Based on Wednesday evening's protest in New York City, a strong case can be made for the former. Though mainstream Republicans, GOP lobbying firms and Fox News have embraced the protests – Newt Gingrich was the featured speaker here – many of those who attended were not offering anything akin to Republican talking points.
"I think Newt Gingrich is – I think he's a slime ball," said Roy Delduco, a self-described Constitutionalist with tattoos up his arm and a shaved head. "I don't like Republicans. I don't like liberals either. I don't like the whole bipartisan system. I think it's part of the problem."
Delduco said he wants the Federal Reserve disbanded, the IRS "put in jail" and his taxes lowered. He complained about government spending under both Presidents Obama and Bush.
"We've basically bankrupted the dollar, and I'm scared," he said.
That's not to say there weren't plenty of complaints about Mr. Obama and his administration at the demonstration: protesters interviewed by CBSNews.com mentioned the president's alleged bow to the Saudi leader, the recent Homeland Security report on right-wing extremists and unsubstantiated rumors about Mr. Obama's birthplace, among other complaints.
"I think [President Obama] is doing a terrible job, and he's weakening this nation," Pam Griffin said. "Shame on everybody who voted for him."
She went on to describe President Bush as someone who did a "great job" and whose spending was "totally responsible."
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Photo Essay: Tax Day "Tea Parties" Across The Country. (AP)
But such positive views of Republicans were relatively rare, particularly in light of the fact that the tea party rallies have been so enthusiastically embraced by many in the GOP. The general perception here was that Mr. Bush kicked off the worst of the irresponsible spending and Mr. Obama accelerated it – and that the concerns of everyday Americans were ignored in the process.
"None of our representatives – Republican, independent, or Democratic – listen to us," complained Maura Garvey. "This is a Republic. This is a government for the people, by the people. But that's not happening here."
"This didn't start in January with Obama," she added. "You look back 20, 25 years, it started. It's just that nobody had the gumption to stand up before now, because now it's really gone overboard."
Added Dan Batton: "We've taken all the crap that they've put out – lip service, no representation in Washington…[we're] sick and tired of it."
Elsewhere, Brendan Brady (pictured at top) described the protest as civil disobedience that marked "stage one" of a movement. Stage two, he said, was voting out those responsible for bad policy.
"If after that point, whoever goes in there doesn't do what we ask, then stage three is breaking things," continued Brady. "Then stage four is breaking people. That's how it works. Once you lose the consent of the governed, you move on to a point where there is no law. So they better start paying attention."
The protest took place next to a park near New York city hall in lower Manhattan; though police were unable to offer an estimate at the scene, there appeared to be in excess of 1,000 people in attendance. Some carried signs suggesting Mr. Obama was embracing socialism, while others dressed in military or Colonial garb. One young man handed out feathers in homage to the Boston Tea Party; another offered stickers in support of John Galt, the hero of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged."
"I feel like we have to do something," said Kathy O'Hara of Long Island, as a "USA" chant went up around her. O'Hara held up a sign affixed with tea bags and complained of "wasteful spending, and spending in the wrong places."
A few steps behind her, Raymond Kwai stood alone in the crowd, holding up a sign that said, in all capital letters, "IF I WANTED TO BE A COMMIE, I'D STAY IN CHINA."
"My parents got out of communism, they got me over here, and this is not what they want, and this is not what I want," he said. Kwai said he believes in the concept of "trickle down economics."
"I believe that if you give the rich a chance, our lives will be better," he said.
Catherine Mullahy said she didn't like the notion that she can't take care of herself – "that the government has to take care of you."
"They're printing dollars they don't have – it's compromising my freedom, it's compromising the freedom of my children and my grandchildren," added Mullahy, who compared her conservatism to that of Barry Goldwater.
Helene Jnane, a Ron Paul supporter upset by spending under both Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush, said she was thrilled with the existence of the rallies, though somewhat wary of the embrace of the mainstream GOP.
"We don't want our message of sound money and a non-interventionist foreign policy to be corrupted through compromise or coalition," she said.
Still, she added, "the more people that come out in support of sound money, the better."