Monmouth, IL – The political movement known as the "tea party" has gained strength and recognition over the past year. Much of the attention has gone toward what some call the movement's "fringe" element. But a recent rally in Western Illinois did not exhibit such elements.
Nearly 100 people gathered at Monmouth College on tax day to say they're "taxed enough already." There were no counter-protests, and no off message outbursts as seen at other rallies across the nation.
Organizers allowed members of the audience to talk about their experiences with government, and what they feel is wrong with it.
"I'm angry with what's going on in Congress, I'm angry with what's going on in the office of President," says Mark Howerter of rural Monmouth, who was one of the first ones to speak at the rally. "I don't believe that the United States was ever designed to be a socialist country."
Howerter says he became angry with the United States government when Barack Obama took office. Howerter says the country is supposed to be a republic, represented by our elected leaders. But he says the recently signed health care legislation, which he calls "wildly unpopular," is an example of why the country is becoming socialist.
"We want government to work quietly in the background," he says. "We don't want to have to be thinking every minute of every day about what freedom are they going to try to take away? What are they going to try to change about what our founding fathers intended government to be?"
Howerter says he's also angry with some decisions made under George W. Bush's administration, such as the corporate bailouts provided under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.
"I'm not a big fan of those either. I'm not as informed on that issue because it's not the one that just burns me up from the inside out. But I'm not happy about it," he says.
Howerter says Congress must repeal the health care legislation if this nation's citizens ever hope to get their country back.
Tea Partiers in Monmouth agreed on most issues. But some in the audience believed the country's problems equally extend to both parties. One such person is Larry Mason of Macomb.
"I want somebody in this office of president, and someone to replace Phil Hare, who supports the people and supports the constitution, whether he's a Republican or a Democrat," says Mason.
Mason says the corporate bailouts provided under the Bush administration were socialist. He says some companies must fail, because that's how capitalism works.
The Monmouth Tea Party lasted about 90 minutes, and organizers allowed nearly a dozen people to speak. The message in Monmouth, and across the nation, was clear on tax day: tea partiers want their country back.
To listen to the full interview with Mark Howerter, click "play" on the audio link above.