Both parties are fractured, but on energy, each is unified

Commentary by Marita Noon

There is no shortage of news stories touting the splits within each party.

The Democrat divide is, as NBC News sees it, between dreamers and doers—with the International Business Times (IBT) calling it: “a civil war over the party’s ideological future.” The Boston Globe declares that the “party fissures” represent “a national party torn between Clinton’s promised steady hand and Sanders’ more progressive goals.”

The Republican reality is, according to IBT, a battle between moderates and conservatives. The party is being “shattered” by the fighting between the establishment and the outsiders. The New Yorker said the days following the Detroit debate have “been the week of open civil war within the Republican Party.” Former standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, laid the foundation for a floor fight at the party’s Cleveland convention. Peggy Noonan, in the Wall Street Journal, states: “The top of the party and the bottom have split.” She describes the party’s front runner this way: “He is a divider of the Republican Party and yet an enlarger of the tent.”

Candidates from both sides of the aisle claim to be unifiers. But when it comes to energy issues, each party is already unified—though each is totally different.

Generally speaking, the Democrats want more government involvement—more government-led investment and federal regulation. In contrast, Republicans want the free market—consumer choice—not government to determine the winners and losers.

The next president will have a significant impact on how America produces, uses, and distributes energy.

In response to frequent questions from talk show hosts regarding the candidates’ energy plans, now that the field has winnowed, I set out to write a review. However, my research revealed that a candidate-by-candidate analysis would be repetitive. Instead, I’ll lay out the distinctive direction each party would drive energy policy and highlight the minor differences within the candidates.

First, one must look at climate change, as, despite repeated failed predictions, it has been the driver of energy policy for the past decade.

The Democrat candidates believe that climate change is a crisis caused by the use of fossil fuels. Therefore, both Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton opposed the Keystone pipeline and lifting the oil export ban. Each supports restricting drilling on federal lands and federal hydraulic fracturing regulations to supersede the states’ policies. At Sunday’s CNN Debate, both opposed fracking—though Sanders was more direct about it. Sanders and Clinton favor increased Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) efforts to encourage the use of renewable energy sources.

They would continue the policies, such as the Clean Power Plan, advocated by President Obama—with Sanders being more progressive than Clinton. He wants to institute a tax on carbon emissions, ban all drilling on federal lands, and has sponsored the “keep it in the ground” bill. She would “phase out” hydraulic fracturing on public lands, end tax credits for fossil fuels and increase government fees and royalties. Both support tax credits for renewable energy.

In the transition away from fossil fuel use, Clinton would utilize nuclear power, while Sanders would put a moratorium on nuclear plant license renewals. She supports hydropower.

Over all, the Democrats approach can be summed up as anti-conventional fuels—resulting in higher costs for consumers.

USNews states: “Clinton and Sanders also have expressed frustration with their political colleagues who deny the link between fossil fuel combustion and climate change.”

The four remaining Republican candidates have slightly differing views on climate change—though, unlike their “political colleagues,” none bases his energy policies exclusively on it.

Donald Trump is the biggest opponent of climate change having called the man-made crisis view a “hoax” and tweeting that the Chinese started the global warming ruse “in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” In his book, Crippled America, Trump opens his chapter on energy with a tirade on climate change in which, talking about historic “violent climate changes” and “ice ages,” he acknowledges that the climate does change, but concludes: “I just don’t happen to believe they are man-made.”

Senator Ted Cruz is next. He’s stated: “If you’re a big-government politician, if you want more power, climate change is the perfect pseudo-scientific theory … because it can never, ever, ever be disproven.” He, too, supports the view that global warming is a natural phenomenon rather than man-made.

Senator Marco Rubio believes the climate is changing. He’s said: “The climate’s always changing—that’s not the fundamental question. The fundamental question is whether man-made activity is what’s contributing most to it. I know people said there’s a significant scientific consensus on that issue, but I’ve actually seen reasonable debate on that principle.” He’s added: “And I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy.”

Governor John Kasich’s views cut “against the grain in the Republican Party” in that he believes climate change is a problem—though he doesn’t support curbing the use of fossil fuels. His state, Ohio, is rich with coal, oil, and natural gas and he believes low-cost reliable energy is “the backbone of America’s economy.” The Hill quotes him as saying: “I believe there is something to [climate change], but to be unilaterally doing everything here while China and India are belching and putting us in a noncompetitive position isn’t good.”

Regardless of their specific views, none of the Republican candidates sees climate change as an “existential crisis,” as Clinton called it on Kimmel Live—and their energy policies reflect that.

All four agree the Keystone pipeline should be built, are critical of the EPA’s aggressive regulations (instead, they support the regulation of energy production at the state and local level), and want to spur economic growth by increasing American energy production and reducing our reliance on foreign sources.

Though Kasich signed legislation freezing Ohio’s law requiring increasing use of renewables, Kasich is the most supportive of them saying: “I believe in wind and solar, there are big subsidies on it but that’s okay.”  He also acknowledged that mandating 20-25 percent renewables by a set date is “impossible” and will “throw people out of work.” Cruz and Rubio have voted against production tax credits for wind and solar and against setting a national renewable energy standard. In Iowa, Cruz stood up to the ethanol lobby (he’s repeatedly called for an end to the ethanol mandate), while Trump pandered to it. Rubio and Kasich would allow the ethanol mandate to sunset. In his book, Trump states that the big push to develop “so-called green energy” is “another big mistake” that is “being driven by the wrong motivation.” He calls renewables: “an expensive way of making the tree huggers feel good about themselves.” In contrast, he’s promised to “revive Kentucky’s coal industry.”

Overall, the Republicans views can be summed up as embracing the positive potential of America’s energy abundance—resulting in lower energy costs.

If you believe that effective, efficient, economic energy is the lifeblood of the American economy, you know how to vote in November. The contrast is obvious.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

In print: Republican activities, a well-kept secret, can benefit the entire state

Today my op-ed for the Salisbury Daily Times was published as part of their “Point & Counterpoint” series, with the topic: “What’s at stake in Maryland’s 2014 midterm elections?”

This piece is the “as submitted” version, which differs slightly from the actual print run and internet edition available at the paper’s website.


While we are still months away from knowing who the nominees will be for Maryland’s state and local elective offices, one thing which is becoming more and more apparent with each passing day is that the key issue on the ballot will be a stark choice.

With the exception of one term of Bob Ehrlich, the Republican governor who presided over a sound Maryland economy and was defeated for re-election despite positive approval ratings, the Democratic Party has held each of the three statewide elected offices and control of the General Assembly for decades. They’d be the first to tell you that this phenomenon is due to voter satisfaction, but we contend instead that the reason is the perception – reinforced by Democrat-friendly media outlets in the state – that the Republicans have nothing to offer and are a weak, ineffective opposition party.

So what they don’t tell you is that Republicans have, for the last several years, annually put up an alternative budget in the General Assembly – one which holds the line on excessive spending and returns money to the pockets of hard-working Marylanders regardless of their party affiliation.

It’s been a well-kept secret that instead of amassing all state power in Annapolis and making the state itself prostrate to the whims of inside-the-Beltway bureaucrats who tell the state how high to jump, Republicans fought for the interests of counties and of rural Maryland – the state’s breadbasket. But measures to repeal the state’s onerous 2012 septic bill were haughtily dismissed this spring in Democratic-controlled committees; meanwhile, our right to own a handgun was severely curtailed by tone-deaf members of the majority despite the pleas of hundreds from all parties who signed up to testify on behalf of the Second Amendment.

This cavalier Democratic attitude of know-it-all superiority even extends to the voting process, as state law dictates their candidates will be listed first on the ballot.

Just because Republicans haven’t had the opportunity to govern in this state with control of the state’s General Assembly and statewide offices doesn’t mean they won’t be able to do what’s right for the state in key areas such as job creation and education. Instead of the stagnation of the last eight years and legislative rot stretching back decades, Maryland can turn a new page and join other successful states where Republicans have control.

It only takes one vote: yours.


The key difference in the print version was combining the final sentence with the preceding paragraph, which made it lose its punch somewhat. (Mark Bowen, my Democratic opponent, got his concluding sentence to stand by itself.) They also butchered the last sentence of the penultimate paragraph in that version, leaving it hanging a little bit. Hence the need to set the story straight, sort of like the “director’s cut” of a movie.

But it’s interesting how Bowen and I interpreted the question in different ways. When I received the invitation to write this piece, I was told the subject would be Maryland’s 2014 midterm elections, so I looked at it on statewide level. Obviously Bowen chose to approach this from a national perspective as he discussed Obamacare and the prospect of electing “right-wing extremists.” (I happen to think we need about 300 more of them in Congress so maybe we can get a body which will properly assist in running this nation.) He really didn’t address the state situation at all, which leads me to believe they think things are in the bag here. I’m all for shocking the world on that one.

It’s unfortunate, but I didn’t save my original draft. I had to cut it under 400 words so I had to leave a couple subjects on the cutting room floor. I would have liked to point out the 40 tax increases enacted under our current regime but decided the idea of the alternative budget was a better way of looking forward. The key element of my argument was showing how out-of-touch the current administration in Annapolis truly is, yet it only takes one vote to change it.

So what do you think? Did I mop the floor with Mark Bowen? I encourage you to leave the Facebook comments and let the online Daily Times readers know that the state is truly ready for a change.

Environmentalist doesn’t tell the whole story

A good friend of mine tipped me off to this op-ed in the Baltimore Sun from March 5 and encouraged me to write a rebuttal. The paper wouldn’t take it as an op-ed nor run a shortened version as a letter, so in the spirit of never letting good writing go to waste I’m posting it here.

As the energy industry has arrived in our state in hopes of extracting the natural gas which lies underneath in the Marcellus Shale formation, the term fracking has become part of our vocabulary. As a Maryland resident who has no stake in the energy industry, aside from my role as a consumer of those elements used to create the gasoline and electricity I need for my various jobs and the heating oil I use to heat my hot water and household, my main concerns are twofold: reliable energy which doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg. I suspect those concerns are shared by a vast majority of us.

The cost competitiveness and abundant supply of natural gas gives Americans a great asset, but only if we choose to take advantage of it. This choice, though, is one environmentalists want to frighten us away from because natural gas is not a renewable source. And it’s obvious that some people just can’t stand prosperity as a recent op-ed by Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune demonstrates.

In his piece Brune disparages the entire natural gas industry with a palette of half-truths and wild assumptions. But the bad news for Marylanders is that Brune seems to have the ear of Governor O’Malley. It’s obvious that both are only too happy to impact the coastal environment of the Atlantic as well as areas of western Maryland by building noisy, unreliable, and unsightly windmill farms because they’re perceived as the politically correct thing to do, but those tried and true methods of getting the energy and job creation our state desperately needs are unappealing to them.

And the allegations that Brune makes don’t stand up to scrutiny. For example, hydraulic fracturing has been used in more than one million oil and natural gas wells in the United States since the 1940s, and despite Brune’s strictly anecdotal reports to the contrary not one confirmed case of groundwater contamination stemming from fracturing has been documented, according to a recent University of Texas study. And regarding his shrill warnings about the dangers of piping the natural gas he fails to mention that natural gas is already piped to points across the country via a network spanning well over 300,000 miles nationwide – including almost 1,000 miles lying under Maryland and Washington, D.C. An existing pipeline already services the Cove Point LNG terminal!

One has to wonder why Brune isn’t telling you those facts I easily found with a little bit of research. Perhaps it’s because he wants us to “invest in” (read: subsidize with taxpayer dollars) sources like wind, solar, and geothermal, as well as emphasize energy efficiency. Most of us realize taxpayers can pump all the money we want into these sources but we can’t spend our way into making the wind blow just the right speed to make turbines work effectively all the time, nor can we compel the sun to shine 24 hours a day. Geothermal energy is more promising, but has a limited amount of effectiveness and also requires hazardous pipeline fluid chemicals to handle the wide temperature swings.

And while we should strive for cost-effective energy efficiency, it shouldn’t come with a price tag of reducing our standard of living. A shuttered coal plant is neither efficient nor a job producer, but it’s a badge of honor to a radical like Brune. For those placed out of work by the closure, though, it’s only their economic livelihood they’re losing. No doubt Brune and O’Malley would gladly “invest” government dollars into teaching them the skills needed for a non-existent “green” job.

Environmentalists could be taken more seriously and provide a better service to residents by not obfuscating their argument with scare tactics. Most people have the sense to know that fossil fuels won’t be around forever, but for the foreseeable future the market favors reliable sources of energy including natural gas. If you’re enjoying the current decline in natural gas prices and the resulting extra money in your pocket, you can thank hydraulic fracturing because it’s that decades-old “new” technology increasing supplies, driving down prices, and actually bringing back a discussion about helping our nation’s balance of trade by exporting natural gas.

Who would have ever thought we could beat OPEC at its own game? Let’s put Maryland to work building for the prosperity of tomorrow by making use of that which we have in abundance.

In print: Don’t put politics above security

This is a column I submitted to the Daily Times. A slightly longer version was submitted to another Maryland outlet.

In the 2011 session of the Maryland General Assembly, members of the House of Delegates tried and failed to get the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Act of 2011 through the legislature. Undaunted by that legislative defeat, in early June Gov. Martin O’Malley signed an executive order to study an oil and natural gas-field process called hydraulic fracturing, with a final report not required until August 2014. It’s a demand to study a process used in more than one million U.S. wells during the past 60 years.

In layman’s terms, “fracking,” as the procedure is better known, uses a solution forced into hard underground rock formations to create tiny fissures. The fissures allow energy resources — in Maryland’s case, natural gas — to be released and extracted.

(Continued at…)

In print: Debate should be over pace of reduction

I’ll give Susan Parker credit for changing the title (I like hers better) but otherwise pretty much leaving the piece alone. This is in today’s Daily Times.

As I write this on the eve of President Obama’s State of the Union address, it’s anticipated he’ll talk about competitiveness and investment as vehicles to get our moribund economy going. Some Congressmen will stand and applaud particular lines while it’s likely the majority will sit on their collective hands because they disagree.

Yet all of the posturing misses the point which the State of the Union address always seems to convey – the solutions to those things which ail us generally lie in adopting a larger, more oppressive government.

(continued at…)

In print: Will Atlas shrug in Maryland?

I wrote this on Tuesday and sent it to several state newspapers. As of yesterday I know it was in the Daily Times Thursday and on the Carroll Standard Wednesday. This is my draft version, other outlets may have edited it to some extent.


For Republicans in Maryland the 2010 election was a complete shock, especially compared to national results. Despite victories here and there for the GOP we now know our state government will lurch on to follow economic basket cases like California or New York, where free-spending Democrats believe that taxpayers comprise a never-ending gravy train.

The title of this piece refers to Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged. A book which doubles as a parable, its theme is how society reacts when the producers withdraw from an intrusive, overbearing government. In Maryland this scenario played out on a small scale via the so-called ‘millionaire’s tax’ in 2008 – instead of creating the extra revenue predicted, overall tax receipts fell well short of projections. Those who could afford to do so voted with their feet and left Maryland for other states which encouraged their presence by featuring low tax rates and a regulatory environment more conducive to business.

For those departing it was their manner of ‘going Galt,’ a phrase inspired by the character in Atlas Shrugged who led the exodus of those tired of the overtaxation, overregulation, and general disgust from those in government toward citizens successful in the private sector.

With this backdrop, Free State Republicans are in the process of choosing a leader for the next four years. Given the hand with which they have to play, the next state government term will need to be spent both fighting a rear-guard action to slow down Annapolis’s march toward oblivion and educating the public as to why it’s necessary – needless to say, voters missed the GOP message prior to the election.

Or did they? Maryland Republicans put up the candidates who, for the most part, were tacitly endorsed by party brass. Many among them were willing accomplices to the Democrats on their destructive course over the last four years – although some would argue that ship began sailing decades ago. In either case, no course correction was made with this election and Republicans need to work on making sure voters are aware of the fix surely required four years hence.

And while it may not be popular with the Democrats or the press, Republicans in Maryland indeed can’t just be the party of ‘no’ – we must be the party of ‘HELL NO!’ Sometimes there can’t be a compromise made; as Rand herself pondered, what is the compromise between food and poison? We must refuse the siren song of budget ‘fixes’ involving new and expanded taxes, and fight tooth and nail against additional regulations and misguided ideas like the ‘green jobs’ boondoggle.

Our best new Chair will be the one who realizes there can be no compromise in our principles; instead he or she will intuitively know Maryland Republicans need to present a bold palette of ideas and candidates in 2014. Our new leadership must convince our state’s producers help will eventually arrive.

Give us anything less and Atlas will fail.

Michael Swartz is a member of Wicomico County’s Republican Central Committee and a freelance writer who covered Maryland’s 2010 election for Pajamas Media. His home website is monoblogue.

Guest column: Why Maryland needs Brian Murphy for Governor

I’m happy to lend my space to a friend for this important message.

I love my family. I love America. I love my freedom and the abundant opportunities to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I also love the great state of Maryland and I am a proud Republican.

In 2010, I fear for my children and grandchildren and what is being done to squash their opportunities for the same freedoms I have enjoyed all my life. I am saddened that Republicans need to identify whether they are conservatives, moderates, log cabins, fiscally responsible or whatever. But by the statements set forth in the 2008 Republican National Committee’s Platform, I am a Republican and not a subcategory thereof.

Marylanders have endured the decades of career politicians growing our government and wasting our family funds on entitlements we taxpayers don’t approve. In 1994, Republican Ellen Sauerbrey represented our ideals. As far as I am concerned she unofficially won the election for Governor. She did, however, lead the way for Republicans to be heard and simultaneously introduce conservatism for the first time in many years. We stayed down for another eight years – but, there was hope for victory. In the interim period, GOP Clubs were activated as were grassroots enthusiasm. There was a renewed energy. Voters registered as Republicans and our Party grew.

The stars were in alignment in 2002 and Bob Ehrlich, with his Republican values still intact, beat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for Governor. This gave the boost needed to elevate our Party, our morale and our aspirations.

Today, friends ask me how I could direct Mr. Ehrlich’s campaign in Anne Arundel County knowing I was prolife and he was prochoice. Back then I looked at the two candidates and there was only one logical choice – Mr. Ehrlich. I did not abandon my values. For political expediency though, he came to forsake conservatives, even favoring Glendenning appointed judges over the objection of Party loyalists supporting two very conservative candidates (who won).

Despite spending lots of dollars, Mr. Ehrlich lost in 2006. Ironically, he was the only incumbent Republican Governor in America to lose. Voters felt he talked the talk, but he didn’t walk the walk. After the significant losses in 2006 and again nationally in 2008, Republicans in 2010 seem to have the wind at their back to rise up again. A major drawback, though, is that the Maryland Republican Party has abandoned their loyal conservative members.

A few officials and party hacks literally hijacked the will of the people! In their view they know what is best for you. This small group believes they, not you, should pick the candidate to represent Republicans in this gubernatorial election. Various newspapers and bloggers reported most of the biased chicanery that reared its ugly head at the last Republican Convention in Ocean City. But guess what? The party loyalists and grassroots said “NO” to the political hacks. Fortunately, Brian Murphy also said enough is enough and filed papers to run (even before Bob Ehrlich.)

And who is Brian Murphy? Brian Murphy has the vision, solid business experience and who demonstrates Republican values every day of his life. He’s a polished leader who also has an exceptional knowledge of Maryland budget issues and promotes pragmatic solutions to a much better path without raising taxes. That’s why he has the vote of my entire family and many others who previously donated time and money twice for Bob Ehrlich.  (Emphasis mine.)

Marianne Pelura is a Republican activist who was previously the Anne Arundel County campaign director for Bob Ehrlich.

Postscript: While Mrs. Pelura made some good points about why the establishment Republicans support Bob Ehrlich and not his more conservative opponent, I really wish she’d spent a little more time quantifying the benefits of Brian Murphy besides being the anti-Ehrlich Republican. Personally, while he’s not the completely ideal candidate I think his fresh approach of competing with our neighboring states for business and stance on issues where Bob Ehrlich differs little from Martin O’Malley – like the Second Amendment and being pro-life – makes Brian the better candidate in my view.

Obviously, the pragmatist would say that Murphy is underfunded and has no chance against Martin O’Malley. But I think they said that about a couple other politicians recently who defied long odds like Barack Obama (vs. Hillary Clinton) and Scott Brown (vs. the Kennedy legacy.) And at least I have someone to vote for rather than have to accept the lesser of two evils.

I could live with Bob Ehrlich as governor, particularly against Martin O’Malley. But I’d rather see Brian Murphy have a turn at the wheel and see what he can do for a state which he opined has unfair advantages over the rest.

In print: Turnabout is fair play

While I’m pleased the Daily Times ran my op-ed yesterday (adding to the original title I use above), it’s sort of a pale pastel of what I originally had in mind. But they wanted me to get it down around 500 words so I complied. Here is the original version I wrote on Tuesday for comparison.

I was a Tea Partier before being one was cool.

For years I’ve believed in the principles of fiscal conservatism and limited government. I seethed just as much when President Bush adopted No Child Left Behind and the budget-busting Medicare Part D as I did when President Clinton vowed to “fix” the welfare reform package he’d just signed because it was too harsh for his progressive base to take. It makes me angry that the federal budget goes up and bureaucracy gets worse year after year regardless of who sits in the Oval Office or runs Congress.

Yet progressives always sneeringly ask those in the Tea Party movement, “what government programs would you cut?” Well, I have my list but others have theirs, too – that’s part of the problem with having a decentralized movement. And I also understand that responsible budget cutting is not expressed in terms of strictly dollars and cents because there needs to be a simultaneous effort at the federal and state levels to eliminate mandates which tie the hands of local government. There’s no simple answer, so we speak in those broad generalities that most of us agree with – limiting government to that which follows the intent of the Constitution as envisioned by our nation’s founders.

Given that setup, I’ll turn the question on its head and ask my friends on the left: how should we achieve the full funding that you desire for all of your pet programs? My home county came up $22 million short of departmental requests on a budget of $113 million while the state of Maryland counts on nearly $400 million of federal grants to patch the hole in its FY2011 budget. Needless to say Uncle Sam is just a wee bit short on funding for what Washington wants to spend.

Usually their answer is to tax the wealthy, so allow me to play this game of “what-if.”

Given that our President is the leader of the free world, one would think his CEO position is the most powerful job one can get. For this he makes a salary of $400,000 annually. (We all know that the perks of free housing, unlimited travel allowances, Secret Service protection, and so forth make the compensation package much more lucrative but the paycheck is still $400,000.) I can just hear the leftists say, “well, since the most powerful guy in the world makes that much no one else should make more. People can earn all they want but after $400,000 we’re going to tax them at a 100% rate.” Okay, done.

Unfortunately, that decision would have severe consequences. Those who have the capital to pay such a punitive tax rate also have the wherewithal to relocate to a financially friendlier port-of-call. Just as we’ve seen in Maryland with a much less comparatively severe “millionaire’s tax,” capital will flee at a rate heretofore unseen. As we’ve proven repeatedly with “sin” taxes, the old adage that to get less of something you tax it will come true – with undesirable results.

Somewhere there is a balance between those services we need government to provide and what we’re willing to pay for them, but to the average Tea Party participant the pendulum has swung too far off center. However, a pendulum can also swing too far in the opposite direction and cutting too much away can bring on its own set of problems – if there were no government at all our society would dissolve into a pit of chaos and anarchy.

By attempting to paint the Tea Party with the same broad brush as anarchists and others of a radical ilk, the progressives project their issues onto our side. Those who rail against Tea Partiers need to realize that we, too, see the world as complex. We know solutions don’t come simply, but we also know that continuing in the same direction will only make the situation worse.

Then again, it was your side who believed in a conceptual and unspecific hope and change during our last national election. Who are the rational ones now?

Michael Swartz is a blogger and political writer who lives near Salisbury. He is a regular contributor of features to the Patriot Post internet newsletter and writes on national issues as a syndicated columnist through Liberty Features Syndicate. He can be reached at

Next time I’ll know about how long of a feature to write (slightly shorter than my LFS op-eds) so don’t be surprised if you see these things more often.

The conservative roadshow

I can’t figure out what the Washington Post was afraid of – diversity of thought? But they wouldn’t publish this, so it’s up to you to decide whether it was my mistake for submitting this there or theirs for not running it. I kept it right on their self-imposed 800 word limit.

Last Thursday Sarah Palin began a tour to promote her book Going Rogue, selecting Grand Rapids, Michigan as the first venue. Her book tour winds through much of America’s heartland, traveling along the byways to such places as Noblesville, Indiana, Washington, Pennsylvania, and Springfield, Missouri – there’s even a stop at Fort Hood, Texas for good measure.

It’s reminiscent of several other bus tours and events occurring earlier this summer which mostly pertained to health care reform, energy policy, and an expanding government; tours that drew attendees who felt their voices were not being heard otherwise.

As examples, the group Our Country Deserves Better sponsored two separate bus tours dubbed the TEA Party Express. The original began in August and culminated at the 9-12 Taxpayer Rally in Washington, D.C. Its fall edition traveled mostly through the western and southern states and wrapped up in Orlando earlier this month. Both drew crowds ranging in size from hundreds to thousands at each of the whistle stops along the tour. Similar bus treks were arranged by the anti-Obamacare group Patients First – whose Hands Off My Health Care tour is ongoing – and the American Energy Alliance, whose tour enlisted opposition to the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade legislation. While those stops drew smaller audiences ranging from dozens to hundreds, hopping on a decorated bus to tour the nation and spread a message proved to be a effective method of drawing attention to a cause, particularly in small- to medium-size cities where a bus stop could be seen as a major media event.

Most interesting about this populist phenomenon is, with the obvious exception of Sarah Palin’s star power, most of these bus tours featured speakers and performers who didn’t have a lot of name recognition but still carried a message which struck a chord with the target audience. In some cases, speakers featured came across their celebrity more or less accidentally, such as Samuel Wurzelbacher, better known to most as “Joe the Plumber”, or Kenneth Gladney, the victim (or provoker, depending on who you believe) of a beatdown by SEIU members at a St. Louis-area town hall meeting in August.

The September 12th rallies in Washington and scattered throughout the country may have been the best example of this populist grassroots movement because few who spoke at the rallies were politically connected. Most of the speakers worked for advocacy groups toiling in the trenches for limited government solutions to America’s problems and presented themselves as a contrast to the solutions placed before Congress. At those rallies the draw was the message, not the speaker, with the added value of participants having the opportunity to see they weren’t alone in their thinking.

Because these events proved successful in attracting notice in out-of-the-way places and via the alternative media outlets on the internet, those on the liberal side of the political spectrum have half-heartedly attempted to do the same thing. Yet that approach doesn’t seem to catch on nearly as well with activists on the left than it works as a populist call to middle America.

As the countdown begins to the 2010 elections, though, the question for tour sponsors is whether they can keep up their fever pitch through next November and raise the money required to fund their efforts. But it also is up to those who took the time to attend and support these tours – people who are fighting to limit the size and scope of government – to stay involved as well.

Many on the left and the media called supporters at conservative events or citizens who spoke out at town hall meetings during the summer “teabaggers” and dismissed them as Astroturf, not true grassroots. But now with the release of her book and subsequent tour, the elites and inside-the-Beltway crowd have returned to their favorite sport of Campaign 2008 – sniping against Sarah Palin.

Yet all the slings and arrows directed at Palin only further steel the resolve of those who support the TEA Party movement, and most protesters are staying the course even with the catcalls and lack of success on several fronts – the House passed both health care reform and Waxman-Markey despite the “angry mob’s” efforts to persuade representatives otherwise.

Palin-bashers and those who call the pro-freedom side teabaggers should beware, though – those who voted in favor of Pelosicare and cap-and-tax will provide a target for new tour efforts once attention turns back to politics after the holidays. With Congress struggling to pass a number of measures unpopular with the public and President Obama hoping to find the magic formula to bring back our moribund economy, the summer of 2010 may bring a repeat of the bus tours which marked 2009 as the summer of public discontent.