by MeredithAncret and Cris A. Pace
This last weekend Damn Straight Politics editors Meredith and Cris attended the Western Conservative Conference…here is a summary of what they saw.
There were some great high points to this event. As far as speakers go I was impressed with the speeches that David Schweikert and Grover Norquist gave at the opening ceremonies and lunch. Both of them delivered important messages and I was glad to hear from Schweikert on the importance of communicating with independents and other voters and having a consistent message on what conservative ideals are and how they are good for voters.
He touched on the issue that sitting in conference halls, patting each other on the back and having a good time discussing ideology and the finer points of the constitution are not the best use of our time, which I found ironic as we were sitting in a conference hall, patting each other on the back and discussing ideology. It’s nice to have someone kick us in the rear occasionally and remind us that we have people to talk to and outreach to do.
I attended two panels and a forum where four of the Republican candidates for Arizona governor answered questions.
The first panel was on Obamacare and the problems with it. Over the course of this panel there were some interesting issues brought up, such as cash pay hospitals and doctor shortages, as well as a question of what the “best” part of Obamacare is, despite its flaws.
Near the end there was a discussion of how best to use the failure of Obamacare to further the cause of conservatism, which, again, is an issue of communication and finding the best way to do outreach.
The Bias in Media panel was in many ways the most divisive of the two I attended. The difference between the views of the panelist who was involved in more traditional print media (Brian Calle of the The Orange County Register) and the panelist who was more involved in New Media (Scottie Hughes of Tea Party News Network) were obvious. Calle favored a move back to non-biased journalism (a nostalgic idea that, in my opinion, never actually existed), while Hughes was very much in favor of bias, as long as the bias is admitted to the reader.
Once again, toward the end, the issue of messaging and finding a way to do more than preach to the choir came up. Scottie Hughes admonished the people in the room to never run from the cameras of the main stream media news because we have to communicate to people on the other side of the aisle as far as news consumption goes. We also have to stop letting liberals dictate the terminology we use and the way conservatism is viewed, sometimes we have to shift the argument and change the terminology in order to appeal to the people listening to us.
The Gubernatorial forum was a great chance to showcase the ideas, strengths, and weaknesses of the Republican candidates for governor of Arizona. Of the candidates only 4 chose to attend, those four being:
- Christine Jones
- Ken Bennett
- Frank Riggs
- Al Melvin
During the course of the question/answer session we got a look at the personalities of the candidates and their ideas for governance. I am, admittedly, biased (as an occasional volunteer for Christine Jones campaign), but Jones and Bennett came out on top in the forum as having better personalities and, especially in Jones case, extremely common sense and solid ideas on governance. Most of the debate was taped and I will see about making that video available for our Arizona readers.
So yes there were many good things…but what we also saw at the conference everything that continues to keep making the Republican Party snatch defeat from the jaws of victory time after time.
First off there was the marketing and the makeup of this event. The marketing was terrible. For an event that was attempting to try and make itself into a Western CPAC the marketing was depressingly low despite some a few big names being present. Also I’m fairly certain that Damn Straight Politics was the only media there. Not to down play the fact this site will eventually crush Breitbart and the Blaze to a fine powder, but right now that’s really not much of a showing. Especially when you have the vast majority of the Republican Governor candidates showing up (you would have thought a few more outlets would have shown up for that if for nothing else).
And who did they market it to? Well I would say the average age in the room could apply for AARP membership. Which leads to the point that you can have speakers up on stage talking about how we need to reach out to independents and young voters, and grassroots organization to turn districts and seats red…but it rings hollow to some degree when it doesn’t even show in the audience you’re talking to. Look I’m not saying that the liberal bull about conservatism just being for the old is accurate, it isn’t, but clearly the people who marketed this event thought so. If you’re going to win the younger voters, if you’re going to win the independents you actually have to reach out to them. I know it’s a radical concept.
And there were a few comments about the truth that we need to deal in the current culture and need to keep things relevant. This was followed by jokes about Michael Moore (who hasn’t been seen in years), Keith Olberman (who is actually at the moment on our side in despising MSNBC) and Susan Sarandon (is she even still around). Way to keep it relevant Tea Party speaker who brought all this up. Hey, maybe, Rand Paul can throw in a Lewinsky joke in there for good measure to ensure that while they those might have had a time and place in a general campaign around August of 2016, they’ll be so played out by then that they will have no effect whatsoever (Rand wasn’t there but you get my point). I love this party’s ability to strategize. Politics is a game of the complexity of chess and Go, and at times it seems we’re always playing tic-tac-toe at the level of a three year old.
And speaking of people with a toddler’s ability to plan, Ted Cruz had a video with perhaps my favorite moment of irony when he said “I want to thank you for standing up for our country.” And Ted I want to thank you for always standing up for Ted Cruz, no matter if it hurts your party, your platform or your country, nothing must come in the way. I’m sorry but everyone does realize that someone that smarmy and self-righteous is the kind of person every liberal dreams about running against. I’m sorry but Thomas Sowell is right to have serious reservations about Cruz. We all should, because we’re conservatives and we don’t deify our politicians like the left does.
And then there was trotting out somewhat unstable politicians like Joe Miller who felt it best to once again insult conservatives like Romney as nothing more than an establishment candidate and repeating that lie about Romney not getting the vote out so popular with the talking heads that benefit from the Tea Party and GOP being at each other’s throats. Yes, let’s once again give into that habit to attack our own rather than attacking the Democrats. I’m sure that’s a winning strategy. In fact I think I’m in line with Ann Coulter on this, “Do not trust anyone who says they are trying to defeat ‘establishment Republicans.’”
And, while several speakers admitted that we can’t always talk about how much we love the Constitution or limited government because that doesn’t appeal to the independent voter. We need to be talking about the economy, jobs, and Obamacare, that’s what wins…but of course the speakers wanted to talk about guns and tax policy and abortion. Yes I realize you’re talking to a crowd of conservatives, but if we’re going to go to a conference to help us win, I don’t know, maybe cover some of the talking points that will help us win, might be an idea. Maybe.
And then of course there was the language issue. Yes, cronyism is a terrible thing…but don’t play into the left’s lies of calling it crony capitalism, it has nothing to do with capitalism. And while we were told to not refer to ourselves pro-gun but pro-rights, because that will play better…it’s on an issue that doesn’t win votes. Don’t refer to yourself as a “Bible-thumper,” yes I get it’s your way of sticking it to Obama but you drive away all the moderate Christians and heaven forbid the non-Christian voters (in total about 20% of the vote) …how about the term “pro-religious liberty.” And please stop making everything about abortion, it doesn’t play with the voters we need to win…trust me if we get real conservative welfare reform you will take out the incentives for abortion in society and reduce it more than any head on charge ever will.
But this conference was a lot of people wanting to have themselves patted on the back for their beliefs rather than finding ways to persuade others to our side. Now please don’t get me wrong, the left is worse on all of these things, but we’re conservatives, we’re the thinking party, we’re supposed to be better than this.
But there is a silver lining.
The fact is that this was a learning opportunity if we want it to be. Don’t fall into our old habits. Don’t just talk about the issues we like, talk about the issues of the person we’re trying to convince, 9 times out of 10 they will like our option better than the liberal one when put into pragmatic real life terms they can understand. Keep up to date on pop culture and use the references that other people like not just are tired inside jokes that we all like. We need to say what the appeals to the voters we’re trying to attract not necessarily what we want to hear. And don’t, please don’t, fall into the trap of talking about things like “crony capitalism” or “if we have gay marriage today then…fill in stupid statement” DO NOT GIVE THE LEFT THE EASY SOUND BITE. EVER.
It wasn’t as bad as I’m portraying it, but these small issues were there and each and every conservative needs to think about these things, starting now, if we’re going to do what this conference’s whole point was, rally the base, extend grassroots and win.
There wasn’t really anything all that ugly..except for the fact that this guy has power: