I walked into a Tea Party protest in New Mexico

The Tea Party people used Tax Day to rally across the country.

I'm in New Mexico this week for a board meeting of women journalists (JAWS) and in Santa Fe I stumbled upon a Tea Party protest.

It's interesting that in a state the Census shows is almost 45 percent Hispanic and almost 10 percent Native American the majority of those gathered in scenic Santa Fe were white.

A New York Times poll and story published this week found that most Tea Party people are white, wealthier and more educated than the general public.

So I scanned the crowd in Santa Fe looking for anyone who didn't fit the Tea Party profile. And I found Navajo artist Ronald Chee.

I was surprised by what he told me.

"The majority of the people here are opposed to a government takeover, "Chee  said.

He was holding a sign that read "Lower the taxes to stimulate economy."

He went on to describe President Obama's policies as practically socialist, rant against undocumented immigrants and also complain that he didn't want to pay taxes on the sale of his artwork.

"But didn't you have to pay taxes under President Bush?" I asked.

Sure he did.

But that didn't stop Chee and others from complaining about taxes and their fears of a government takeover of everything especially health care.

Chee said he pays for his own private insurance from Blue Cross Blue Shield and took his insurance card out of his wallet to show me.

He did make one good point that many Native Americans don't trust the U.S. government, obviously for the history of broken treaties and promises.

He also complained that the federal health program called the Indian Health Service was woefully inadequate. He's probably right about that too.

But wait. I thought he and other Tea Partiers don't want government intervention.

Obviously I don't agree with most of what Chee said. I wanted to know what others thought in mostly liberal Santa Fe.

Across the street from the plaza a group of Pueblo Indian vendors looked on as the Tea Party protesters assembled.

"What do you think?" I asked Rumardo Coriz, who was selling jewelry under the arches.

Coriz told me that Native Americans in New Mexico have gone through tough economic times.

New Mexico has the third highest poverty rate in the United States.

He stopped working construction jobs around 15 years ago and tries to make a living selling handmade jewelry.

Coriz looked out at the crowd gathered across the street. "I think they should just give Obama a chance," he said.

By the way, he gets his medical coverage from Medicaid.

Chee and Coriz, two viewpoints from the American Southwest on this ongoing debate over health care.

Wonder what they'd say if they sat down for tea together?

CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIDEO

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  • Why was it a positive when Obama attracted support from a wealthy, mostly white, more educated than average crowd, but a negative for the Tea Party?

  • In reply to KPOM:

    Wow, and I thought black people and young people voted for Pres. Obama....go figure.

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