Kevin Riordan: Cherry Hill tea party keeps the faith

Cherry Hill Area Tea Party activists (from left) Angela Pizzo, Barbara Davis, and Mena Kramer in Pizzo's home. "God put it in front of us to do" this work, said Davis, the cochair.
Cherry Hill Area Tea Party activists (from left) Angela Pizzo, Barbara Davis, and Mena Kramer in Pizzo's home. "God put it in front of us to do" this work, said Davis, the cochair. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 24, 2011

As a tour guide at Independence National Historical Park in the 1990s, Barbara Davis would talk about the nation's past while fearing for its future.

"Things were changing in our country," recalls the Cherry Hill resident, 77. "I thought to myself, 'These things I'm saying [to tourists] about liberty and freedom are not what's happening now.' It really made me very sad."

Her feelings of sadness have given way to a sense of empowerment: Davis is cochair of the Cherry Hill Area Tea Party. The organization started two years ago with seven people in her living room and now has between 250 and 300 active members.

"God put it in front of us to do," says Davis, whom I meet along with cochair Angela Pizzo, 72, and member Mena Kramer, 68, at Pizzo's home on Marlkress Road.

As with the Occupy movement, which I wrote about recently, I'm curious to know what makes the tea party tick.

"We offer conservatives and moderates an opportunity to express themselves and to find people of similar beliefs," John Sullivan, the group's spokesman, explains. "We're a magnet for people who want to have an avenue to learn more, express their views, and, yes, vent."

Like other members, Davis, Pizzo and Kramer say they want to restore the patriotic, exceptional, constitutional America they remember.

They believe in God and in hard work. They want immigration laws enforced and English spoken, and they want America to get out of hock.

"It's absolutely horrendous," Pizzo says, "that the country cannot live within budgets."

To them, Barack Obama is a socialist in all but name who presides over a bloated government that spends too much of our money while seeking to micromanage our lives.

Public school curriculums, they say, have swapped out patriotism for pabulum; the media are biased; and radicals from the '60s and '70s are running/ruining America. And as for that Occupy movement, let's not go there.

"It's reprehensible, their hatred of those who have achieved," Kramer says. "Redistribution of wealth is the direction . . . [but] the good news is, it has become so blatant that a lot of people are waking up."

To its members, the tea party offers hope.

"What our forefathers had established for us was fading away," Pizzo says. "I really felt something had to be done. And fortunately, there was the tea party."

Says Kramer: "It was cathartic, connecting with other people . . . but we've moved beyond catharsis. We're into strategizing. We're looking ahead to see how we can effect change."

The three say they were especially heartened by the 2010 election, in which tea party groups clearly helped provide the momentum for a Republican ascendancy in the House of Representatives.

"You realize your voice is being heard, by virtue of numbers, and consistency" of message, Kramer notes, defining that message as "smaller government, lower taxes, fewer regulations."

Interested until recently in Herman Cain, they like Newt Gingrich for president.

"More than we know, people are scared to death," Kramer says. Gingrich "represents stability and strength and a knowledge we have lacked."

The three women also believe public education must be revamped. History curriculums in particular have been dumbed down to the point "you'd think America was just plopped here," Davis says.

A "vacuous" curriculum has left students ignorant about "the exceptionalism of this country," Kramer says. "It's not hubris about how great we are. It's the uniqueness of our governance, which stems from the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and is not understood by our president."

"The reason we're doing this is because we look at our children and grandchildren, and they don't have the future to look forward to that we had," Davis says. "We want a better education for them. We want a better life for them."

Adds Pizzo: "This is the way, hopefully, to get our country back on the right track . . . and hopefully, in my lifetime, I will see this."


Kevin Riordan:

Three members of the Cherry Hill Area Tea Party talk about what's at stake for America. www.philly.com/teatime


Contact staff writer Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845, kriordan@phillynews.com, or @inqkriordan on Twitter. Read the metro columnists' blog, "Blinq," at http://www.philly.com/blinq

|
|
|
|
|