Upward of a hundred Santa Barbara Tea Party members and their supporters took to the streets Saturday to decry President Barack Obama’s health-care legislation and a government they say is getting too big.
‘We want small government, and we want freedom. We don’t want to be taken over by the government,” said a man who wanted to be known simply as Alex. “We want the government to follow the Constitution.”
Alex and his fellow marchers assembled in De la Guerra Plaza in front of Santa Barbara City Hall early in the afternoon. Led by Revolutionary War-era costumed actors, they marched up State Street to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, cheering and singing patriotic songs. Some bystanders clapped for them, others booed. Several took pictures.
The highly visible march was an effort by the local Tea Party chapter to encourage those who are opposed to the newly enacted health-care reform measures to stand in solidarity. Speakers — from the Young America’s Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB) — fired up the crowd under a shared resentment for “having health care shoved down our throats.”
“If this bill is implemented, you know as well as I do that the debt will be unsustainable,” said Kate Obenstein, vice president of the Young America’s Foundation. “It will not work.”
The event was also a chance for local candidates to drum up support in their campaigns.
“Your engagement is going to be decisive in November when we take back the House of Representatives,” said Tom Watson, a Republican running for the chance to oppose Rep Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, in the fall.
“We are going to clean house and get some badly needed new blood in Washington,” said Watson, who has received the Santa Barbara Tea Party’s first political endorsement.
Saturday’s march and rally was just one of many taking place across the nation, most organized by local chapters of the Tea Party movement, which emerged in early 2009 to protest the $787 billion stimulus package Obama implemented. This time around, it’s an effort to repeal the $940 billion health-care overhaul bill, which the Democratic-controlled Congress approved last weekend.
“I’ve watched for many years and I think our government has taken much too intrusive of a role in our lives,” said Chris Smithers, one of the attendees at the rally Saturday. Smithers said he is neither a Republican, a Democrat nor a Tea Party member, but lately he said he’s found himself in agreement with the Tea Party movement over the role of government in modern America.
“There’s no reason to think that that health care would be run efficiently by the government,” he said.
— Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at email@example.com.