Newschannel 6 Takes an In-depth Look at Texoma's Tea Party

Wednesday, over 40 Tea Party congressmen and women reported for their first day of duty to the 112th Congressional Session. Elected off of a conservative battle cry and a call back to what they say is the original intent of the founding fathers, these newly elected officials struck a chord with many in Texoma. For the Wichita Falls Tea Party Patriots, the work in Washington has only just begun.

"The government is taking over, it seems like they are taking over everything so, we just want more voice. The people want more voice," says Jimmy Johnson, a member of the Wichita Falls Tea Party Patriots.

Sheila Hartzler, another member and teacher agrees. "I thought, I cannot face my grandchildren and tell them that I did nothing to stop this," she says.

For Fred Skeen, the job of the Tea Party has only just begun. "The very first thing is, we have to be strong. Strong."

"Our government has failed us, our government is not performing as we think the founding fathers wanted us to," says Keith Dyer, a Texoma politician and Tea Party Member.

Another member explains what he feels about the state of our government. "I'm very angry, so I'm involved."

All across the country and here at home, there is a nation of people who are speaking against our current political system. They say they've united together under frustration and fear.

"I was really frightened for my country and the direction it was going. For lots of years, I've been griping about the slow decent into socialism, but it really got accelerated in the last 2 years," says Hartzler.

During the last two years, with the election of a Democratic president and a predominately Democrat congress, many Republican voters felt they were unable to identify with those in Washington.

"The Democrats steal our freedoms and the Republicans compromise them away," said one frustrated member. "I said the Republicans have lost their ethics, if they had ethics, they would put their foot down and say that's enough! stop!"

Members say it is out of their passionate pleas for true conservatism, that the Tea Party nation was born.

"The Tea Party Movement is born out of frustration with our government. We see our freedoms and liberties chipped away every day. Every law that is passed is another piece of freedom that is taken away from us-no matter what the intent," says Dyer.

It's that cry for freedom and liberty that inspired a small number of Texomans to form the Wichita Falls Tea Party Patriots. The group championed the phrase "Revolution is brewing" and to those who attend the weekly meetings, there is no doubt one is brewing in the Falls.

"The Tea Party Movement in Wichita Falls is really the envy of a lot of parts of Texas and around the country because we do have weekly meetings," explains Dyer. "And this gives people a chance every week to get out and express their views, discuss things, and try to formulate plans to make a change."

In the beginning, the Wichita Falls Tea Party Patriots didn't even have 10 members. Over a year later nearly 100 people call themselves true Tea Party members.

"I got tired of yelling at the television, so I got off my bottom and started going to tea party rallies and meetings," says Hartzler, laughing.

Now, she serves on committees and organizes volunteers to attend Tea Party events such as rallies and voter drives. Armed with constitution themed hats, shirts, and bumper stickers, members study the formation of America during constitutional studies classes while becoming well versed in the Wichita Falls Tea Party mission. They want to limit the size of government and bring politics back to what they say is the original intent of the founding fathers.

"To me, the Tea Party is here to support the original intent of the constitution. And that's why most people are here. You see a lot of people come here and they talk. And a lot of times they are just venting and it helps to vent," elaborates one member.

"I think these are people who are fed up with the way things are. Tired with the status quo and we're looking for something, more action. We're looking for action from our leadership," say Skeen, "When we have representatives on TV saying that the constitution is just a piece of paper, that really don't matter, we don't need to read it, that's a problem."

When describing the Tea Party, most members say that it isn't actually a party, but a political movement. During election years, the Wichita Falls Tea Party Patriots don't endorse any one candidate. They simply stick to their talking points of protecting the constitution, limiting government, and restoring freedoms.

"Some people have said that the Tea Party is a little bit far right. Some people say that it's just right. And some people have told me that --and this is how I feel about it--the Tea Party is right there on the edge of almost becoming that 3rd political party in this country," elaborates Skeen.

Especially after the sweeping wins in the 2010 mid-term elections. Already new Tea Party lawmakers promise to uphold the constitution while taking away power from the federal government and giving it back to the states. Even the new speaker of the house, John Boehner, proposed rules such as relating resolutions back to the constitution to keep the active Tea Party base happy.

"It can't be business as usual. No, that's not what we are about. My vision of a Tea Partier is following the constitution, doing what's right for the United States of America," says Skeen.

Texoma Tea Party members want to set the record straight. They feel people who aren't involved with the movement have a skewed idea of what they stand for and what they're about.

"I think the left wing and the Republicans have been trying to demonize the Tea Party and make us sound like a bunch of radicals because we are angry, you see how angry I am, but the anger is from the frustration of dealing with both the Republican and Democratic parties. They are not keeping our freedoms. We need smaller government, smaller programs," one member explains.

"I think that a lot of people think that we are a bunch of bigoted, racist, rednecks and that we are ignorant or that we're misguided," says Hartzler, shaking her head. "I don't know that anyone who wants to go back to the principles of our founding could be misguided. It is what's made our nation great."

Dyer has an explanation for the misconception. "The national media has an agenda that they want to promote and bringing the Tea Party down or making them look different than what they actually are is part of their agenda. The tea party groups that I have been to are all patriotic," he says.

"I believe that our country was founded on the principles of the bible. The Judea-Christian ethic. And if that's radical, than I guess I am a radical. I don't froth at the mouth and I don't have little horns up on the top of my head," says Hartzler.

Yet some say there are inherent flaws to the system. Although many want to reduce spending, there is no clear cut plan to bring down the national deficit. Tea Party candidates say they want to severely reduce programs, such as the Department of Education, and give more authority to the states. However with a Democratically controlled Senate and a Democratic President, the Tea Party change may not be as swift. For Texoma Tea Partiers, members say they will work harder, to bring the country back to where they think it should be.

"I've got to be politically active for the rest of my life. If I'm not, my grandchildren will not live in the country with the freedoms even that we have today and believe me, we've lost a lot of them," says Hartzler.

The Wichita Falls Tea Party Patriots meet every Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in the Howard Johnson. There is no fee to attend the meetings.

Mary Moloney, Newschannel 6