'Tea Party Express' Takes Protests Cross-Country Conservative political activists associated with the so-called "Tea Party" protests have loudly opposed President Obama's health care overhaul for months. This weekend, they begin a cross-country bus tour that starts in California and will end Sept. 12 in Washington, D.C., with stops planned in 33 cities.
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'Tea Party Express' Takes Protests Cross-Country

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'Tea Party Express' Takes Protests Cross-Country

'Tea Party Express' Takes Protests Cross-Country

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Conservative political activists associated with the anti-tax Tea Party protests took off on a cross-country bus trip this weekend. They began Friday in Sacramento, California and will be holding rallies in 33 cities.

NPR's Jeff Brady has been talking to folks attending the Tea Party Express rallies, and he joins us now from Elko, Nevada. Jeff, tell us a little bit more about who's going to the rallies and what they're talking about.

JEFF BRADY: Well, I've been to four rallies now, in two days, and talked with quite a few people. Most of them, I'd say they're over 40 years old, and in general, they appear to be folks who work pretty hard for a living. And they talk about all kinds of issues. Health care has been big, of course, plenty of concern about the federal debt. And a few folks complained about environmental regulations.

But I think the one thing that just about everyone had in common is that they feel like they're not being heard. And they hope to change that by making a little noise at these rallies. I ran into one woman at the rally in Elko, Nevada yesterday. Her name is Sherry Hussey(ph), and she has high hopes for the Tea Party movement.

Ms. SHERRY HUSSEY: It would be really great to see us find a way to unify and have a third party. And then both sides, the liberals and the conservatives, would be begging for our votes instead of just overlooking us like we're not here.

BRADY: I heard that same sentiment over and over. These folks feel like they're just being ignored.

HANSEN: But what's the mood been like at the rallies so far?

BRADY: You know, they feel a lot like a small county fair. People are serious about what's being discussed at the rallies, but it seems like they're also there to have fun. At one point, during each of the stops, one of the singers brings up about a dozen women on stage and they form an impromptu chorus line while singing "New York, New York." But, as you can imagine, they've changed the words quite a bit to sort of fit the situation.

Turnout at the various rallies has been pretty much proportionate to the towns we've been in. The Sacramento rally was really big. There must've been several thousand people there. Yesterday, we were in Winnemucca, Nevada. Pretty small town and there were probably 150, 200 people there.

HANSEN: Tell us more about who's actually organizing these rallies.

BRADY: Well, the bus tour is sponsored by a political action committee called the Our Country Deserves Better PAC. They're definitely political conservatives. And they're pretty sensitive to accusation that what's going on here is not a grassroots effort.

Now, to be sure, they see themselves as leaders, but as the vice president of the PAC told me, he noticed that there were all these people with different concerns all kind of centered on fears of government being too big and powerful and expensive. And he says he just got out in front of them to provide a coherent voice for them.

And this is not one of those PACs that's swimming around in a lot of money. They've actually had some financial troubles, but they have raised a couple of million dollars over the last few years. But most of that has been from individuals who gave the group contributions of less than $200.

HANSEN: So, you're in Elko, Nevada. Where does the Tea Party Express head next?

BRADY: This afternoon there will be a rally in the small town of Ely, Nevada -that's in the eastern part of the state. Then, tomorrow, they'll be in Las Vegas. After that, they'll start heading east and stop in about two dozen other towns before the big wrap-up rally September 12th in Washington, D.C.

HANSEN: That's NPR's Jeff Brady in Elko, Nevada. Jeff, thanks a lot.

BRADY: Thank you.

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