I had missed the original tea party on April 15, where about 20,000 gathered around the state capitol in Atlanta, Georgia.
On July 3 I came braced for heat and hardship. But the Cobb Independence Day tea party was held in the horse arena of the Jim R. Miller Park in suburban Cobb County, where we planted our lawn chairs and bought our dinners from the concession stand. I saw three of the six Republican candidates for Georgia governor shaking hands.
During the national anthem and invocation, the arena remained about one-third empty. But more people started coming in as Debbie Dooley, coordinator of the Atlanta tea party, read Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Independence Day speech, which focused on those of the 56 signers of the Declaration who left families and fortunes to fight in the Revolutionary War — to never see their deserved credit.
The speech seemed appropriate inspiration for overwhelming odds, but multiple opportunities for citizen involvement.
After a presentation by Jay Wallace, owner of a local gun shop, Jonathan Krohn, who at fourteen years old was billed as “speaker, political analyst, columnist, author of Define Conservatism,” came on stage. You would have thought that by the way he was lauded for his performance at CPAC 2009, this would be a reenactment of the twelve-year-old Jesus speaking to the teachers in the temple. Instead, what I found was a kid aping the mannerisms of political speakers while reciting four points that would have made a good essay response on a test. But even better would have been the credit to Russell Kirk’s principles, among them the principle of prescription. We are “dwarfs on the shoulders of giants,” Kirk said. Somewhere in there I think would fall a lesson for mortal children.
But it was the much older Herman Cain, candidate for U.S. Senate in 2004 and now a radio talk show host, who stirred the crowd, by 7:00 p.m. filling up the arena and numbering at around 7,000, he said. I remember reading in the Atlanta papers back in the 1980s and 1990s about how supposedly bigoted Cobb County was. But then again the local paper disapproved of Kennesaw, a Cobb County city that had an ordinance requiring citizens to own firearms. A sign from among the almost all-white audience read, “Herman Cain for President.” During the one-minute “rapid fire” question-and-answer session a man referred to Janeane Garofalo’s remark that tea parties are about “hating a black man in the White House.” His statement, “We would not mind having a black man by the name of Herman Cain in the White House,” was met with resounding cheers.
Cain quipped that he did not need a teleprompter. Born in the “hood” of Atlanta, he shared his street smarts, saying that the way to fend off bullies is to “put them on notice.” After reciting the outrages of the Obama administration, he said, “People will say I sound like an angry black man.” He urged citizens to contact Congressman Tom Price of the Republican Study Committee with their ideas.
Like the Obama first 100 days tour, I found this event to be educational. During the broadcast breaks, Michael Opitz, chairman and creator of the Madison Forum, gave a lesson on how the Constitution provides for the dismissal of federal judges for unconstitutional opinions. “How about presidents?” I wondered, as I saw a sign calling to “Impeach Obama.” Opitz also cited a bill, based on a correct interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, being promoted in Georgia to deny automatic citizenship to babies born of foreign parents. I was persuaded to buy a copy of the reprinted edition of the 1927 The Constitution Explained by Harry Atwood at one of the tables.
The following night’s event originally was to be held at Gwinnett Place Mall, but the owner, Simon Property Group, has large contributors to leftists like Obama and reneged once they learned about the group’s political orientation. The crowd at the new location at the state capitol numbered at about 400, according to organizer Dr. Bob Frady. But there should have been 4,000, he said, except that an announcement was made at the previous day’s event that the Atlanta tea party had been cancelled, confusing participants (including me). Flyers were distributed for the GOP barbecue fundraiser for the same day, prompting charges from Frady that Republicans were “corralling” the event.
Among the first of the speakers on the 4th, John Oxendine, Georgia insurance commissioner, considered a frontrunner for governor, claimed to be the candidate who would go back to founding principles, the theme of the invocation. He made a plug for states’ rights. Political newcomer Ray McBerry, however, gave a stirring rebuttal, claiming that he had been speaking on states’ rights for ten years, as opposed to Oxendine’s three-month position. Referring to the confiscation of guns during Hurricane Katrina, he asserted, “If I were governor those federal agents would be in jail” — a remark that went over quite well. Around the same time a state trooper, who did not look like she could run a block without getting winded, told a man with a large “Don’t Tread on Me” flag that he would have to remove it. Apparently, the pole of the flag was seen as a potential weapon.
Speakers from Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty and the Georgia Constitution Party came next. Debbie Dooley read President Reagan’s speech again.
Then the young Krohn bounded up to the stage and began, “You’ll notice I don’t need a teleprompter.” He had learned at least a line from an elder, Herman Cain. But, alas, he could have used a teleprompter, for he sounded like a kid excitedly telling his mother his ideas on current issues. (But he is cute.) Gerry Purcell, candidate for insurance commissioner, then urged the audience to educate liberals on socialized medicine by asking what health innovations had come from Canada and Europe, and by appealing to their concerns about age discrimination (medical treatments are restricted by age under socialized medicine).
Others on the lineup included Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center on efforts by the UN to undermine American sovereignty through sustainability initiatives and Dr. Tom Sandwich, a physician, on socialized medicine. Gainesville radio talk show host Martha Zoller pointedly outlined the Obama strategy: to get everything done by 2010 or bank on the idea that the opposition will get tired and defeated.
State Representative Bobby Franklin called on Governor Perdue to call a special session of the Assembly for passage of the Constitutional Tender Act. Indeed, a major theme of this tea party, and not of the previous day’s, was the need to audit (and eventually eliminate) the Federal Reserve Bank.
What stuck out after the singing, invocations, and speeches of the weekend was the message that our rights come not from our government, but from God — a truly revolutionary political concept in the history of mankind, when you think about it.
I thought of the people I saw on the MARTA train I took to downtown Atlanta that afternoon, especially the young man accompanied by a scantily clad young woman and three little children. He wore braids and a pendant with a photo of Obama. I would have bet money that he, like many of the students I have taught at my community college, did not know who Hitler was, much less Mussolini.
Frady emphasized that tea partiers equally criticize Republicans on such issues as homeland security and excessive spending. The Cobb County affair, on the other hand, offered more of a conventional rally to the troops.
Nonetheless, the guy with the Obama pendant probably had never been exposed fairly to any of the ideas at either, I am sure. The question remains how to get the message to him — or at least his children.