place awards, for editorial pages and special issue (Goin’ Chico 2008). It also received four “blue ribbon finalist” awards, for special issue (our April 23, 2009, bike issue), local breaking news (our June 6, 2009, report on the TANC transmission-lines project), front-page design (tabloid) and page layout and design (tabloid). This is the only contest the CN&R regularly enters.

Special congrats go to Managing Art Director Tina Flynn and Editorial Designer Mazi Noble, who not only won two awards on their own, but also contributed immeasurably to winning the other awards by turning the writers’ verbiage into beautifully designed pages.