When we arrive, the smell of baking cookies pervades the Cosgrays’ ranch-style home in the countryside outside Monticello, Ind. Outside, it is clear and silent except for their chatter, and the crunch of our footfalls crossing the field covered by cut corn stalks.
The Cosgrays are a close family, knit together by conservative Christian beliefs. They work hard, study hard and live in a place where they have their own water and power supplies, and where they could plausibly be self-sufficient. Their oldest son Alex, 27, farms 20 acres of family land - refusing government subsidies, on principle.
To Sam and Laura Cosgray, massive government spending in the name of averting economic crisis has been an affront to their common sense, and their sense of fairness.
“We bust our backs every day going to work, teaching our children values and working, and that you don’t rely on the government... (you) make it on your own,” says Laura Cosgray, a 47-year-old mother of four. “Then the government has the audacity to come in and take our money... to prop up the banks that are failing because of corruption and greed.”
The frustration is not new to the Cosgrays. The feeling that the government was straying - getting too big, too intrusive and too liberal - had been building for them since the 1990s. When their son, Tyler, set out to join the military after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Sam and Laura decided they wanted to serve their country too. The inspiration as to how to best do that came later.
“When (Sarah Palin) came onto the national scene, that was America right there,” says Laura. “I couldn’t wait to get home and turn on the TV (and see) the lady we have been waiting for - a conservative, a family woman. Then we started getting very involved.”
She found the C-Corn.com Website ( http://c-corn.com/) set up by Anna Kroyman, a Monticello woman who was trying to establish a local Tea Party. At the first meeting of the White County Tea Party Patriots, the Cosgrays made up six of 12 members.
They have all remained involved. Sam works long hours at Caterpillar, but he helps out with most events. So do Rachel, 20, who is studying to be a teacher, Nichole, a 16-year-old student. The snickerdoodles in the oven are for a Tea Party meeting later in the evening.
The family is quietly encouraging 25-year-old Tyler, who has finished his service in the Marines, to build the credentials he needs to run for local office in coming years.
For Laura, who was a stay-at-home mom for 17 years, it is as if she ducked into a phone booth and emerged as supercharged Tea Party activist. Energized by TV and radio host Glenn Beck, she tirelessly recruits for the Tea Party - handing out flyers at home and garden shows. When she worked at a drive-in bank, she put Tea Party flyers into the canister with the cash she sent back to the cars.
“It’s kind of like us being Christians,” she says about her enthusiasm for the Tea Party. “(As Christians) we tell people about the Lord. … It just becomes who you are.”
Laura is looking beyond the Nov. 2 election, with plans to keep organizing for the Tea Party.
“Our goal in 2011?” she says. “I think we are going to try to fund a very, very conservative Republican to run against (senior Republican Sen.) Richard Lugar.”