The morning gathering on the Upshur County Courthouse’s west lawn drew a somewhat larger crowd than the first such TEA Party held there April 15 (“TEA” stands for “taxed enough already.”) The rallies were among many such TEA Party events held throughout the nation on those days.
But, as was the case in April, the crowd at the conservative gathering in Gilmer was all-white, or nearly so. Addressing the issue of minorities not attending, the holiday rally’s main organizer, Wayne Arnold, said in an e-mail Monday that “my concern is that they are not concerned about the direction that our elected officials are taking us, or that they approve of that direction.”
He had told The Mirror Saturday that blacks would be welcome to attend such rallies, and that he was “excited” that the turnout for the second rally exceeded the first.
The events were sponsored by The Upshur County Grass Roots TEA Party Organization, which bills itself as “an independent grassroots group of citizens whose sole purpose is to unite those individuals who believe the government has overextended its reach and has been fiscally irresponsible through overspending, bailouts and excessive taxation.”
Ms. Jimmye Martin, a member of the group, had said in a press release before Saturday that the rally was aimed at instructing citizens on how to get the attention of their elected officials, and providing information “on groups and institutions who can aid them in this process.”
Saturday’s keynote speaker, retired U.S. Navy Commander Stackhouse of Quitman, told the audience that the first round of Tea Parties had gotten the Obama Administration’s attention, “and we’re going to do it again this time.”
Near the end of his 19-minute address, he urged his listeners to write “‘Blue Dog’ (fiscally conservative) Democrats...(and) tell them to stand up and stop being puppets to the people that lead the Congress.” (Rally organizers furnished a written list of such Democrats, and where to contact them.)
Stackhouse encouraged citizens to write and call their elected officials. Earlier, he had drawn applause when he said, “We’re doing all these things not for us. It’s for the person sitting next to you” and for children, he said.
The speaker, who spent nearly six years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese after his plane was shot down in April 1967, also expressed alarm over the high costs of social programs, coupled with what he termed “foolish” cuts in national defense.
President Obama “has said that we will have trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see,” Stackhouse said. Paraphrasing the old Tennessee Ernie Ford song Sixteen Tons, the former commander said, “We all owe our souls to the company store.”
He then cited what he termed “unfunded liabilities like Social Security,” a program he said totals $100 trillion. He said Medicare totals $85 trillion of unfunded liabilities—reportedly $34 trillion each for Parts A and B, and $17 trillion for Part D.
After the first round of nationwide Tea Party rallies, Stackhouse said, Mr. Obama announced his administration would cut spending. But the President’s pronouncement drew a sarcastic reaction from the speaker.
What taxpayers owe is “not a happy prospect,” Stackhouse said, “But not to worry. Our government has said that they’re going to save a hundred million dollars in five years.”
Earlier, the former naval commander had said, “They spend $100 million in about 15 minutes.”
While decrying the spending on social programs, Stackhouse blasted the administration for wanting to eliminate the F-22 military airplane, and two of 11 aircraft carriers he said are protecting the nation on the seas.
He also decried what he termed the administration’s desire to “unilaterally reduce” the nation’s nuclear arsenal when North Korea is launching missiles that could strike Hawaii.
Continuing to address military issues, Stackhouse additionally said it was “unbelievable” that the Obama administration proposed having veterans pay for their combat injuries through their private insurance.
And, he added, “I feel this (proposed) national health care (program) is pretty much a death sentence for me and people my age.”
Stackhouse also assailed the creation of so-called “czars, or whatever else they’re called,” who are appointed solely by the President to oversee various government programs.
Noting the czars control omnibus and TARP funds, the speaker declared, “They are your government, and you didn’t elect them.”
He also blasted the proposed cap in trade legislation which the House narrowly passed recently.
“Everything will have this energy tax on it—everything,” he said of the proposal, which is now before the Senate. He said America’s coal production would be reduced, but coal would be sent to China and India, which is “insane.”
Stackhouse further said the 1,000-page bill had 300 more pages added at 3 a.m. one morning, and that it and the economic stimulus legislation hadn’t been read.
At that point, a woman in the crowd shouted, “Vote ‘em out!”
“You bet,” Stackhouse replied. “Throw ‘em out.”
After Arnold read a letter from U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler), who was speaking at a similar rally in Austin, Rep. Hughes (R-Mineola) told the assemblage that the “federal government is governing just a little bit beyond” the power citizens gave it.
He also defended the Second Amendment, saying “We should fear any government that fears our guns.”
Addressing the matter of state government, he said Texas can lead the nation for “limited government” and “free markets.”
“Please pray, and we can also organize,” Hughes said. When it comes to groups like the TEA Party, he said, “First, they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”
He said people like those present are called rednecks, and “I’m proud to be a redneck.”
He urged voting for candidates who favor less government, less spending, and more freedom.
The rally also featured patriotic music by the band “Voice of Light” and an award-winning singer, Gilmer High School senior Cori Beasley.
The crowd had a smattering of signs, and the group organizing it offered voter registration; free copies of the Constitution; a petition against socialized medicine; and a drawing for two copies of conservative TV and radio show host Glenn Beck’s book Common Sense.
One sign in the crowd read “U.S. in distress” and was attached to a small pole with an upside-down American flag, which is a distress symbol.
Other signs declared, “No!! to socialism”; “Truckers -R- TEA’D 2”; and “‘The One’ “The Messiah’ has a name....It’s Jesus, not Obama.” One man wore a cap with two tea bags danging from its bill, and many in the audience wore red, white and blue.
Wade Watson of Pine Mills held a sign reading, “REMEMBER!!!! The greatest gift Jimmy Carter gave America was RONALD REAGAN!!!”
“I’m here to protest this government we have that’s taxing us too much, spending too much, and it’s becoming oppressive,” Watson told .. “We need to take this country back.”