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TEA PARTY POPULARITY GROWS: Groups appeal to citizens frustrated with government [Daily Press, Victorville, Calif.]
[August 15, 2010]

TEA PARTY POPULARITY GROWS: Groups appeal to citizens frustrated with government [Daily Press, Victorville, Calif.]


(Daily Press (Victorville, CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 15--Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series. See Monday's Daily Press for a look at how tea partiers could impact elections.

Brandon Wood says enough is enough.

He used to enjoy riding off-road motor vehicles with his children -- until Hesperia passed an ordinance prohibiting it. He's also been caught on one of Victorville's unpopular red-light cameras, facing a hefty $450 fine.

"Who wanted it?" Wood asked about such government regulations. "No one around me. The government is now working for itself, not for us." Wo o d r e c e n t l y l e a r n e d a b o u t t h e High Desert Patriots, a local tea party chapter, through a friend and attended a meeting at the Legendary Cocky Bull restaurant on Highway 395 and Palmdale Road. There he discovered a group in which hundreds of residents boo and hiss at the mention of tax hikes and "Obamacare," and then chant "hear, hear" in support of the Arizona immigration law and easing regulations on small businesses.

Wood said he left the meeting feeling "fired up." The tea party phenomenon isn't exactly a fledging political party, but a loosely united movement of grassroots efforts across the nation. Frustrated by a government they say doesn't listen to its citizens anymore, tea partiers are driven by a mission to "take back the country" and reclaim the vision and principles of the founding fathers.

They organize rallies at local community centers, bars and parks, and march along streets or outside government buildings waving signs reading "Taxed enough" and "Don't tread on me." The High Desert is home to at least five tea party groups meeting regularly, including ones in Apple Valley, Barstow, Hesperia, Phelan and Victorville.


High Desert Patriots is the largest local tea party group, with at least 1,000 members signed up and 150 to 500 attending weekly meetings, according to Bill Jensen, the group's co-founder and former mayor of Hesperia. The group's mission statement, which is read aloud at every meeting, encompasses core values shared among tea partiers nationwide: limited government, fiscal responsibility, free market and strict adherence to the Constitution.

Jensen said he decided to launch a group in the High Desert when he and his friends saw the national tea party movement coverage on Fox News Channel. When they tried to galvanize support for an April 15 Tax Day Rally, an overwhelming 520 people showed up.

"We knew that there was a huge undercurrent that was really disgruntled with government business as usual," Jensen said. He runs his meetings like a patriotic production -- red, white and blue banners, theatrical stage lighting, a video projector and a wireless microphone he passes around the audience in the informal forum.

In Apple Valley, tea party meetings take the shape of Constitution study sessions followed by protests at the corner of Bear Valley and Apple Valley roads.

For some, tea party events offer a place to vent concerns about what's happening at all government levels, from city council to the Obama administration. For others, it's a chance to invigorate new political involvement and support for policies and candidates they'd endorse.

Jimmy Tripodi, 67, of Phelan, said he values the tea party meetings for their educational role, from overviews on ballot propositions to faceto-face meetings and debates with candidates.

Apple Valley tea party member John Wesley Nobles, 71, visits Victor Valley College to hand out mini-Constitution booklets because, he said, he's concerned about apathy among young adults.

"O ve r t i m e . . . we have watered down our Constitution and I don't think that's a smart thing," said Nobles, a retired mortgage banker. " T h i s co u n t r y h a s achieved a lot. And I think it's due to the genius of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution they wrote." Nobles said he was surprised when a few VVC political science majors told him they hadn't voted in the June primary because they didn't know who was running. He called the 19 percent voter turnout in San Bernardino County's June primary "pathetic." Wood said the tea party movement in the High Desert has pulled him back into the political loop. He said he had stopped watching news on TV for about five years after he got disgusted with politics. He said his tea party membership has rekindled his desire to initiate change.

"If you let it go by and let things happen, you don't have the right t o co m p l a i n ," Wo o d said. "It's the beginning of a revolution. Maybe, hopefully." To see more of the Daily Press, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.vvdailypress.com.

Copyright (c) 2010, Daily Press, Victorville, Calif.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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