If you do the math and factor in for various other elected officials along the way, on average any given member of Congress should deliver his or her party’s response to the weekly Presidential address about once a decade. And while I’d have much rather avoided this situation because it’s a member of the party opposing the President who gives this address in response to the President’s message, that opportunity fell yesterday to our own Congressman, Dr. Andy Harris.
Of course, this is something most of us already know but when you consider Harris is already a fairly tall guy (6′-3″ maybe?) the stack of papers dubbed as the “Red Tape Tower” looks pretty imposing. Of course, it’s also an appropriate week to discuss Obamacare as the House again voted for its outright repeal; a measure sure to die a quiet death in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
But as Richard Falknor writes at Blue Ridge Forum, there is a lot more which can be done. Perhaps this statement uttered by Andy Harris had to have the seal of approval from House leadership. continues Falknor, but the House also has the power of the purse if they’re willing to use it to achieve the desired end, that being the scrapping of Obamacare.
As a physician – his specialty is anethesiology – Dr. Harris is obviously familiar with the process of diagnosis, and certainly the sheer mass of regulations incumbent to Obamacare is but one symptom of why it would be detrimental to the American health care system, a patient for whom we are all interested in seeing survive.
But in truth, Obamacare isn’t really so much about the health care system as it is about providing the means to pay for the health care we receive. While it begins via the employer-provided health insurance we have become accustomed to over the past 70 years or so, as that becomes regulated out of existence due to the increasing difficult prospects of profitability for insurers we will begin to see an evolution in the industry where either favored private insurers become the only ones approved for providing coverage – with the reams of regulations in place to assure no smaller competitor can come along to steal market share among perhaps the ultimate in captive audiences – or a situation where the market becomes unbearable for any private provider and a program like Medicare is simply expanded to cover everyone. At that point you have the statist’s dream of complete dependence on the government, regardless of its budgetary impact.
The better solution, and one we should work toward, is to reduce the influence of government on health care. If people want simple and basic catastrophic incident health insurance and don’t mind paying out-of-pocket for routine events, that should be made more readily available – unfortunately, the trend line has run the other way for decades. You should even have the choice of not being insured at all.
Now, I haven’t even talked about the scary scenario of increased IRS influence which comes as an Obamacare feature. If they have asked questions about donors to TEA Party groups, for what else can they use all the information gleaned? That thought alone should cause heartburn among caring Americans.
The other day I had the chance to chat with a fixture of the pro-liberty movement, Andrew Langer. He’s probably best known locally as an activist and internet radio personality, but he also serves as president of the Institute for Liberty. We touched on a lot of these subjects during a fairly lengthy, in-depth conversation.
monoblogue: Let me get my readers up to speed here. You’ve actually been on my blog a few times in various capacities, I’ve noticed that your name has come up quite a few times. But, really the first time I really got to talk to you a great deal was when the TEA Party all got started.
monoblogue: Now, the question I have – and I know you were there at the beginning - you’re actually the president of Institute for Liberty, which was actually around before the TEA Party…
monoblogue: …but was kind of carried along with the TEA Party, but where do you think, in the four years or so the TEA Party has been in existence, where do you think it’s gone and where do you think it’s going to go. Is it dead like some people say?
Langer: Well, no, I mean insofar as the – the movement existed before the TEA Party, and will continue to exist after the TEA Party. Movements are always changing fundamentally; that’s the nature of them. They go a certain distance, and then they stop, and they transform, that’s what happens. So, before the TEA Party movement was the Don’t Go movement, you had the property rights movement, you had the various taxpayers’ movements that have been out there…the TEA Party movement has just been an outpouring of discontent in which things got jelled together very, very easily and lots of different factors came together.
What killed the TEA Party brand was the media itself, which never really understood what the movement was. It never fit into any of their particular boxes, and what the media doesn’t understand the media will work to destroy – especially if that thing they don’t understand is actively working against the things they have advocated for in the past.
So it’s a brand that has been damaged, but the movement goes on – and the movement, as all movements change as I said – different parts of it will focus on different things. (Part of it) will continue to focus on health care and health care reform. You have folks who focus on electoral issues and will continue to focus on electoral issues; a lot of them will focus on state and local races, some focused on Congressional races, some focused on Presidential races.
A lot of – and probably the most positive thing to come out of the movement – was the proliferation of new media, and the raising of the blogosphere as a legitimate force to be reckoned with. That’s certainly going to continue to go on, and obviously there’s been a certain degree of institutionalization of that in things like the Franklin Center and the various Watchdog Wires, and that cannot help but be a good thing.
Between that and the re-connection of people with their government, there is no going back from that, and that’s why, while the movement itself may not be the same thing as it was before, the forces that were at work will continue to be forces that are at work.
monoblogue: Let me back up one second here. You’re President of the Institute for Liberty, and I guess – I guess it would be good to explain what their role is insofar as the entire movement.
Langer: Sure. Well, I mean, and keep in mind I inherited the Institute for Liberty from a friend of mine who has gone off and become a successful author. IFL had been focused on a lot of defense and tech issues – and we still do a little bit of each – we are a nonprofit advocacy organization, which means that we take issues and we advocate on behalf of a particular side from a free-market, limited government perspective.
As it happens, I’ve got a background in mass movement organization. That’s something that I’ve spent a lot of time studying, something that I’ve had some efforts in growing up, and so when the TEA Party movement itself began to form I found I had an expertise that I could lend to that movement, both in themes, organizational structures, and merely offering, as I saw, logistics – you know, how do you organize a rally? What are the elements of a rally? What goes into putting something together? And so, for me, the Institute for Liberty never had the resources of a FreedomWorks or Americans for Prosperity – we didn’t sort of jump on the moniker in a way that TEA Party Patriots or TEA Party Express were able to, but what we could offer was logistical advice and support to people.
In the very real sense in D.C. where we organized – we were part of the first TEA Party rally in February of ’09, to organizing the D.C. Taxpayer TEA Party, to offering our resources for the 9/12 D.C. march…
monoblogue: Which I was at.
Langer: Yeah, and I spoke, and it was great. And then at the state level offering up advice to various TEA Party events and also speaking at various TEA Party events in the state, so – it’s one of those things where for us, it’s never been about credit, it’s never been about glory, it’s never about making us center stage. When the Annapolis TEA Party was being put together, we were there at the start, sort of offering up our advice, but it was very clear that guys like Aaron Jones and his brother, they were wanting to head it up and they were wanting to put it together. We’re not interested in turf fights so we said whatever you need from the Institute for Liberty that we can give to you to help you put this together, we’ll do that. Whether it was financial support, or whether it was saying, hey, you need to get these permits or you need to get that, here’s how you want to do a press release, or here’s how you ought to put together the program…but beyond that, we were not folks who needed to be at the top of anyone’s list – that’s just not what we’re about. So we were happy to act in a supporting capacity.
monoblogue: That’s all right; the movement needs that, too. But another thing…
Langer: Michael, let me just say – and this is very, very key – I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that’s it not all about me, and it’s not all about IFL. And I think we need more folks to recognize that it’s not about their own personal glory, this is about getting stuff done and making change. And making change means making not about you.
monoblogue: I was going to ask about something else, but the way you answered that question, I’m going to slide into something else here…
monoblogue: …about the Maryland Republican Party. (laughs) And the game of personalities we seem to have in that party right now.
monoblogue: I know you had considered running for the (party Chair) post and you had to back out.
monoblogue: Because of…
Langer: Well, I mean, I make no secret about this, it’s one of those things where I almost ran in ’10, and had actually come very close to pulling the trigger. But at that point it was simply one of my donors said that they couldn’t fund IFL, and one of the great problems with the MDGOP Chairman’s position is that it’s an unpaid, full-time volunteer job – and it really would be the equivalent of a full-time job. And with two kids at home – my wife and I have a very equal partnership in child care – I couldn’t take on a full-time volunteer gig and sacrifice the Institute for Liberty at that point; it just couldn’t happen.
In ’12 the circumstances had changed somewhat. But the real problem is that my wife is an active-duty officer in the Air Force and either there’s a strong likelihood we will get transferred this year, and if we don’t get transferred this year there is 100% certainty that we will be transferred by July of 2014. I am not someone who takes on a job like chairman of the Maryland Republican Party without setting some clear goals and working toward those goals – I certainly couldn’t complete any of those goals in the next five months and there was great question in my mind whether I could complete my goals to my satisfaction in seventeen months and at that point we’d be back where we were before.
monoblogue: With an election to run.
Langer: Which is essentially the chaos of a party chairman’s race in which people confuse criticism with infighting, and all the things that go on with that. I’m not talking about the certain specifics of this race right now, but the reasons why I didn’t run are those very clearly. I’m someone who is incredibly optimistic about the Maryland Republican Party; I do not think that all hope is lost. With the amount of disarray and infighting that we have in our state party – I have seen disarray and infighting in other state parties as well, so Maryland is unfortunately not unique, but certainly there are challenges. And as if there are people who are – who want to work toward overcoming those challenges and there are people who are actively working against overcoming those challenges, and there are people who don’t know how to overcome those challenges. But those challenges can be overcome.
I think it starts with that proposition that the Chairman’s job is too big for one person to do, and anybody who thinks that it is a job that can be done by one person – they are either deluding themselves or they’re simply not capable of handling the job.
monoblogue: Well then that actually brings up a little bit of a different question – this will be more effective in a couple years when we select all new officers – should they run as a slate? Should we have a – instead of doing separate elections for each of the (Vice-) Chairs, would it be better to have a particular slate go up and vote for an entire slate rather…
Langer; No, I firmly believe in the freedom of choice, I believe in building coalitions, in the fact that people ought to try to work together. I think part and parcel of that is having individual elections for the different officers. I do, however, believe that more people ought to be involved in the running of the state party. I do believe that we ought to – we might ought to consider looking at – especially if the state party is going to continue to run with having the Chair being an unpaid volunteer position. I think we ought to consider dividing up that Chair’s responsibilities, maybe among co-chairs, I think there ought to be – and this is a conversation that I’ve had with Greg Kline – is that there ought to be more people involved in that operation. Certainly I think if more folks stepped up and were willing to take on more of the chairman’s responsibilities and work with the chairman to take on those responsibilities, I think that you would find more people willing to run for Chair.
A group of my friends and colleagues, we talked to a lot of folks about running for Chair, about who was going to run for Chair, who might run for chair? And by and large, the number one complaint that people has was it is too big of a job for one person to do as a volunteer gig only. In the near term the state party simply does not have the resources to pay someone to be Chairman, especially if they pay an Executive Director, and they shouldn’t. But the point is, so long as it is this haunting huge responsibility for one person, unpaid, the more discouraging it becomes for somebody to run for Chair. Good, qualified people to run for Chair.
And so I had pledged to Greg (Kline) that if he ran I would help him for as long as I could and as much as I could, as long as I’m in Maryland and probably after I leave Maryland I’ll still continue to help Greg because I have every intention of returning to Maryland down the road. Other folks around Greg have pledged to help him and to make sure that his chairmanship is a success. It’s not just voting for Greg, but voting for folks around Greg who are good people and who want to work – and there are a lot of folks who sort of stepped up there and said, yeah, I’ll help out.
It gets to another of my big themes of this Chairman’s race, which is inclusivity vs. exclusivity. And this idea that, in order to build a party, you need to be solicitous of outside opinion and outside help. One of my great criticisms of Diana Waterman – and this is a criticism, it’s not a knock on Diana Waterman’s personality, I think Diana Waterman is a lovely person, she’s a pleasant person. She is someone who avails herself of opportunities to get active. But I will not say that Diana Waterman is someone who’s incredibly solicitous of inclusivity. Case in point is the job that she’s handled, she has demonstrated a record of someone who has not been someone to bring people into the office to work, or bring people into an organization to work. Diana steps in, and she becomes chairman of something, and people are shut out of the process.
You can talk to folks about the Eastern Shore Republican Alliance, which Diana stepped in there and became Chair, and she had a few folks around her who were regional vice-chairs, and the operation went nowhere quickly because it became bureaucracy. It became another thing for Diana Waterman to become chairman of, and it was very clear that she didn’t want any outside help, and that doesn’t build the party.
monoblogue: But it built her resume.
Langer: Well, it built her resume. And that is something I’ve also talked about, which is an issue of confusing promotion with accomplishment. Which I think is something fundamental – confusing the resume with competence. This gets into the two things that happened last week, which calls into question, and I’ve said this before – anyway, I’m getting too far afield here.
It’s this issue of inclusivity, and I’ll give you a prime example: folks who believe this Chairman’s race is only of interest to Central Committee members, and I’ve heard this from a few people that only Central Committee members ought to be briefed as to what’s going on with the state party and why the Chairman’s race is important. That sends a message to your rank-and-file Republicans, who elect Central Committee members, that their opinions are not needed, that they have no place in advocating who should be Chairman because they’re not Central Committee members, they haven’t been involved to the degree that Central Committee members are. That’s fundamentally the wrong message.
Not only is the Chairman’s race of import to every Republican in Maryland who is trying to vote to bring a different vision of government to the state of Maryland, but it’s important on a national scale, too. Because the Chairman, and what the Chairman can do, has an impact on this rules fight that is going on and is going to happen in the next couple of weeks as the RNC Rules Committee meets. And as you can see by what happened (two weeks ago), the Chairman has an incredible amount of influence as to what happens at that Rules Committee, either by appointing someone who is dedicated to undoing the damage that happened in Tampa over the summer, or by someone who is by all accounts part and parcel of the damage that happened over the summer.
monoblogue: Well, let me – I will say this: in refuting the idea that the race is just of interest to Central Committee members, my readership has just surged as this whole thing has developed. A lot more people come to my website to read about the situation than the 300 Central Committee people.
I am curious about one other thing – this is where I’m going to wrap up. The Red Maryland network and the radio show that you did, how did that all come together? I’ve been kind of curious how that all started.
Langer: I had been wanting to do a podcast for awhile – I experimented with a podcast through a thing called HipCast because a buddy of mine, Phil Kerpen, had said something about doing a HipCast, you could do it by phone. But I didn’t like the audio quality there. And so at CPAC in 2011 I launched LibertyLine, which was an actual semi-slick podcast where I was upping the production values, I got a good microphone, I was doing interviews by phone – and remember, Mark Newgent was, at the time, a neighbor of mine. So Mark came in and sat in with me a couple of times.
(Meanwhile) Greg (Kline) and Brian (Griffiths) had done their Red Maryland show by BlogTalk, and they decided they were going to do – they wanted to create an actual network and they apparently talked to Mark and Mark said, hey neighbor, I know you’re doing this, would you like to instead do a weekly show with me instead of, you’re doing your thing one interview or two interviews three times a week why don’t you change schedules and come on and do this with me? And so that’s how it was born.
Greg and I started doing it, and then he and I started shopping it around – we both had contacts up at (W)BAL, so we’d done some fill-in work on BAL’s ’1090 At Night’, you know, made inroads to the Mike O’Meara Show, helping out, doing some stuff with those guys – so that’s how it is. Greg and Brian wanted to develop an actual sort of podcast political network, understanding how the whole industry is changing, and that’s what they did. They’ve got programming five out of seven nights now.
monoblogue: Yeah, I really think that’s interesting – now I am not a person that does a lot of radio per se, but I can tell you from just checking around that it’s almost like people are getting into multimedia moreso – I mean I started my blog in 2005 and nobody had ever heard of blogging, let alone internet radio. Now you have people that do video, radio – we’re our own little subculture of media here, and it’s kind of interesting to see where it’s going to go in the future.
Langer: Well, this is what I’m saying – this is one of the great things that’s come out of the TEA Party movement. It is that there’s this proliferation of new media – Mark and I, when we were together before Mark moved back to the Western Shore, when he and I would do our show weekly we would do a radio component and a video component. We would get set up over here because Mark’s house was chaos at night and mine was a little more subdued, and so all the folks that broadcast together on the Red Maryland network, they do a video component so they’re on both BlogTalkRadio and UStream, you could watch or listen. It’s a little bit harder now that Mark and I aren’t in the same place, although I’d like to do that – there’s something that’s lost when we’re not able to give each other visual cues about things, but that’s the nature – the nature of media in the future is going to be narrowcasting, which means you go to a subset of the population, so for us it’s Marylanders and conservative Marylanders that we’ve been wanting to branch out a little bit into a little more pop culture so we can bring in a wider audience, and it is all on demand.
So one of the big debates that we have at Red Maryland radio is BlogTalkRadio the platform to use, is live radio – see, for me, live broadcast is overrated because the bulk of our listenership comes from the downloads. I look at podcasts like the Mike O’Meara Show – I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but Mike was on the radio for almost 25 years. They moved to a podcast format – they get maybe 150-200 listeners who listen or watch live on their live feed, but they get 35,000 downloads a day, because folks like to be able to pick and choose when they will listen to their podcasts. That’s the nature of the future.
And so that is another area where I think Greg has a much superior track record is this embracing of the new media, is this embracing of the blogosphere, in a way that the party simply, for whatever reason, has not done so – not only because they just don’t get it, but also because they confuse criticism with disloyalty. I think Greg knows in the end that some of his biggest critics are going to be his “buddies” at Red Maryland. And we know that guys like Joe Steffen are going to ream him a new one. I don’t think he minds it so much, I think he recognizes – he’s adult enough to recognize that there comes a time when you have to be open to criticism. That maybe one of the other big barriers this party has faced. Dissent is inherently patriotic, and certainly in Maryland it’s a cherished right.
monoblogue: (laughs) Yeah…
Langer: Folks who lead the party have to be more adult about that criticism, and recognize it’s going to come with the territory. And if you’re not taking flak, you’re not over the target.
monoblogue: There you go. I mean, I… (laughs) I’m sitting here chuckling because I’m kind of the rabblerouser on that front for several years.
monoblogue: I know just how – my blog and my political career on the Central Committee started almost the same time, so (laughs) they’re well aware…
Langer: For me, it’s one of those things where I had to step down from my Central Committee for my mental health. I was in a situation in which I had four people on my Central Committee who, if I said the sky was blue, they would swear the sky was pink.
It’s one of those things where at some point you have to make that calculus “is my time going to be better spent doing other things?” For me, it’s my show, obviously, with Mark, and the stuff I do with IFL.
But this Chairman’s race is of import, which is why I’ve gotten involved, and why Greg has my support. I make no bones about that fact.
monoblogue: Well, we appreciate it. That’s going to be a lot to write about.
Indeed it was, as I spent part of my Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday evening transcribing this lengthy interview. Maybe I should look into a podcast.
But I thank Andrew for his time, and look forward to speaking with next week’s guest.
In a move that’s truly not surprising, an e-mail was sent by interim Maryland Republican Chair Diana Waterman to Central Committee members regarding her appointment to the RNC Rules Committee. With the understanding that this can be changed at any time, the RNC validated the Pope appointment yesterday:
I have now heard from all three of you indicating that there are two votes for Louis Pope and one vote for Nicolee Ambrose. Therefore, Louis Pope is the representative of Maryland on the Rules Committee.
In answer to Ms. Ambrose’ questions below:
1. Yes, we are ruling that a state may re-caucus.
2. Yes, that means Maryland could re-caucus at a later time.
This is the text of what Diana sent to Central Committee members:
I wanted to share an update on the situation I wrote to you about concerning the RNC Standing Rules Committee. While those who are issuing their criticisms may continue, the fact is, as confirmed by the RNC, that the committee membership was not considered set or seated until after the March 1st deadline and even beyond that deadline a state’s RNC representatives may caucus and nominate a new member. I am attaching an email issued today by the RNC that clearly states there was no procedural issue with Louis Pope’s re-appointment. We caucused Thursday by email to clarify the nomination of Louis Pope to remain on the Rules Committee.
You have an important decision to make on April 20th. Electing a chairman should be about choosing the person that you feel is best qualified in all aspects of leading the Party. If you believe that the decision on who goes to the rules committee is your number one priority, then you should vote accordingly. If you believe that we need to build our party from the ground up, recruit and train candidates for all offices in all districts, grow the farm team, and expand our donor base to raise much needed funds to provide the resources and tools for our candidates, I ask that you vote for me. I may not always agree with you, but I will always listen and let you know where I stand. Working together is the only way we will make our party a force to be reckoned with.
Of course, these goals aren’t as mutually exclusive as Waterman would make them out to be, and her decision means the same Republican party which has done its best to maintain its part in the Beltway political establishment will continue to get support from Maryland.
Yet those same Ambrose supporters who Waterman dismisses also will most likely be the ones who “build the party from the ground up, recruit and train candidates for all offices in all districts, grow the farm team, and expand our donor base.” Unfortunately, they are the ones turned off by the continual capitulation of national Republicans to the liberal agenda and who feel last summer’s rule changes were symptomatic of a party which no longer seems to care about its grassroots.
Nor would this have come up if the Rules Committee change hadn’t been the first major decision Waterman made as Chair – the ink hadn’t even dried on Alex Mooney’s letter of resignation and here she was changing the appointment. Yes, it was within her right to do so as the head of the party – even if that role is only for 60 days – but the speed in which this was done seems to indicate somebody who is a influential member of the state party got into Diana’s ear really quickly. My money is on Audrey Scott.
Needless to say, opponent Greg Kline wasted little time putting out his response:
As you have seen with the release today from Interim State Party Chairman Diana Waterman, Louis Pope has formally replaced Nicolee Ambrose as Maryland’s representative on the RNC Rules Committee. In Mrs. Waterman’s own words, she notes that she chose to replace Ms. Ambrose with Mr. Pope on February 28th after Ms. Ambrose’s letter of appointment had been received by the RNC on February 19th.
This decision and the subsequent explanation from Mrs. Waterman once again goes to show that the Interim Chair lacks the temperament to lead the party through the difficult challenges we face. It once again goes to show the extraordinary need for transformational leadership that works not to divide the party, but to bring the party together. And as my first act as Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, I will reappoint Nicolee Ambrose as Maryland’s Representative on the RNC Rules Committee.
As chairman, I would bring a style of leadership that is more inclusive and more transparent to our state party and advocate for such leadership on the national level. As chairman, I would also view criticism as an opportunity to improve and to dialogue and not react to it as a personal attack.
I ask for your support to lead all of our party.
Yet one can ask whether the shoe would simply be on the other foot if Kline wins. I seem to recall the establishment party got a little upset when Jim Pelura wouldn’t act as they wanted him to, and wallets were snapped shut all over the state. Of course, when fundraising dried up the Executive Committee had yet another excuse to hound a good man out of office, and I fear the same may happen with Kline unless a lot of new donors step up to the plate. The party has its share of rainmakers who have helped to carry it in the past, but new sources of income may need to be found.
If it were up to Baltimore County Central Committee member Eugene Craig III, though, Diana would be ousted from the Executive Committee entirely. In reaction to the Ambrose incident, he has circulated an e-mail threatening a removal vote at the party convention; one which accuses Waterman of “one of the most disgraceful actions you can take to limit the influence of true grass roots activist” by replacing Ambrose. Craig goes on to say that “your loyalty does not lie with the Heart and Soul (the grass roots activist) of the Maryland Republican Party, thus you are unfit to serve as chair. In this short time span as interim Chair you have done more damage to our party then the Democrats could do in an entire election cycle.”
I have also asked fellow Waterman opponent Collins Bailey for a reaction, but have not received his take on this yet. However, he is also on record as saying that, should he win, he would restore Ambrose to the Rules Committee.
I’m always leery of pieces of legislation which imply they’re about “fairness” and the Marketplace Fairness Act is no exception.
I was alerted to this by a group called Americans for Job Security, which called the MFA something where “our shared conservative principles matter”:
Limiting the reach of the federal government by returning power to the states. Leveling the playing field so government gets out of the business of picking winners and losers. Ending the federal subsidies that put one part of an industry over another.
There is currently a bill before the U.S. House and Senate that embraces each of these principles, the Marketplace Fairness Act. This legislation is an important step towards protecting taxpayers and enacting our shared principles.
Unfortunately, the Marketplace Fairness Act does none of these things.
For example, rather than return power to the states, the MFA “requires that states must simplify their sales tax laws.” To me, that sounds like yet another federal mandate.
The MFA, it is argued, doesn’t level the playing field, either. A coalition of conservative groups writing under the R Street Institute states the case that:
…(T)he bill would create a decidedly “unlevel” playing field between brick-and-mortar and online sales. Brick-and-mortar sales across the country are governed by a simple rule that allows the business to collect sales tax based on its physical location, not that of the item’s buyer. Under the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” that convenient collection standard would be denied for online sales, forcing remote retailers to interrogate their customers about their place of residence, look up the appropriate rules and regulations in thousands of taxing jurisdictions across the country, and then collect and remit sales tax for that distant authority.
Nor can I find the federal subsidies proponents refer to – presumably that’s a backhanded way of referencing previous Supreme Court decisions which said collecting tax for multiple jurisdictions was too much of a burden for small businesses. And whether there’s software out there which can do this is besides the point – unless it’s constantly updated with the changes made by any of the thousands of taxing jurisdictions on a regular basis, they run the risk of flouting the law. Proponents use the analogy of dealing with real-time shipping, but real-time shipping is only market-based and not a legal requirement.
The real reason for the Marketplace Fairness Act is admitted by proponents at the end of their spiel:
…(T)he Marketplace Fairness Act will help the many states now facing significant budget shortfalls. Although some suggest these States have a “spending problem” rather than a “revenue problem,” it is important to recognize that these States have already been reducing their spending levels year-over-year and increasing collection and enforcement efforts based upon their existing sales and use tax laws.
Maybe other states are reducing their spending levels, but I know Maryland isn’t reducing its spending anytime soon.
We know what advantage states with lower taxes have over the states with higher rates – all one has to do is see how many big-ticket businesses locate themselves just across the Delaware line from Salisbury. And although Maryland residents are supposed to declare their sales tax for items purchased in Delaware, the general attitude (one I share) can be summed up in one two-word phrase: Molon labe. Needless to say, cross-border businesses (particularly gas stations this year) are forever salivating at the prospect of higher taxes for Maryland residents.
A primarily sales-tax free Internet is a boon for consumers. The companies pushing for this marketplace “fairness” are a collection of large retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, which would be able to afford the overhead required to make these changes while small mom-and-pop outlets would be hindered. If the recovery is about jobs, I think on balance more would be lost than created if MFA becomes the law of the land.
Update: While I was writing this piece, I thought about Martin O’Malley’s bid to tax internet purchases last year and Robert Stacy McCain’s reaction to that fiasco came to mind. Just had to find it.
But instead of particular states trying to sniff their way into the honey pot of e-commerce money, in this case the federal government wants the whole enchilada. Once the mechanism is in place, what’s to stop the feds from using the precedent to add their own national sales tax on Internet purchases? While I am a proponent of the FairTax, I don’t see anyone repealing the Sixteenth Amendment anytime soon.
When I last left you at CPAC, I was ready to return upstairs to see Sarah Palin (and ran into Dan Bongino in the process.)
But I wanted to digress beforehand and explain a little bit about my vantage point for the event.
When I walked in early on and finally found the media check-in, they gave me this.
Obviously that gave me floor access, but for most of my time there (except when I walked up to take pictures) I was back in this area.
By the way, the woman sitting in front of me in the multi-colored shirt was my friend Jackie Wellfonder, who was covering CPAC for Viral Read. Nice work for her!
We were segregated into the area – which had some perks, like free coffee and pop – with the one problem being the obstructed view. But we had a good place to work and power to plug in our laptops.
The only complaint I would have was the internet access. It was provided by the TEA Party News Network, which I appreciate. But it was overwhelmed, with the best analogy I could give being that of sending a Yugo to run a NASCAR race.
I would have liked to do more Tweeting from the event, but it simply wasn’t possible.
Since I knew Sarah Palin was slated to speak at noon, I was upstairs a little early. I came back just in time to see a former Democrat speak.
Artur Davis is a former Congressman (and onetime Obama supporter) who has come around to the conservative side. Davis pointed out that the 43 million conservative voters in America are the country’s largest voting bloc. “This is our America too and we are not going anywhere!,” he exclaimed.
At last, Sarah Palin was introduced.
No, that’s not Sarah nor is that a mistakenly-placed picture. “As all of you know, I’m not remotely cool enough to be Sarah Palin,” opened Senator Ted Cruz. “She drives the media batcrap crazy.”
But he stepped out to proclaim that Sarah Palin was among the biggest reasons he was in the Senate. “She picks winners,” said Cruz, citing as examples Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott, Pat Toomey, and Nikki Haley in 2010, along with Deb Fischer, Jeff Flake, and Cruz last year.
“I would not be in the Senate today if it weren’t for Governor Sarah Palin,” concluded Cruz. “She is principled, she is courageous, and she is a mama grizzly.”
Palin’s speech has been reviewed as one chock full of one-limers and quips, and it was.
However, she made time for chastising the Senate for not passing a budget. She also pointed out that leaders take risks while campaigners make promises and made the case that “we’ll never win a contest of identity politics.” Sarah also warned us to not let the media intimidate us and had the prescience to quip “the last thing we need is Washington, D.C. vetting our candidates.” She advised the inside-the-Beltway crowd to “get over yourself.”
But Sarah Palin’s seminal moment was the Super Big Gulp. I think the Southland Corporation owes SarahPAC a pretty hefty contribution for the free advertising they received from this one gesture – somewhere around National Harbor a 7-11 should be advertising that they sold Sarah’s Big Gulp. I wondered why the lights were dimmed before Sarah’s performance – the three roadies were delivering her prop.
(The picture is actually a photo of the monitor in front of me at the time.) But my burning question: was it Coke or Pepsi?
After Sarah finished, I decided to do a little more exploring. Going upstairs I saw the screening room for a number of movies sponsored by Citizens United.
There were also breakout sessions going on, like this one wrapping up from TEA Party Patriots.
But the real reason I went there was that a flyer had advised me of a Breitbart News-sponsored event dubbed “The Uninvited.”
I got a picture of Steve King which turned out this time, as he introduced the event by speaking about Andrew Breitbart, a man whose “integrity was essential.” Breitbart’s CEO Larry Silov added that “we mjust be willing to discuss issues.”
This was an event was intended to address some items which weren’t featured prominently enough on the main CPAC stage: global jihad, persecution of Christians, gutting the military, and immigration were cited. Among the “uninvited” speakers was Pamela Geller, who was also featured at Turning the Tides. They had a packed house.
I didn’t stay for the event, which is the thing about CPAC: it’s way more than one person can see. (The same goes for several of the films screened there as well as the breakout sessions, which occur at the same time as speakers and panels downstairs.) The Uninvited event is covered well on Breitbart’s site, though.
Instead, I had a meeting of sorts to attend. Some of you who have seen my Facebook page have already seen this shot.
When I had stopped by the PJ Media booth earlier, I was told Lt. Col. West would be there at 1:30 and I arrived just in time to be behind Jackie Wellfonder in line. So I took advantage.
By this time, I decided to head back up so I could see Mia Love, a rising star in the conservative movement. But because they were running somewhat behind, I caught some of the stories of the “Conservatives Under 40″ featured as a panel.
Next up was a panel headed by former Senate candidate and Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who believed “this is the century of brain power and innovation.” She was joined by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, who cited the “U-Haul test” and quipped “California is Washington, D.C. is waiting,” and New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce, who asserted that our business is what separates us from South Sudan – they have no “kinetic energy.” The panel eventually suggested that perhaps a million small-business march on Washington may be needed to build awareness of their issues.
Brent Bozell spoke next, pleading his case that we need to stop listening to professional politicians and consultants who are most responsible for our “trainwreck.” He also ticked off a list of things which “aren’t conservative” like the new Ryan budget, House leadership, Jeb Bush, Bob McDonnell (who can “forget his national aspirations”, according to Bozell), and Karl Rove. The mention of Rove drew a chorus of boos from the audience.
We would work with these guys, said Brent, but it would have to be on our terms: “our days of playing second fiddle to moderates are over,” concluded Bozell.
We finally got to listen to Mia Love, who was introduced by comedian Stephen Crowder as a woman “liberals check under their bed for.” Somehow I had a lot of good pictures of her, this was the best.
“The pundits of doom and gloom would have you believe all is lost,” said Mia. But her upbeat message was of great cause of confidence: we can restore our confidence in this country and stand out as examples of what is good and right.
Next up was the final panel of the day. a confab called the CPAC All-Star panel.
I’ll admit that I spent the better part of my time this panel was speaking in writing the first portion of Part 1 of this series, but my ears perked up when Larry O’Connor of Breitbart News mentioned Andy Harris’s evisceration of CDC director Tom Frieden over the effects of the sequester.
After the All-Star Panel concluded its work, Dinesh d’Souza spoke on the upcoming film “America,” which as he stated, highlights the idea of the self-made man. This “couldn’t be more different than Obama’s idea,” which to d’Souza seemed to be one that the free market is a form of theft.
The film will ponder the question “what if America didn’t exist?”
RNC Chair Reince Priebus noted that the “House Republican budget is right for America” while the Democratic budget never balances. He also believed we need to introduce the government to the Tenth Amendment.
“Conservatives have to hold the government accountable,” Priebus concluded. “I applaud the new generation of liberty-minded Republicans.”
NRA head David Keene embraced Priebus after being introduced to speak, saying “he is a guy who gets it.” He also recounted a long history of conservative vs. establishment Republican battles dating back over a half-century and reminded us that 50% of voters under 30 voted for Ron Paul – but party leaders don’t really want voters in their clique, Keene said.
Political movements have two choices, said Keene: they can grow, or they can die. It was interesting to hear a member of the old guard speak to a crowd mainly comprised of those two generations younger, as we shall soon see.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers was another warmup act, one who cautioned us that “for too long we’ve been talking like bookkeepers rather than leaders.” She added, “we need to be the party of the 100 percent.”
After giving out the video of the year award to the University of Georgia College Republicans and the Blogger of the Year award to Katie Pavlich, who accepted the award and told us bloggers “we have the world in front of us to conquer, so let’s do it,” we finally got to one of the last featured speakers.
Ann Coulter was her usual snarky self, particularly snapping at onetime Coulter favorite Chris Christie: “Even CPAC had to cut back on its speakers this year, by about 300 pounds.” Later, when answering an audience question about whether Christie should have been invited to CPAC, Coulter said “I’m now a single-issue voter (on immigration), so Christie is off my list.”
She also made the point of tax hikes, rhetorically asking the question sure to come from the media: Are you saying that you wouldn’t even take $1 in tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts? “See, the problem is, we’re the Indians and the Democrats are Andrew Jackson,” replied Coulter. “We’ve been through this before.”
But she got serious during her remarks, telling the audience “the reason we don’t have the Senate is because Republicans keep screwing up. I can think of about ten Senate seats in the last three election cycles that we’ve pissed away through narcissism, greed, or stupidity.”
“Passion is great, but scoring is all that counts,” said Coulter. “On the basis of this one boneheaded statement by Todd Akin out in Missouri, Democrats finally had their talking point: the Republican were waging a ‘war on women.’”
But, countered Ann, “your average Democrat actually believes things much crazier than Todd Akin – but the Democrats don’t let their candidates open their mouths and say stupid stuff.”
Philosophy is not the Republicans’ problem, though. “Conservatism is about the only thing Republicans have going for them.”
She was also harsh on the pro-amnesty wing of the Republican Party, saying “if amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will win another national election.” Instead, Republicans shouldn’t be desperate and adopt amnesty because Democrats want it. “People always announce their complete triumph a moment before their crushing defeat,” concluded Ann. “Our job, Republicans, is to insure Democrats have that crushing defeat.”
After Coulter finished, the CPAC straw poll results were announced. What blew me away was the percentage of under-25 people who participated, although it should have been apparent in the crowd. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio paced the field. Coming in a distant third was the top 2012 candidate on the ballot, Rick Santorum. (My vote was among the ‘other’ category, since I preferred Indiana governor Mike Pence.)
Finally, we reached the penultimate speaker, newly elected Senator from Texas Ted Cruz.
In his remarks, it’s noteworthy that Cruz spoke in front of the podium, which to me suggests either he memorized his remarks or spoke completely off the cuff, or both.
He opened up by commenting on being called a ‘wacko bird’ by John McCain: “If standing for liberty makes me a ‘wacko bird’ then count me as a proud ‘wacko bird.’”
Cruz revealed one of the biggest surprises he received upon entering the Senate was their defeatist attitude, as he countered that “for the last three weeks, conservatives have been winning.”
On the Rand Paul filibuster, Ted pointed out that the filibuster drew more support as the night went on. “Each of you engaged,” said Cruz. It was something not seen in a long time – “standing on principle.” Ted also revealed the filibuster was the very first time he had spoken on the Senate floor.
Cruz also believed we were winning on sequestration, based on the lack of reaction to Barack Obama’s “scare America tour.” The sequester was a “small step” in reining in the debt.
As part of that, another victory in Cruz’s book was the vote on an amendment her offered to repeal funding for Obamacare. “Now I’ll confess: a couple weeks ago when I said initially I was going to offer that amendment, more than a few of my colleagues were not thrilled. And yet we saw every single Republican in the Senate vote unanimously to defund Obamacare,” said Cruz. On the other hand, all the Democrats voted to keep Obamacare, “even if it pushes us into a recession,” as Cruz charged.
But the key to continue winning is twofold, to defend the Constitution and champion growth and opportunity. “Defend the Constitution: liberty is under assault from every direction,” stated Ted. He cited threats to several parts of the Bill of Rights, particularly the Second Amendment and the Fourth Amendment. “We need to repeal the NDAA ,” said Cruz to thunderous applause.
He also mentioned threats to our sovereignty. “We (the state of Texas) stood up to the President of the United States – who happened to be a Republican – and I went before the Supreme Court of the United States and said no President, Republican or Democrat, has the Constitutional authority to give away U.S. sovereignty.” Adding that Republicans stand up to Republican presidents, Cruz continued “where were the Democrats when Rand and the rest of us were standing on the floor on drones?”
On growth and opportunity, Cruz charged “we are in the midst of what I call ‘the Great Stagnation.’” Only twice in the postwar era have we seen less than 1 percent growth – from 1979-83 and over the last four years. “Obama didn’t learn the lesson from Reagan,” said Cruz. Instead, we need to embrace “opportunity conservatism,” a philosophy to ease the means of ascent up the economic ladder. To do this, we need to do a laundry list of things: repeal Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, eliminate corporate welfare, build the Keystone pipeline, rein in the EPA, audit the Fed, stop QE infinity, abolish the Department of Education, champion school choice, stand with Israel, and stop sending foreign aid to nations that hate us.
Speaking to the audience, Cruz told us it was up to us to spread the message. “There are no longer gatekeepers that can decide what the American people hear and what they don’t get to hear.” He named his site as one means of doing so, but concluded by saying “we’re here because we’re not willing to give up on America.”
Okay, I’m out of pictures, but I’m not quite finished yet.
One goal of mine was to meet fellow bloggers and promote my site. I handed out a few dozen business cards, found a couple promising leads for freelance work, and did what networking I could. But perhaps the best part was getting to meet a few of the bloggers I’d read from afar as well as make a couple new acquaintances, such as Bill Hughes, who, like me, drove down to CPAC for the day from New Jersey and was my next-door neighbor for part of the day at the media table, or Deb from Kansas (bloggers would know her as Nice Deb.) That introduction was made as I was talking with Cynthia Yockey, who I met for the first time after being linked to her for quite awhile.
And I’ll be interested to see how I turned out on DaTechGuy‘s video, since I was among the last to be featured. Maybe next year I’ll get some cannoli. I also got to meet a woman whose link from my site, if I’m not mistaken, was her first: Becca Lower from my native state of Ohio. If I heard correctly, she was a CPAC volunteer, which is really cool and commendable.
Nor can I forget some of my biggest fans, who saw me as I walked in the door: Larry and Rosemarie Helminiak spotted me and said hello, which made me feel a little more at home.
So that’s how my day went. Last year I stated making it to CPAC was one of my goals for 2013, and I accomplished it despite the limitations placed on me by my other jobs and funding. Next year, though, I’d like to experience the whole event, an endeavor which could run into the four-figure range depending chiefly on accommodations. 2 1/2 hours each way is a bitch of a commute, as I found.
I don’t normally ask this, but if you liked my coverage of CPAC and want to see more, the best way to insure that is rattling the tip jar early and often. People want to know how the mainstream media can be countered, well, here’s an opportunity to get the straight story if you care to support it.
I’ll admit it: last night I stayed up until almost 1 in the morning to the point where Rand Paul’s filibuster of CIA Director nominee John Brennan finally came to a close after 13 hours. That’s a lot of standing around and a study in endurance, and as one observer noted was all about policy – no one was reading out of a phone book.
It’s the longest filibuster since the civil rights era, but the important difference between Paul’s effort and the 24-plus hours Strom Thurmond held court was that there was no live television coverage of the Senate at the time. Back then, there were plans if need be to set up a bucket in an adjacent room for Thurmond, who spoke for practically the entire 24-hour period. This wasn’t the case last night, as several other Senators were yielded time to ask questions or otherwise pontificate on the subject while Paul held the floor.
But I came home and read today the Senate had indeed confirmed Brennan as CIA head, and as far as I know there was no answer provided by the White House on the drone question. Now perhaps that silence speaks volumes enough, but if you consider what the aim of the filibuster was I’m not sure it can be considered anything but a failure in the immediate aftermath.
Then again, Strom Thurmond had a pretty lengthy career in the Senate after his long-winded soliloquy so we don’t know what the future might bring for Rand Paul. Could he have vaulted himself into the 2016 Presidential race with this performance? A run for the Oval Office would mean Paul would likely have to give up his Senate seat; then again, Republicans and conservatives have rarely been as inspired as they were last night since the early Sarah Palin days and the eventual rise of the TEA Party. It may be a gamble worth taking, although liberals will surely try to equate father and son in that race just as they did the Bushes.
Again, though, I have to ponder the idea that I stayed up until nearly one in the morning to see how it came out. When was the last time a riveting political event (aside from an election) took place at that late hour? They don’t even do document dumps that time of night.
Update: This is what happens when you’re out of the loop during the day, as I was yesterday. An e-mail from the TEA Party Patriots quotes Attorney General Eric Holder as saying, “It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.’ The answer to that question is no.” This is based on a Fox News story from Thursday.
And another offshoot of the conservative movement is born. Former GOP Senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum is making an attempt to localize his Patriot Voices endeavor:
It’s been an exciting 9 months! Since Patriot Voices started last June, we’ve already accomplished so much. We stopped a United Nations treaty that would jeopardize our parental rights. We pushed for passage of the No Budget No Pay bill, which ensures that Congress won’t get paid unless they pass a budget. And Patriot Voices PAC helped elect several strong conservatives to key House and Senate races in last year’s election.
And now, it’s time to get connected at the local level to ensure we can accomplish even more. We are starting local chapters across the country to connect local members with our state and national leadership. The role of local chapters will be to help Patriot Voices advance the first principles of conservatism in local communities across the country. We encourage our local chapter coordinators to recruit members who believe in what we’re doing and who will be ready to activate, engage and support endorsed candidates, projects and activities.
If you are interested in starting a local Patriot Voices chapter, we have an exciting way to kick it off!
We’d like you to host an “Our Sacred Honor” house party. “Our Sacred Honor” is a DVD that I narrated, which explores the meaning of our founding documents, the intentions of those who drafted these documents and the relationship between the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. I was fortunate enough to help tell this story through visits to many of our nation’s historic places that marked our country’s beginning.
We look forward to working with you to make Patriot Voices a tremendous grassroots force across this country so we can impact the issues that will affect our country’s future in the years to come.
I actually found this quite intriguing, but a little worrisome at the same time. Perhaps the idea of the TEA Party as a leaderless institution has its merits, but to some it may seem like too many people are trying to cultivate the same ground here.
While he wasn’t my first choice by any stretch of the imagination, I ended up supporting Rick Santorum in the Maryland primary election because he was the best remaining candidate – overall, the voters in a number of rural Midwestern and Southern states agreed because he swept through those 2012 primaries like a prairie fire. And certainly there is a lot to like about their stances on issues - maybe I don’t fall in foursquare with Patriot Voices on everything, but they definitely fall within my 80 percent rule.
One thing I’ve noticed about the local conservative movement, though, is that it is very localized: we tend to focus on Maryland issues. Granted, many of them are extensions of fights which occur at the national level (Agenda 21 and Second Amendment issues immediately come to mind) but there are issues we don’t consider because we tie ourselves up at the state level.
I think that if you made a Venn diagram with one circle comprised of those who would be the target audience of Patriot Voices and the other being those who are active in the local TEA Party movement, they would intersect but perhaps not as much as one thinks. My thought is that, based on the social issue aspect of Patriot Voices which is not as pronounced in the TEA Party movement with its more libertarian streak, there may be room for both locally as separate groups who can work as allies on specific issues and try not to step on one another’s toes on the rest. Moreover, the national perspective of Patriot Voices may lend itself to greater opportunities for the overall pro-liberty movement at-large to work across state lines and bring together leaders from across Delmarva who may not otherwise be able to compare notes.
It will be interesting to see who steps up and becomes the leader locally – I can think of a couple candidates who may be good for the task and who read here regularly. We’ll see what they do. And I wouldn’t mind watching the movie, either.
I came across this nugget and it got me to pondering. One would think we don’t have this issue in Maryland with just one Republican Congressman who was supported by the group, but read on.
For a bit of context, let me refer you to another Congressional scorecard put out by the Club for Growth. In it, our Congressman Andy Harris received a respectable (but not outstanding) score of 86 percent. He easily outdistanced the other state Republican, now-former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, but finished outside the top 10 percent of Congress and didn’t crack the top 50. That’s a departure from his 2011 score of 95 percent and 22nd place ranking.
Yet there’s probably not a lot of danger that we’ll see Andy Harris’s face plastered on this site, called Primary My Congressman! This is another Club For Growth project, complete with the picture of the rhino (for RINO) in the heading. Their reasoning for the site:
Many of these RINOs represent districts that are heavily Republican where it would be difficult for the right Republican candidate to lose. In fact, the nonpartisan Cook Report, a political handicapper, found that in 2012, 190 Congressional districts were considered “Strongly Republican,” meaning that they were not even competitive in the general election. In 96 Congressional districts, 2012 Republican nominee for President Mitt Romney received more than 60% of the vote. Romney received more than 55% of the vote in 159 districts!
On the flip side, according to the 2012 pro-free market, limited government Club for Growth’s Congressional Scorecard, only 39 members of Congress have lifetime scores of 90% or above on their voting records relating to economic freedom and pro-growth policy.
This means that in districts that are heavily Republican, there are literally dozens of missed opportunities to elect real fiscal conservatives to Congress — not more “moderates” who will compromise with Democrats to just increase spending and grow government a little bit slower than usual.
While I see the Club for Growth’s point, it bears mentioning that the aforementioned Harris had to overcome a bloody and bitter primary in 2008, not to mention the stiff headwind presented by the combination of an uninspiring Republican Presidential candidate, a Democrat with a populist message, and a vanquished primary opponent who turned traitor and endorsed the Democrat – yet Harris only lost by less than 3,000 votes in an election where the Libertarian garnered over 8,000. The 2010 primary was much less eventful and the final tally much more reflective of the actual composition of the First District.
In defeating any or all of these targeted Republicans, the conservative has to be aware that, in many cases, the party establishment won’t be happy about the unwelcome guest. Being on a Central Committee, I can understand the notion of trying to avoid divisive primary fights due to the common misconception it would harm them in the general election. One can point to the Andy Harris example in 2008 as a case study in the effect of a contested primary, but bear in mind that had Republicans electorally stayed home and not followed the advice of the turncoat Wayne Gilchrest Harris may still have pulled it out. Having a fairly serious primary opponent in 2010 didn’t hurt Harris; meanwhile, Frank Kratovil had both the power of incumbency and no primary opponent, so in the eyes of conventional wisdom Kratovil should have had an advantage.
But if you want to help the conservative movement in a different way, why not turn the Club for Growth’s advice on its head?
If you are a conservative in what may be considered a hopelessly Democratic Congressional district, why not turn the tables on the establishment liberal and primary them as a Democrat? Obviously the chances of winning in this quest are quite remote, but there are several good things which can happen:
- As a conservative Democrat, you can spread that pro-liberty message to an audience which generally hears the word “Republican” and tunes out.
- If enough people begin to question the incumbent plantation liberal, he or she has to start paying attention to the district rather than being able to assist other Democrats in their election.
- And of course, if a conservative Democrat happens to win, they have two choices: either switch parties to their more natural home or be an absolute thorn in the side of the Democratic leadership in Washington. I don’t have nearly the problem with DINOs as I do with RINOs.
I’m sure there are some TEA Party types who are Democrats, but may not be active ones. Obviously we have made inroads in the local Republican Party but it may be time to do some more stealth movement into the Democratic side. (Arguably, there were at least three Democrats on the 2010 Wicomico County primary ballot who could pass for Republicans – none of them won, but unfortunately two ran for the same seat.)
The local test case for this may be Wicomico’s Council District 1. I’d love to see a good conservative Republican run for this post, but I would love it even more if a conservative minority Democrat ran for the office as well. I’m sure there are a lot of voters there who look solely at the party label at the ballot box, but if presented a choice would agree with pro-liberty principles – especially when it comes to education and the economy.
While it may be heresy to say this as a member of the Republican Central Committee, I will admit there are some conservatives who simply won’t join the Republican Party as a matter of principle. There have been possible matchups in the past where I would have voted for the Democrat over a more moderate Republican, but the conservative Democrats didn’t get out of the primary. I encourage them to keep trying, though, because I would rather have a choice between two conservatives in whom I have confidence to lead the pro-liberty movement than my usual option of either voting for a speed bump on the highway to tyranny or slamming down the hammer on the road to serfdom.
Today’s guest is a rising star in the new media, in part because she’s an entrepreneur who’s not afraid to get involved. And while I have not met her in person, I wanted to get her insight on the new media and her part in it.
I first heard of The Brenner Brief around the time my friend Jackie Wellfonder became one of her contributors, a point just after Sara Marie greatly expanded and relaunched her website as a new entry into the media wars. Given her goal is “working to render the mainstream media useless,” I believe she’s well on her way to doing just that.
monoblogue: I wanted to introduce my readers to you as an example of how to grow a conservative media outlet, as I learned of you through a good friend of mine who happens to be a Brenner Brief contributor, Jackie Wellfonder. So let me ask you first: what inspired you to create The Brenner Brief? Was it based on any particular model, or did you come up with a new idea all your own?
Brenner: I come from an entrepreneurial background, so I’m always creating new things – especially when they deal with my passion for politics. TheBrennerBrief.com (TBB) is a right-of-center, conservative news and opinion platform. However, we do it in a way that it can be attractive for moderates to read, as well. In my opinion, unless we expand the conservative base – not by thumping people over the head, but by slowly convincing them that the conservative principles are best for this nation – we will not win future elections. TBB is meant to be a place where conservatives and right-leaning moderates can get their news, read opinion and hopefully come to believe what we do.
monoblogue: Another thing I’ve noticed is that you are both creating your own intertwined entities (PolitiGal Network, The Brenner Brief, etc.) and running them across multiple platforms (the website, radio show, membership drives, in-person events, and so forth.) Obviously you want all of them to succeed, but which venue do you think has the highest ceiling?
Brenner: TBB is accessible to everyone, so that one will always have more followers and readers, I believe. We had 800,000 web site hits in January and thousands of people listen to the radio show each week. However, PolitiGal Network (PGN) has nearly 20,000 members, and there we are geared toward working with women on messaging, education, support, campaign assistance, and networking. They are two very different entities.
monoblogue: On the idea of contributors: I have written for a number of sites as one over my time on the internet – some have succeeded and grown (PJ Media, for one) while many others have withered and died due to lack of interest from either (or both) organizers and/or contributors. How will you motivate contributors to keep on going?
Brenner: We do our best to work as a team, and really make sure that all of the contributors are a part of something exciting. We share site stats with contributors, we highlight different contributors on the radio show, and we are always coming up with new ideas as a group and discussing those options together. For example, several of us will be attending CPAC this year with media passes to cover the events and speakers. For some of the contributors, this is their first time having such an opportunity, and they’ll be doing it with TBB. It’s really just about implementing basic team motivation concepts.
monoblogue: And because most contributors have other interests, will the day come when you branch out into professional writers doing the bulk of the work with a few others added in?
Brenner: We launched TBB with its current format on Nov. 26, 2012. After another month or two, we will begin branching out to gain revenue sources. However, right now, we’re just focusing on content, the contributors, and getting our system perfected.
monoblogue: I’d also like to know your thoughts on where “white knight” financial supporters can play a role for the conservative alternative media. I ask this because a number of those on our side has always held the suspicion that far-left power brokers, particularly George Soros, are financially backing left-wing bloggers.
Brenner: Venture capitalists have the ability to support whomever they wish – left or right. Soros has built an enormous web of businesses and outlets to serve his interests, more so than any conservative. We don’t think of taking over the world, because we believe in freedom and liberty – not tyranny. So, the concept is foreign to our intrinsic core beliefs. However, I do believe that there has to be a separation in the media between the source of the money and the reporting; otherwise, the reporting will be swayed from what the “white knight” wants to have covered.
monoblogue: Let’s look at another topic. You are an elected official (a city council member) and, as such, you could be considered as being in the “belly of the beast.” Where do you see that perspective as being most useful for the conservative political cause? And do you have any higher political ambitions? I think of Sarah Palin’s example when I ask this, and obviously creating a network like you’re seeking to can be of great assistance down the road if you take that route.
Brenner: My husband is a State Representative in Ohio and we met in politics. I have been working on campaigns, running campaigns, and especially focusing on new media and communications in politics since college. I have learned more about government and the inner workings of government since 2009 (when I was elected) than during any other similar length of time in my life. I’ve also learned how to go up against the government giant, and win. For example, in 2010, our city placed on the ballot a measure that would have doubled our city income tax. The way it was structured, those who lived and worked in the city would have seen their taxes double, hurting the city’s businesses owned by residents. All others would not pay any more in taxes, including the other six members on city council (only I would have paid more in income taxes of the seven of us). Despite the city’s “educational” materials and the committee formed by those supporting the increase, we formed our own committee and defeated the measure with approximately 71% voting against. The polling originally showed that only 49% were against, so we moved 22% of the voters over the course of only a few months with simple, targeted messaging. While I do not know what my personal elected future may bring, my interest-area is helping conservatives with new media, political communication, running for office and strategically defeating the left. We are doing this both through TBB and PGN, just in different ways.
monoblogue: Finally, if you would, alert my readers on how to get involved with your organizations and listening to your show. Do you have any other words of encouragement for those who would like to get off the sidelines?
Brenner: The TBB site is TheBrennerBrief.com, and simply click on “Radio Show” in the menu for all of the show information. If you miss it live, we have iTunes podcasts and the show is on Stitcher Stream, as well as an online archive link. Our twitter handle is @TheBrennerBrief and we are on Facebook at facebook.com/TheBrennerBrief.
PGN is PolitiGalNetwork.com, and if you contact us through the site to let us know how we can assist you, someone will connect with you. We especially are looking for people who are interested in being a leader in their state or city, and you can contact us through the web site. Our twitter handle is @PolitiGalUSA and we are on Facebook at facebook.com/PolitiGalUSA.
My personal twitter handle is @saramarietweets, and I’m on Facebook at facebook.com/saramariebrenner and Tea Party Community at teapartycommunity.com/saramariebrenner.
If someone is wondering how to get involved, usually the most frequent comment I hear is that the individual contacted their local Republican party and never heard back. The party can sometimes be skeptical of new people coming into the fold, rather than encouraging their involvement and welcoming them with open arms. While that’s unfortunate, you don’t have to rely on your party to get involved. Anyone who would like to email me directly may do so at TheBrennerBrief.com/contact, and I will be happy to help you get involved in either one of our organizations, or guide you to the right place. You can also search meetup.com for events and groups in your area.
The first step to getting off the sidelines is to simply get off the sidelines! Sometimes, people just need a little bit of direction and encouragement, and we are happy to provide that. Our nation depends on it.
I appreciate Sara Marie taking the time out of her schedule to do this interview, and look forward to seeing how her ventures develop over the coming months.
In the meantime, my guest for next week will be Tom Fitton, author of The Corruption Chronicles: Obama’s Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government, and President of Judicial Watch. We discussed a lot things about Maryland, the nation, and what you can do to help bring accountability.
Perhaps I don’t do this as much as I should, but in perusing the overall navel-gazing we in the conservative movement have undertaken since November’s losses I wonder how many have stepped back and looked at the big picture. Why, we cry, did so many vote for Barack Obama and the Democrats?
More and more I hear the phrase “low-information voter” bandied about. It goes without saying that, with the rare exception of a Presidential debate, the audience for any random episode of “American Idol” or “The Bachelor” is many times greater than the one for any single news or public affairs program. In truth, that’s nothing new because documentaries have been seen as necessary evils on major networks for years – that’s why you rarely see them on network television anymore. Once upon a time, television was thought of as an educational medium and weekends were devoted to highbrow programming rather than sports. But that went away decades ago and now the NFL, NASCAR, and golf are the primary triumvirate of weekend television viewing.
Yet with the more recent “bread and circuses” approach to American life and the shortened attention span most of us have – what was I talking about again? Oh, yeah – politics seems to be out of sight and out of mind to most unless there is a crisis manufactured for public consumption by either current events, the media, or both, with the simpler the explanation the better. Witness the sudden emergence of gun control as an important crisis after the Sandy Hook massacre; not only did it bring an issue to the forefront where emotions could be easily manipulated to bring out the desired political movement, but it also served as yet another distraction to economic and national security issues which are less exciting to discuss but very important to our everyday lives. The odds of a child being mowed down in a Sandy Hook-style assault are still very remote, but the risk to our economy stemming from dangerous financial choices? Almost a certainty, but a certainty not easily broken down to the level of a soundbite.
Unfortunately, people aren’t naturally disposed to look beyond the superficial, day-to-day routine of life. I admit that there are times when I wouldn’t mind just chucking it all and allowing someone else to take the load off my shoulders. We’ve heard the stories before about those who finagle the system to collect disability payments or otherwise transfer wealth from those who work to their own coffers. But instead of descending to their level, there are some of us who would rather work to give a hand up rather than a handout. I am certainly not a wealthy man and I’m not too proud to accept the donations which occasionally come my way thanks to my work here, but what I make I earn and I sleep well enough at night because of that.
There are still enough of us who care to make a difference, but the way we interact with people has to change. Yes, I’m quite aware that insofar as marketing goes I can exist in a nice little niche of the choir I generally speak to and scratch out somewhat of a living, but my job isn’t one of sitting within this comfort zone. Besides the obvious of trying to feed the family and keep a roof over our heads, my job, as I see it first and foremost, is to be an educator whether through my journalism or being what some call an “opinion leader.”
If you read my book you would see that I have a lot of ideas, and I try to briefly explain my rationale for thinking as I do. But I understand that not everyone can or will buy the tome, nor can they carry it wherever they go. So I have to go beyond the pages and take what it says to heart in an effort to bring people to our side. The problem is that I don’t react to things on the same emotional level that many other people do, and it’s more of a struggle when you put logic up against emotion. Using Sandy Hook as an example, the knee-jerk reaction of banning “assault weapons” doesn’t take a number of things into account:
- The moment the Sandy Hook shooter stole his mother’s (legally owned) guns – including handguns – he broke the law. Criminals, by definition, don’t follow laws.
- Several of the features which make a rifle appear to be an “assault weapon” are simply cosmetic or for convenience, like a pistol grip for better control of the weapon. A truly automatic, military-style weapon is rarely seen on the streets and wasn’t used at Sandy Hook, either.
- As a practical matter, how does a blanket ban affect someone who is in law enforcement? Let’s say they have a “banned” weapon for work – do they have to leave it there when they go home?
- What about those who already own these blacklisted weapons – will they be compensated at market value for the loss of their property? I’m not holding my breath.
- Finally, there is this thing called the Second Amendment. It’s not about hunting, the National Guard, or self-defense on more than a peripheral level. It’s more about self-defense of liberty. Maybe one out of ten million gun owners would feel justified in taking the law into their own hands and playing the vigilante. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it is highly unlikely.
The reason I called this piece “Erosion” is that we are watching a slow-motion weathering away of the rights we should consider inalienable rights. Too many equate the bounties of our standard of living to our “rights,” believing we are owed a living and the “freedom” to veg out and watch “The Big Bang Theory” just on account of being an American.
These are the folks who ask: four people were murdered at an American consulate in Benghazi? What difference does it make? That’s over in Libya, where that crazy guy we bombed awhile back runs the show…oh, he died? Why are we messing around with those camel jockeys anyway? The answers are there, but the desire to find out the real story doesn’t seem to exist within most Americans.
And if I had that answer, I would be running a website with 15-20 million viewers per week (like “American Idol”) instead of one which barely scrapes by with a couple thousand. If I’m preaching to a small choir, the lesson I want to impart is one of spreading the word above and beyond what this website directly reaches. Let’s be teachers as well as advocates.
Unfortunately, it appears that Reince Priebus will be allowed to continue his record of failure at the Republican National Committee without opposition. The upstart candidacy of Maine’s Mark Willis couldn’t get the requisite two members from three different states to back his nomination.
It appears the death blow came after Nevada Committeeman James Smack withdrew his support in the wake of Priebus’s last-minute trip to Nevada. Last-second bids to elicit support from Idaho and Missouri fell short; needless to say my appeal to Maryland’s delegation obviously fell on deaf ears. I can say I’m disappointed, but I can also say that sadly I’m not surprised, seeing that we seem to come from the Bob Michel school of Republican leadership.
Say what you will about Willis’s platform, the fact that he stuck himself out as a choice in the first place says a lot about the condition of the national Republican Party. The elections we have won over the last decade are those where candidates espoused conservative ideas and values, but when the party ran away from their conservative roots (2006 midterms where we lost control of Congress, 2008 with John McCain, 2012 with Mitt Romney) we were beaten and whipped. I really haven’t seen Reince Priebus taking the lead as a party spokesman in quite the way Michael Steele did, and as some have noted Steele was fired despite electoral successes in 2010.
And what did Maryland have to lose? As far as the national Republican Party is concerned, we’re already below the status of even an afterthought. They’ve talked about minority outreach at the national level for years, but there’s a perfect test case right here and it’s been ignored almost non-stop for decades. When the powers-that-be at the state party level (along with groups affiliated with the MDGOP) give up on the state two months before a key election, that sends a powerful message of debasement to those of us who fight in the trenches.
Moreover, the events which transpired with the Maine delegation to the convention were shameful. Whether they supported the eventual nominee or not, they were duly elected to sit at the convention at delegates. That kind of crap is what I would expect from the other party, not the one in which I’ve made my political home.
The bottom line is that we have two more years of Reince Priebus. Perhaps voters in 2014 can bail him out by doing that which has been a hallmark of elections in the sixth year of a President’s term and add more votes to the GOP legislative column. But I’m not going to hold my breath about getting a lot of help from the RNC in doing so.
Consorting with the enemy, I am, on this day of coronation, er, inauguration…
I’m Jon Carson, the new executive director of Organizing
for ActionAgainst America.
I hope you’re as excited as I am for this new organization, and for what our grassroots movement can accomplish in the next four years.
If you haven’t already, you should check out this short video First Lady Michelle Obama recorded about our organization, and then say you’re on board.
Just a little bit about me. I’m a Wisconsin guy, and I grew up on a farm in the western part of the state. In 2007, I joined Barack Obama’s campaign and served as the national field director. After the election, I went to work for the President in the White House, most recently in the Office of Public Engagement.
That brings me to now, when very soon, my family and I will be moving back to Chicago as I start this new role with all of you.
I first joined the President’s campaign because I was inspired by his belief that ordinary people have the power to change our country if we work together to get it done — and that belief will be at the core of this new organization as it unfolds.
And the way we’ll get it done can be summed up in one word: local.
That means each city or region will have its own OFA chapter, and you’ll decide the issues your community cares about most, the work you want to do to make progress on them, and the kind of support you’ll need to get it done.
At a neighborhood and regional level, OFA members will grow their local chapters, bringing in new leaders and helping train a new generation of volunteers and organizers to help fight for the issues at stake.
There’ll be times when we pull together at the national level to get President Obama’s back on passing major legislation, like reducing gun violence or immigration reform. And we’ll all work to help transform Washington from the outside while strengthening our economy and creating jobs.
But for the most part, the direction our work takes will be completely in your hands — with the support of this organization behind you every step of the way.
In the next few weeks and months, I’ll be asking for your input on putting together an OFA plan for 2013, we’ll be holding online briefings about the issues we want to tackle, and we’ll start organizing on those issues as they’re debated in D.C.
But for right now, I just want to say thanks and welcome. There’s a lot to be done, without a doubt — and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of OFA with you.
Take a look at the video the First Lady recorded this week, and go ahead — say you’re in:
(Video link removed.)
I’ll be in touch soon.
for ActionAgainst America
So they’re going local, eh? Well, they certainly have the local strength and willing dupes, as the recent election showed – the fact they’re publicly inaugurating Barack Obama today, much to the chagrin of liberty-loving Americans, makes that plain. And I’m certain that the overarching themes of their local work will be those closely resembling their national efforts.
But the one stroke of genius they’ve hit upon is that of making it sound like they really care about what those in flyover country think, and that can be their Achilles heel. What if liberty-loving Americans took over the local chapters?
If I’m on their mailing list, there are probably a significant portion of people on our side who also get the same Obama propaganda. Some of us are known to the radical liberals who comprise the true believers, so any efforts we might have toward infiltration would be either rebuffed outright, or politely shunted to areas outside the inner circle. But people who sympathize with our side yet have the sterner stuff to withstand the absolute rhetorical stench which may emanate from their gatherings AND aren’t necessarily the most-known local faces of the pro-liberty movement may have a role to play.
Think of this: if we can get a couple moles inside their group, and in time they recruit a couple more liberty lovers, and so forth and so on, we receive two benefits: one, an insider report on some of their action plans we can use to counterattack, and two, perhaps eventually enough to take over the group and use it for the causes of good. I’ll admit that, if the OFA people want to volunteer at a local homeless shelter or spend an afternoon cleaning up the local river bank, there’s nothing wrong with providing some benefit for the community and most of us can agree to that.
But if they’re going to play political action committee and do a lit drop extolling the so-called “benefits” of Obamacare or portray an interested, unbiased group which just happens to show up en masse at the school board meeting to support the Common Core curriculum, well, those are the sort of moves we need to know about in advance.
And who knows? They may find the dialogue to be respectful, sort of like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation people who were at the WSOP meeting last week. We had some comments for them, they answered some of our questions, and we moved a little forward. I happen to think these OFA groups simply need a little bit of mature leadership, with a push given toward the RIGHT direction. The old saw “Question Authority” would work quite well in this instance.
Unfortunately, there exists such a state of mistrust among the two sides (for good reason, in some instances) that it would be difficult for many of the more activist among us to complete the task. It will take a special subset to contribute to the pro-liberty cause in this way, and we need those among us who step forward to subtly put up with the other side for a time. In time, it may be worth it.