Tea Partiers descended on the Capitol Tuesday afternoon to voice their disapproval of Obamacare as the Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of the individual mandate, which will require citizens to purchase health insurance or else face a nominal fee once the bill has been fully implemented in 2014. Initially a conservative solution—originating at Bush's favorite think tank The Heritage Foundation—the mandate has come to symbolize conservative distaste with the bill that will expand coverage to millions of currently uninsured Americans.
The rally on a lawn north of the Capitol was hosted by Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers' political arm that has funded many of the Tea Party's major gatherings. AFP president Tim Phillips kicked off the proceedings, leading the crowd in chants of "repeal the bill." A sea of over a thousand Tea Partiers—largely middle-aged or elderly, and almost all white—in red "Hands Off Health Care" t-shirts were in attendance from across the country thanks to over 50 buses arranged by AFP, including three buses that had traveled from Michigan the night before.
The speeches themselves were the tried and true fare of conservative rallies from the last several years. Usual favorites Jim DeMint, Allen West, and—lest she be forgotten—Michele Bachmann rallied the troops with words on the country's descent into socialism. Iowa Rep. Steve King capped off the afternoon wistfully recalling the Tea Party protests at the Capitol during the initial debate of the bill in March of 2010. Inside the Supreme Court, the Obama administration's solicitor general had, hours earlier, stumbled and stuttered his way through arguments as the bill's constitutionality was put under a harsh line of questioning from swing
voter justice Anthony Kennedy, perhaps signaling the triumph of the various Tea Party rallies of the past several years. But outside at the rally, even as the Tea Partiers were energetic and revved up, it felt more like a retread of past years' successes than a new celebration of the law's coming downfall. Folks were quick to note the number of rallies they had been to in the past, and the speakers spent far more time talking up the salad days of the 2010 midterms than looking ahead with excitement for the Republican nominee in 2012, likely because the all but assured candidate Mitt Romney is compromised on the topic of the day in many of their eyes.
As befitting any Tea Party confab there was ample opportunity for snapshots of hyperbolic signs foretelling the end of Western Democracy as we know it. Below are some of the most amusing, depressing, and offensive:
In case it wasn't clear that Obama is a secret socialist, you can now see that he is exactly like Lenin.
In case that's unclear, it's the Obama bee (or wasp?) tearing through a copy of Atlas Shrugged
One of the more unexpected memes of the day was the prevalence of signs arguing that any decision in favor of the bill would be meaningless, as conservatives have argued that Elena Kagan should recuse herself due to her role as solicitor general in the administration when the bill was up for debate.
She wondered if the ears should have been bigger.
Breitbart's memory carries strong
'Stop King Obama' was a frequent refrain heard from certain shouting corners of the crowd.
(All photo credits: Patrick Caldwell)