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'Socialism' once again a rallying cry at local Tea Party gathering

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 16, 2010 - Brick Mudge and Laurie O'Donnell of St. Charles are regulars at area Tea Party rallies, while Thursday night's gathering in Clayton was a first for Walt Morrow and Bob Reese of South County.

All came to the St. Louis Tea Party's latest event, marking the deadline for filing tax returns, for the same reason: their concern about excessive government spending. 

For almost two hours, speaker after speaker at the podium in Memorial Park, wedged between the county's courthouse and government center, decried the actions of President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress. All were accused of bankrupting the country while expanding the growth of the federal government and its control over Americans.

--"Get the government out of the business of stealing your retirement!" declared Fred Sauer, chairman of the Missouri Roundtable for Life, a group opposed to embryonic stem cell research. He told the crowd they would have amassed far more for retirement from their own savings, than they will collect from the government after years of paying into Social Security.

--"It is American to honor God. It is American to want to keep what you worked so hard for,'' said radio commentator Dana Loesch. "I did not give birth to my kids so they could be enslaved by a socialist administration."

-- "Who's ready to fight corruption and socialism in your backyard?" asked John Burns, leader of the local Tea Party's unsuccessful attempt to defeat Metro's sales tax hike. He was among the rally organizers who called on the audience to sign up to be block captains for the coming elections this summer and fall.

Emcee Jim Hoft -- known for his conservative blog, Gateway Pundit -- highlighted some homemade signs brought by members of the audience crowd, estimated by organizers to be at least 1,000. Police unofficially put the size at 500-700. 

Declared one poster: "Abortion, more spending, more taxes, no jobs -- Obama's agenda."

Said another (which garnered particular applause): "I wasn't born a Socialist. I will not die a Socialist."

Although it was not as large as the Tea Party gatherings in downtown St. Louis a year ago, organizers of Thursday's event were pleased by the enthusiasm and interest displayed by all who did show up.

The crowd got whipped up the most when the only politician allowed to speak -- Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder -- called on them to help his legal fight against the new federal health care laws. Kinder believes that the requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance is unconstitutional.

Cheers almost drowned out Kinder, a Republican, as he jabbed Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., for her support of the health-care law. Kinder recalled McCaskill's question at a town hall last summer, when -- amid boos -- she asked the audience, "Don't you trust us?"

Declared Kinder: " 'No,' Sen. McCaskill. 'No' to anyone currently in office. We do not trust you. We bind you to the chains of the Constitution."

Mudge said he was particularly moved by Kinder's speech.

But Morrow and Reese said it was important for the Tea Party to get beyond rallies and speeches -- and for the general public to pay attention.

"They're preaching to the choir here," said Morrow.

Reese said it was time for other Americans "to stop watching 'American Idol' and pay attention to what's happening."

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.