TARP, cap and trade, government bailouts and healthcare reform are all hot button issues these days. They are also issues that have polarized and united a segment of the population.
They are conservatives, but not necessarily Republicans; against big government, but not necessarily anti-government. They call themselves the TEA party and they are thriving throughout Texas.
They flock to rallies by the hundreds. On this day, they're gathered at Indian Spring Park in Waco. They are mostly white, mostly a little older and very much united in their disdain for the way they feel the country is headed. "Never in my life have I been this afraid of the government," said Austin resident Suzzane Angel.
Like Angel, these are ordinary people going to extraordinary lengths to get someone to listen. "I'm tired of what they're doing and if we can get rid of them we will." said Gene Reed, a retired machine inspector.
Local bookkeeper Rosemary Owen is at this TEA party because she feels like she needs to do something. "I think our voices are being heard and I think we're making a difference."
Toby Marie-Walker knew she had to do something when she first heard of the TEA party a year ago in February. "The next day, I contacted the people who started them and signed up to do them here in Waco. And it's history from there."
The past year has been hectic for Walker because she says there's so much to do. Organizing rallies is her way of keeping her finger on the pulse of national and local politics. "It's our duty as citizens of the U.S. to keep our government in check, not in a violent manner, but by watching them," she said. "And if we don't like what they're doing, vote them out. We have term limits, the voting booth."
Detractors say movements like this are fanning the flames of anti-government sentiment and they fear that could lead to more violence like the Oklahoma City bombing. This this rally did catch the attention of at least one former Branch Davidian, but organizers say the TEA party is no place for radicals. "To be painted with that kind of brush to say we're anti government, 'McVeighs,' that's a lie. It's false," said Walker. "If there are one or two people like that, we need to get them out of the movement. We don't want them in there like that."
What TEA party members do want is to keep pressure on, not just Democrats, but any politician or lawmaker who they feel is wasting their tax dollars and taking away their freedom. We'll all find out how widespread their support is after the mid-term elections in November.
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