San Francisco and CPAC may seem an odd combination, but at the just-concluded CPAC event, they made beautiful music together.
I walked the halls of CPAC this weekend with my RESET 2010TM button on my lapel. It's this big, bright red reset button with the words RESET 2010TM emblazoned in pure white. I like to think people were looking at me as I passed, but honestly, that catchy, red reset button caught their eyes.
Many asked "Where did you get that reset button? Can I get one?" As I reached into my pocket to indulge them, I'd explain it's is the brainchild of two grassroots organizations in the Bay Area intent on out-alinskying the alinskyites. No need to explain any further.
Savvy conservatives who a few years ago never heard of Saul Alinsky and the IAF, are now fully versed in his techniques and philosophy.
It was this renewed energy and clarity of message that made CPAC a resounding success.
There was something else, though. CPAC was brimming with regular people. I expected lots of suits and establishment dignitaries meeting in small groups, giving a few big speeches, shunting the little guy. I couldn't have been more wrong.
What I didn't see was pitchforks, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals, illiterates, ignoramuses, mobsters, political terrorists, astroturfers, tea baggers or whack jobs (okay, there was one guy with a "Don't Tread on Me" flag dressed in patriotic garb, but he was entertaining, not a whack job).
What I did see was that we could have been walking around any mall in America and, let's face it, that's really what has the left's panties all in a bunch. The challenge isn't coming from the Republican Party per se, but from regular, law abiding, informed citizens who vote and are now more politically active than ever before. These are the people who really do make a difference in a society. These are the people we truly can believe in. And, make no mistake, these are the people the left will seek to destroy.
Bring it on.
Who else was at CPAC? Too many people who are out of work looking for real job solutions; retirees who are concerned about their grandkids and braved the cold to learn more about what they can do to reset the Congress in 2010 and 2012; students, students and more students (the over 25 crowd was indisputably outnumbered); candidates and tea partiers from all over the country; blacks, whites, Jews, Christians and Muslims; minorities of every flavor; straight and gay people; laborers, small business owners and professionals; libertarians, pro-lifers, pro-legalization of pot people; traditional values and 2nd Amendment groups; think tanks; small groups of people exchanging views and information (there was some disagreement, mostly with the ronpaulians about foreign policy); law enforcement professionals and union members incognito; moms and dads and even some dogs, yes, conservative dogs were at CPAC.
Without question, CPAC teased us like kids in a candy shop with a three-day, non-stop parade of our glitterati. The left's glitterati are wealthy movie stars, musicians and billionaire businessmen. On the right, our glitterati reside in think tanks, the blogosphere and on the radio. Our rock stars are the likes of Jonah Goldberg, Bill Bennett and Ann Coulter. Go figure. And, we rely on these journalists, writers, thinkers and bloggers to keep us on a steady diet of information and current events, infused with as much fact and history as possible.
Every time one of these conservative celebrities would pass me by, I'd step WAY out of my comfort zone, run over to them with a reset button and ask "Do you want to RESET the Congress in 2010?" What conservative wouldn't say yes or nod or give the thumb's up and grab the button?
But then something unexpected and magical would happen. When I added "This is a gift from the San Francisco Tea Party," heads would turn, about faces would be made and double takes would occur. Luminaries late for their next appointment or running to catch their next flight, would stop dead in their tracks and approach me with a contorted look of curiosity mixed with incredulity. The words "San Francisco Tea Party" caused a 10 second upset in the time-space continuum that, without fail, provoked a response -- always positive, always excited, always incredulous.
I stumbled onto something at CPAC : if there is a Republican elected in NJ and another who took away the Kennedy seat in Massachusetts AND a tea party in San Francisco where the Republican establishment has long given up and local conservatives used to hide in shame, then anything really is possible and pigs just might fly.
This caught me by surprise because I've been organizing tea parties in the Bay Area for a year now. We have a website, a YouTube page and a yahoo groups site. I wrongly assumed that everyone had heard about us. People just haven't noticed that in the country's most liberal city -- where the previous mayoral election was between a liberal and a progressive and the liberal just barely eked out a victory -- thousands of conservatives have come out of the closet and actively participate in tea parties in the cradle of American socialism, where it all began during the Summer of Love in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury. We're changing the paradigm in San Francisco as we've been doing all across the country. Events over the last year have changed game plans on both the right and the left. Conservative boots on the ground are working feverishly to reset the Congress in 2010. CPAC is a testament to that nationwide effort. And San Francisco? Don't forget: if you go to San Francisco, be sure to wear a RESET button if you dare.
Update: C. Edmund Wright is 100% correct.
I, for one, really enjoyed CPAC but what I didn't like and don't care for in general is the constant backward looking badgering of Republicans. Ok, yes, I get it, some of them are no better than democrats, but like Wright said, the grassroots is taking them out along with irresponsible and misguided liberals. Isn't that what we want?
What more do you want the Republicans to do? Just sit around and self-flagellate? They are reaching out...and when they do...it's a republican take over of the grassroots. When they hold back, they don't care about the grassroots or are just waiting for the right moment to pounce. In the opinions of some conservative "purists" republicans just cannot win and that's a fact.
Call yourself what you will, a conservative or a republican and order them if you must. But I am a Republican. By definition, then, I am also a conservative. There were many at CPAC who characterize themselves as such.
Wright touched on the Ron Paul presence and it is something we have to address. Attendees felt somewhat overwhelmed and marginalized by the youngsters in the Ron Paul crowd (don't misunderstand me-thrilled that so many young people were there, just put off by the fact that they were handing out literature against the War on Terror like Hari Krishnas in the airport). While there was great applause from the ronpaulians for their leader's remarks, the rest of the attendees were less than enthusiastic or supportive of his views, especially on national security. Ann Coulter made that clear.
CPAC was not just about big speeches. It was about the people interfacing with one another and the organizations in Exhibit Hall. And that is where the real action was. Finger pointing was just not a feature in the crowd in general. And here is why: your average conservative understands that as soon as someone starts to rant about the evil republicans, well, it just doesn't open the door to a discussion about how to work together and move forward.
I appreciate all that Glenn Beck does but I have not been able to watch him on a regular basis because he lumps us all together with the liberals and progressives. That irks me. We aren't even remotely the same, having lost our way or not. I am no more like my liberal friends than George Bush, Michael Steele or my local republican candidates are. When I read that Beck berated the republicans in this speech (which I did not hear), he lost me...I couldn't even bring myself to watch it because it would deflate the entire CPAC experience.
I understand that people have been angry and frustrated, but that anger is standing in the way of success. I firmly believe that people are mired in this "hate George Bush" maelstrom and bogged down by this "blame everything on both parties equally" syndrome. We know what we did wrong. We know what to look for in candidates going forward. We know we have to hold our elected officials' feet to the fire because we cannot sit back and relax thinking, like we did in the past, that they are watching the shop while we work, parent and pray. We need to lift ourselves out of the doldrums and move forward. I hate to quote Cher but it's time to "Snap out of it!"
If you really want to know what CPAC was like, view the speech of Colonel Allen West. Grab a box of tissues and stand ready to commit to a conservative future. No berating, just inspiration. No judgments about who was or wasn't sufficiently conservative, just a recitation and commitment to conservative principles. And a dream.
That was the real CPAC experience and it should have ended on that note.