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T Day: With the rise of the Tea Party, April 15 is no longer about filing tax returns

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Two years ago, Marla Hamby was one of millions of Americans who were fed up.

She was dissatisfied with the government, with the politicians who were supposed to be representing her interests and with the political party she had identified with her whole life. (Her one slip was being won over by the charisma of John F. Kennedy in 1960, she said)

As she saw it, Republicans had strayed from conservative fiscal responsibility and “pretty much become Democrats.”

So at the first mention of the Tea Party, a conservative political movement that made waves by demanding reduced government spending and reduction of the national debt, Hamby was intrigued.

She wanted to know more, liked what she found out and she’s been a dedicated Tea Party Patriot ever since.

“I think a lot of people bought into the mainstream media’s concept that the Tea Party is radical and extreme and a bunch of crazy kooks, but it’s not,” said Hamby, a Pawleys Island area resident. “We’re the most normal people you can imagine.”

Hamby has been to Tea Party rallies in Washington, D.C., and is always impressed with behavior of the people who participate.

“Unlike other groups, they didn’t have to bring in sanitation people to clean up after us. There wasn’t a piece of paper on the ground and there has never been any violence, so it’s not costing the taxpayers a dime,” she said. “We take care of ourselves.”

Despite its abundant media exposure, there are a lot of people who don’t really know what the Tea Party movement is all about.

“I don’t know specifically what their goals are,” said Jim Jerow, new chairman of the Georgetown County Republican Party. “I would hope they’re basically the same as the Republican Party’s goals, which are less government, lower taxes, a strong defense, sanctity of marriage and a belief in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”

Tea Partyers indeed share those principles, said Vikky Ferris of Georgetown, the organizer of a Tea Party rally scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday at Francis Marion Park on Front Street.

“We just feel sometimes that the Republican Party has not always abided by those principles, but hey, nobody’s perfect,” Ferris said. “The Tea Party is going to hold them accountable, as well as all of our officials.”

The letters in “tea” stand for “taxed enough already,” said Hamby.

The Tea Party isn’t really a party, and the lack of organization can be frustrating for some. There’s no headquarters or official membership, and thus no list of members or party contacts.

But Hamby said that’s mostly frustrating for “liberals and the media.”

“If you want to learn more and join, [the information] is out there,” she said. “If you’re casually interested, you might not find it, but if you’re really interested, you will. I did.”

Hamby got involved with the movement by looking for local Tea Party clubs. She tried out three and decided to become a member of one in Horry County, the Carolina Patriots. That group will participate in a rally at 3. p.m. Saturday at Market Common.

Ferris belongs to the GOP Patriots Club. Georgetown County doesn’t have a group specifically dedicated to the Tea Party movement, but Tea Partyers “will start meeting as a think tank” through the club, Ferris said. The quarterly meetings will begin in May and include speakers and suggested reading.

Ferris will give more information at the rally in Georgetown on Friday.

This will be the third rally in Georgetown since the movement started. The first attracted about 500 people and the second, during the 2010 primary season, drew 800.

Ferris hopes for an equally good turnout this year, but “I have no way of knowing if people will show up or not,” she said. “I bite my nails every year.”

Recent reports claim the Tea Party movement is weakening, but Ferris and Hamby say that’s not true.

“I think we’ve built more and more force,” Ferris said. “We’re growing and people are realizing [federal spending] is such a serious problem and it’s not going to be solved by sitting on the couch and listening to news and being upset.”

While the start of the Tea Party movement sparked worries about division among conservative voters, Ferris and Hamby agree the GOP hasn’t been hurt by the movement.

“I think we have irritated one another at times, but we both know the overriding goal is to do what’s best for our country,” she said. “We’re united around the principle of cutting spending and lowering taxes.”

Jerow said he thinks the movement has aided the Republican cause.

“It helped raise the bar in terms of making more Americans, especially Republicans, more attuned to what’s going on in our country, and it made them more concerned,” he said.

Hamby said she’s happier and more involved with the Republican Party since she got involved with the Tea Party movement. That’s partly because the movement has made more Republicans aware they have to toe the line where party values are concerned if they want to get re-elected.

The movement “had everything to do” with the wave of Republican victories seen across the nation and large number of incumbents voted out of office in November, she said.

“Most of the Tea Party candidates for Congress were elected and we will work diligently in 2012 to get enough elected to have a majority in the Senate,” Hamby said.

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For information about Friday’s rally in Georgetown, call Ferris at 546-5590.

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