About that TEA Party…

November 27, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016 - President, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on About that TEA Party… 

My “10 from 10” post this morning regarding the 9/12 Rally back in 2009 got me to pondering where the movement has gone in the intervening years.

If you’ve been a reader around here for a long time, you may recall that I covered a significant number of TEA Party-related groups that sprung up in the local area over the next couple years. Not only did we have the TEA Parties themselves that went on in both 2009 and 2010, but also groups like Americans for Prosperity and the Wicomico Society of Patriots. They went on for a couple of years but essentially died off from a lack of interest. (On the other hand, we still have the Worcester County TEA Party and 9-12 Delaware Patriots.)

Having been involved to a limited extent with the Wicomico groups, I can tell you that some of the players who remain active have gone “establishment” to the extent they remain active in the local Republican Party. Three of those most heavily involved have served on the Central Committee – unfortunately, that’s the only election where some of the TEA Party leaders have found success. While many in the area take TEA Party values to heart, they seem to vote for the names they know.

This erosion of the brand is also reflected on a national level. I used to write quite a bit about the TEA Party Patriots and expressed hope that the TEA Party Express would bring some of its star power to the region. In the last few years, though, the national movement has suffered from infighting as well as a concerted media effort to impugn the brand. I don’t hear nearly as much from the group these days, as their function has by and large been superseded by SuperPACs that fight for specific candidates or causes.

If you consider the high point of the TEA Party as the 2010 election, where the political landscape dramatically shifted in a more conservative direction in the wake of two consecutive leftward shifts as well as the adoption of an unpopular Obamacare entitlement program, then the nadir came two years later with Barack Obama’s re-election. A conspiracy theorist could point out that the 2010 election results put the Obama campaign on high alert, meaning they pulled out all the stops to ensure re-election with a little help from a compliant media. But one could counter by noting the movement wasn’t strong enough to topple frontrunner Mitt Romney and they shot themselves in the foot by staying home on Election Day. (As it was, though, Romney did get more votes than John McCain did in 2008.)

So while you can credit TEA Party principles for winning the day in 2014, the actual movement itself seems to be receding to a low tide. Since TEA is an acronym for “taxed enough already” it’s been pointed out by the Left that taxes really aren’t that bad, at least in comparison to the rates in place for administrations from Hoover to Carter. (This is a neat little chart to see the differences.) Ronald Reagan dropped rates twice: from 70% to 50% in 1982 and eventually down to 28% with the Tax Reform Act of 1986. It had been over 50 years since the top rate was less than 50%.

But that only considers income tax. Certainly as a 100-year body of work our current rates are on the low side, but back then we didn’t have the maddening plethora of taxes and fees we do now. Some are consumption-based taxes like sales tax on goods purchased or per gallon of gasoline, while others are considered some sort of “sin” tax like additional levies on cigarettes or alcohol, a combination that Marylanders endure to a larger extent than several of their neighbors. Even speed cameras could be regarded as a sort of “sin” tax, since supposedly the only ones who pay it are the ones who are speeding well above the posted limit. (Try as they might to convince us that it’s about safety, we all know they need the Benjamins. Why else would they have to install cameras in more and more dubious “school zones”?) Nor does that consider property tax, which tends to be the preferred vehicle for raising money for the public schools. In most states where districts have taxing authority, it’s not uncommon to see a school district seek three to four additional property tax levies a decade as they strive to raise funds for buildings and operations. (Maryland is different because counties pay for their portion of school funding from their general funds, so there are no ballot issues to deal with property taxes.) To make a long story short, we still consider ourselves taxed enough already.

As far as a formal movement goes, though, for the most part we are back to where we were around 2008. There is a lot of frustration with the direction of both parties, but this time rather than a movement without a leader people are going the route of a looking for a leader for what they consider their movement – hence, political outsiders Ben Carson and Donald Trump have been ahead of the Republican field for most of this campaign. (As further proof, the other side is still believed to be behind Hillary Clinton.) Carson is cast as the Godly, principled man who would quietly and reverently lead our nation in need of healing, while Trump comes across as the brash general who would kick butt and take names, restoring America to its top of the heap status.

Conversely, those who are conservative but came up through the standard political channels have fallen out of favor this cycle. In any other cycle, we would look at governors like Rick Perry, Scott Walker, or Bobby Jindal as frontrunners – instead, all three are out of the race. In terms of political resumes, the front-runners on both sides have even less to go on than Barack Obama did, and that’s saying something.

So it’s hard to tell where the TEA Party trail runs cold. I think a number of them have coalesced behind Donald Trump despite the fact The Donald is not a movement conservative. One recent rumor is that a Trump/Cruz ticket is in the works, which would perhaps appease the true believers. Trump’s success has belied the predictions of TEA Party leaders that he will be a flash in the pan.

But it appears the days of rallies like 9/12 are behind us. Such a pity.

Ten Question Tuesday – April 2, 2013

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.

Langer: Sure.

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…

Langer: Yes.

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: What?

monoblogue: I was there. I was at 9/12.

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…

Langer: Sure.

monoblogue: …about the Maryland Republican Party. (laughs) And the game of personalities we seem to have in that party right now.

Langer: Yeah.

monoblogue: I know you had considered running for the (party Chair) post and you had to back out.

Langer: Yes.

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.

Langer: Yeah!

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.

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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.

My day at CPAC in pictures and text (part 2)

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.

CPAC badge

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.

Allen West and I

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.

My day at CPAC in pictures and text (part 1)

Since I took nearly 100 pictures and 36 made the final cut, I decided to make this a two-part post.

Recently having done a stint at the Turning the Tides Conference, I thought I had a little bit of an idea in what to expect from CPAC. But the entirety of the Gaylord Conference Center and the number of celebrities speaking and milling around tells me that I missed a lot when I missed the first two days of the gathering. Yet the one day I managed to be here was well worth my time in learning from and meeting those who move and shake the conservative world.

Walking into the Potomac ballroom I was blown away by the expanse of the venue. Sure, we have some decently-sized conference rooms for our 300-person gatherings for the Maryland Republican Party, but this room could hold a sporting event. If anything, the stage made the speaker look small.

The first speaker I heard upon my arrival and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and invocation was TEA Party pioneer Jenny Beth Martin, who repeated the case I’ve been pleading since the most recent incarnation of the pro-liberty movement was born: conservatives are for limited government, fiscal responsibility, and a thriving free market. Instead, Martin said, they are “mocked, marginalized, and maligned.”

She also added that we’re headed to bankruptcy, with an Affordable Care Act which is “unaffordable, callous, and cruel.”

“The reality today is grim and heartbreaking,” Martin added.

She concluded by asserting, in a rising voice, that liberty will endure – if we fight for freedom. “Our Constitution is worth fighting for, because freedom is worth fighting for.”

Rep. Steve King of Iowa followed Jenny Beth to the podium and made the case that “Obamacare has got to go…we can’t let up.” It erodes our vitality and is an “unconstitutional taking,” according to King. He also criticized the immigration initiatives because, as King claimed, 2 out of 3 illegal aliens are Democrats “and the Democrats know this.”

King called on us to “restore the pillars of American exceptionalism…we’ve got a country to rebuild together.”

I should point out that I had pictures of these two speakers and they didn’t make the cut. But this guy made the cut.

Wisconsin is a state which has a leader, said emcee Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, and Governor Scott Walker detailed a number of ways he’s indeed led.

Harkening back to recent initiatives, Walker noted welfare reform and tax reform originated in the states. And just as the states created the federal government, the 30 states with GOP governors – most of which also have Republican-led legislatures – can improvise with good, conservative ideas. But Walker made the point that “to be successful, we have to be optimistic, relevant, and courageous.” It’s obviously working in Wisconsin, where 93 percent of the state said it was heading in the right direction. “We’re the ones who care about fixing things,” he added.

Walker was ready with a number of examples of poor policy, like the first-year Milwaukee teacher who was selected as their teacher of the year but furloughed because she was at the bottom of the seniority chain. His union reforms eliminated that problem. The overall idea, continued Walker, was to replace the narrative that a successful government was one which created dependents with one which made the case that government works when it assists people to wean themselves off dependence by making it easier to get a job.

“In America, we celebrate the Fourth of July, not April 15,” shouted Walker. “We believe in the people, not the government!”

And then came Newt – a guy who only needs one name to convey who I’m speaking about.

Gingrich addressed the concept of government needing to be pioneers of the future, and get out of being prisoners of the past. As a movement our contrast with President Obama “couldn’t be more vivid.”

But he saved withering criticism for the “Republican establishment class,” which “couldn’t be more wrong.” Holding up a candle and light bulb, Newt chided Washington as “being prisoners of the past…they’re all trapped in the age of candles.” Both parties in Washington are blind to the future, though.

Interestingly enough, Newt promoted a book by a liberal author, the former mayor of San Francisco and now lieutenant governor of California, Gavin Newsom. But Citizenville was a book “every conservative should read” because it promoted a more active citizenry. Gingrich used the analogy of the Facebook game Farmville, with the idea being earning rewards for public-spirited achievement rather than planting virtual crops.

Newt also took a swipe at the establishment wing of the party, saying that since 1976 “the dominant wing (of the GOP) has learned nothing.” Nor should we be strictly the anti-Obama movement, said Newt.

The powerful morning lineup of featured speakers concluded with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the 2012 Presidential hopeful whose campaign flamed out after a great summer of 2011.

She explained about the TEA Party movement “we love people in this country…we want everyone to succeed in this country.” As key parts of that success, Michele believed there were a lot of goals we could accomplish “if we put our minds to it” such as cutting the price of gasoline to $2 a gallon, preserving our Second Amendment rights “for your sister and your mother,” and most ambitiously finding a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease in the next decade. The key wasn’t big government, she argued, but “big innovation.”

Bachamnn also chided the inefficiencies of government, pointing out that for every $10 spent on food stamps only $3 goes to recipients while the other $7 goes to bureaucrats. She also dubbed the Obama presidency as “a life of excess.”

In the hardest-hitting portion of her remarks, Michele savaged Barack Obama for the “shameful incident” of Benghazi. “This is a story of not caring,” Bachmann said. Because (Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, the two ex-Navy SEALs killed at Benghazi) cared, they defied orders and they chose to go to the aid of their brothers…they fought for our country.”

As the attack raged on, “they continued to radio their government begging for help,” charged Bachmann, “and that help never came.” This despite the fact President Obama knew of the attack within its first hour, she continued.

“A war was raging in Benghazi for hours, and all we know is that our President went AWOL,” she continued to a chorus of boos and catcalls for Obama. “No one knows to this day where the President was.”

Of all the Saturday speeches I heard, Bachmann’s was perhaps the most critical of Barack Obama.

After she finished, I decided to skip the next panel and head out to explore a little. I hadn’t really had the chance to walk around as I arrived shortly before the proceedings began. It was a crowded lobby to be sure.

This space also featured the famous “Radio Row” I’d only heard about, although on a Saturday morning it wasn’t as busy.

The TEA Party Patriots were busy doing a radio show, though. (Actually, it may have been just before or just after this video was done. The blond gentleman in the background of my picture is Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit.)

There were a few television broadcasts in various stages of production, such as those of Hot Air.

Also working on content was the TEA Party News Network, who thankfully sponsored the internet access (more on that in part 2.)

Further down Radio Row, another start-up operation was making itself known to the broadcasting world.

Later in the day, it was announced that One America News Network would make its debut July 4 of this year. “We will be the platform for the conservative message,” said OANN’s Graham Ledger. He cautioned, though, that cable systems “will resist putting on a conservative news network.”

Once I made my way down the hall and down a level, I was at the entrance of the exhibit hall. I didn’t count them, but there were probably over 100 groups exhibiting their wares. By the time I was through, the swag bag I received at the entrance was very full (I took the picture when I got home.)

The exhibit hall was fairly expansive as well.

Here was a group I think needs further investigation. Unfortunately, there was no one there to explain the concept to me. From what I gather, it’s a database of conservative companies to support.

Another group I’d love to have seen a representative of was this one. Maybe their volunteer (or intern) had an encounter with some union thugs.

I got to talk with this group, though. They represent an outfit I’ve referenced a lot over the years.

A newer but very nice organization has been referenced on this site since its formation. Unfortunately, in missing Friday I missed a chance to talk with its founder.

Someone else who might be on the 2016 ballot had some unofficial help. These were placed on a side table, but not many were wearing them that I saw.

There was also an area in the exhibit hall for book signings. When I was down there, Newt and Callista Gingrich were signing their tomes with Ellis the Elephant looking on.

Some people simply took the opportunity to relax and take a quick break in the CPAC Lounge. They could watch the action upstairs on the monitors.

Just like them, I’m going to rhetorically relax and take a break, since this seems like a nice dividing point. Part 2 will be up tomorrow morning.

Co-opting the freshmen?

Honestly, I’m not a conspiratorial sort of guy but I did find this interesting.

As one of many events geared toward the incoming freshman Republican class of the House of Representatives, the TEA Party Patriots scheduled an orientation event this weekend. Among the featured speakers will be keynoter Edwin Meese and the event is sponsored in part by reformers from local TEA Party groups as well as getting assistance from Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn along with retiring Rep. John Shadegg and his group, Constitutional Congress.

That seems like a worthy event and TPP organizers claim they’d already sunk over $100,000 into making the arrangements when they learned another event was being planned for the same time and day by the Claremont Institute. Now I don’t have a big issue with a group which claims to:

 “(R)estore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. These principles are expressed most eloquently in the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” To recover the founding principles in our political life means recovering a limited and accountable government that respects private property, promotes stable family life, and maintains a strong national defense.”

I don’t think the TEA Party Patriots don’t so much object to the group, either. But their roster of “insider” speakers is most troubling to them. Among those featured at the Claremont event are Chip Saltsman, Tim Powers, and keynote speaker Bill Bennett. In particular, you may recall Saltsman ran for RNC Chair two years ago and before that ran Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign in 2008. Meanwhile, Powers is also a former Deputy Director in the RNC and co-chairman of a lobbying firm while Bennett is the former Secretary of Education under President Reagan and morning talk show host. All of them have been in Washington for years, and I happen to agree that the idea behind electing this class of 2010 was to bring an outsider, reform perspective to Washington.

(Of course, DeMint, Meese, and Shadegg are also Washington insiders too. But given the choice between the two and the influence of the TEA Party Patriots who helped place many of these freshmen in Congress I’d tend to prefer they hold sway. The newbies will have to deal with lobbyists soon enough.)

The action plan sought by the TPP was to contact the newly-minted Congressmen (among them our very own Andy Harris) and make certain they go to the TPP event. Certainly I would think many of his supporters read this site and would feel that hanging with DeMint, Coburn, Shadegg, et. al. would be a much better use of time. I know they are among my favorite members of Congress.

TPP puts it this way:

Explain the differences between the two events. We need to make sure they understand that the Claremont event is not an “official” event but one put on by lobbyists, for which they are being asked to skip the TPP and Constitutional Congress event.  They need to know what you, their new constituents, think about their choice, and how you’ll react if they choose to ignore the grassroots and immediately get in bed with DC lobbyists and RNC insiders.

So if you have a few spare minutes tomorrow, make your feelings known to your freshman Republican (for my friends down on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, that includes Scott Rigell too) and encourage them to dance with the ones who brung them.

Let’s not permit these greenhorns to be led down the wrong path.

(Note: apparently TPP had some personal cel numbers among the information given, so I redacted the contact information per their request. Sounds like these freshmen got the point.)

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