AUSTIN, Tex.—Hundreds of people braved temperatures exceeding 100 degrees on Monday to send a message to President Obama: “Keep your hands off Texas.”
Hours after Obama visited the city for a Democratic fundraiser and a speech to University of Texas students, speaker after speaker at the Hands Off Texas rally contrasted Texas’ somewhat vibrant economy with a much bleaker national picture.
“The President wants to enact a liberal agenda in Texas by electing Democrats,” said Lathan Watts, Lewisville city councilman. Calling Texas an “inconvenient truth” for Obama, Lewis said state policies of low taxation, spending and regulation have helped Texas avoid the worst of the economic stress affecting most of the country.
Texas should reject the President’s agenda, said Watts. “Cap and trade will tax every light switch in America,” he said.
Speakers were gleeful that a number of Democratic candidates were campaigning elsewhere in the state and were not in Austin to join the President.
Jerry Patterson, the Texas Land Commissioner, said Democrats gave new meaning to “duck and cover.” When Obama came to Austin, the Democrats “ducked out of town and covered up the reason why.”
Other speakers railed against big government and excessive deficits.
Chris Covo, director of Young Professionals, Americans for Prosperity, said he had two requests for Obama: Look to Texas for economic policies and “stop mortgaging my generation’s future.”
Deficit spending “is undermining the American Dream,” said Covo.
Dr. Donna Campbell, running for Congress against incumbent Democrat Lloyd Doggett, told HUMAN EVENTS after the rally that if she had one message for Washington, it is to “shrink big government.”
While most of the speakers were candidates running for state and local office as Republicans, the rally itself had a Tea Party flavor to it, albeit with a Texas twist.
Attendees carried signs with anti-Obama and anti-government messages, similar to Tea Party slogans:
• Rejecting Socialism is Patriotism
• I Love My Country, I Fear My Government
• Free Markets, Not Freeloaders.
• Sounds Like Marx, Acts Like Stalin, Must Be Obama
The Tea Party favorite “Don’t Tread on Me” flags were joined by the Texan “Come and Take It” rallying cry from their War of Independence against Mexico.
And there were plenty of signs that said “Hands Off Texas,” “Don’t Mess with Texas,” and “Secede.”
Tina Blake of Liberty County, Tex., carried a sign that said: “Mr. President I Do Not Agree with Your Policies, I am Not a Racist.”
“I think he [President Obama] is taking the country in the wrong direction,” said Blake. “The media and the Democrats are portraying conservatives as racist because they don’t have an agenda they can argue about with us.”
Austin resident Katie Thompson, 18, carried a sign with the message: “Hands Off Texas, Hands Off My Future.”
“I disagree with Obama’s polices,” said Thompson. “Texas is growing the most jobs in the country. Obama’s stimulus policy will interfere.”
Earlier in the day, President Obama spoke to University of Texas students and recalled the last time he was in the city, during his presidential campaign.
“It was a drizzly day—the kind of day that usually dampens turnout. But when I got to where the rally was, over at Auditorium Shores, there was a huge crowd of around 20,000 people—people of all ages, races, and walks of life,” Obama said.
“And as I said that day, I knew you weren’t there just for me. You were there because you were hungry for change. Because you believed in an America where all of us, no matter what we look like or where we come from, can reach for our dreams, and make of our lives what we will.”
His speech focused on his education policies. Saying “education is an economic issue,” Obama touted his goal of making college more affordable.
He attempted to make an “I feel your pain” connection with the students when he said, “Michelle and I had big loans to pay off when we graduated—and I remember what that burden felt like.” But that notion was hard to square with the recent spate of articles describing Michelle Obama’s luxurious Spanish vacation.
In fact, back at the rally, protestors took issue with the Obama’s elitist image.
“Stay in Spain, Vain,” read one sign.
Obama’s trip to Austin highlighted how Democratic candidates are avoiding campaigning with the President. Former Houston Mayor Bill White, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Texas, campaigned in Midland, Abilene and Alvarado, Tex., rather than join the President in the state capital.
White’s opposition in the race, Texas Gov. Rick Perry did meet face-to-face with Obama. Perry met Obama at the airport tarmac and gave the President a four-page letter, asking him to address the “dire threat amassing on our Southern border in the form of international drug cartels and transnational gangs.”