(This is a column that I wrote after the RedState gathering August 12-14, 2011. It is re-posted here for your enjoyment and enlightenment.)
The RedState event in Charleston, South Carolina last weekend was a real conservative extravaganza. RedStaters should seriously consider attending next year when the gathering is preliminarily set to be held in Florida.
The prominence of RedState.com and the RedState culture is growing, and a flurry of national media fired up Charleston. When the RedState assembly is covered by C-Span as it was last weekend, you know it is good news. Even veteran conservative columnist George Will stopped by for the presidential announcement by Texas governor Rick Perry.
The event kicked off Friday evening with appearances by three important elected officials on 'our' side of the issues - the dynamic new South Carolina governor Nikki Haley; US senator Jim DeMint, also of South Carolina; and the bright activist governor Rick Scott of Florida. Scott, who was elected in November 2010 like Haley and who is a product of Erickson/RedState activism, explained why he turned down federal high-speed rail funds and why his state is doing well even in the recession. Scott is a future GOP presidential candidate, rest assured.
During the day Saturday we heard from 2012 US Senate and House candidates and a jam-packed presidential announcement by a man who we can all feel confident could be the next occupant of the White House, Rick Perry.
All in all, it was real excitement for those of us on the “right” side of the issues. And since next year’s gathering will be on the cusp of the presidential election season, it should be even better. So if you want to get a feel for national politics on the major league level, plan to attend. This is the real deal.
Erick Erickson of RedState.com kept the event flowing well, as symposia covered subjects like web activism; a South Carolina effort to replace its state income tax system with a “fair tax” sales tax collection system; and other issues like the origins of RedState.com itself. The meeting also included representatives from American Majority, Let Freedom Ring, FreedomWorks and the Heritage Action for America. Other groups like Ralph Reed's Faith & Freedom Coalition were represented in the lobby. All in all, a conservative dream conference.
Here are some highlights:
*Jamie Radtke, a savvy Tea Party activist from Virginia, is going to challenge for the US Senate seat being vacated in a surprise move by Democrat Jim Webb. Radtke’s 20-page handout looks like a sure-fire recipe for success and shows an extraordinary level of organization for her candidacy among Virginia conservatives. Her site is radtkeforsenate.com. Radtke resides in the Richmond area. With the shift of Virginia to the right under governor Bob McDonnell (the new chairman of the National Governors' Association) and attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, Radtke looks like a winner.
*Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer of Indiana, is going to challenge incumbent Republican liberal Richard Lugar in the primary for Lugar’s long-held US Senate seat (since 1976). This shows the rising power of the RedState/Tea Party faction in American politics. Mourdock said that he now is supported by 74% of Indiana Republican country chairmen. This shows a real shift away from the centrist GOP establishment. Mourdock is no government lapdog, by the way. He spent 31 years in the private energy industry.
*Don Stenberg, treasurer of the state of Nebraska and a former Nebraska attorney general, is as impressive a candidate as you will ever meet for US Senate. He personally argued in the Supreme Court in favor of Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortion so he is no slouch. Stenberg is confident that he will win the seat if he wins his primary. His Democrat incumbent opponent would be Ben 'Cornhusker Kickback' Nelson, who is very unpopular in Nebraska these days. The website is stenbergforsenate.com Stenberg is a product of both Harvard Business School and Harvard Law but don't think for a minute that he has been tainted by East Coast elitism. He is a common-sense heartlander through and through.
*Michael Williams, the current Texas railroad commissioner, is running for US Congress. He is part of a new generation of black conservatives that is challenging the liberal hierarchy. Williams is funny, smart and showed us his life experience from a whole different perspective. Williams talked about his "faith upbringing" and his close family ties that made him who he is. He was a Department of Justice prosecutor in the Reagan administration.
*Adam Hasner, majority leader in the Florida House, is another great conservative who will challenge Democrat Bill Nelson in Florida’s 2012 US Senate race. Ted Cruz, former solicitor general of the state of Texas and a US senate candidate from Texas, said he wants to triple the size of the Border Patrol. “The first thing any sovereign nation does is secure its border,” said Cruz. His website is tedcruz.org
*Governor Perry spoke bluntly in his announcement speech, which was covered by national media: "I'll promise you this: I'll work every day to try to make Washington, DC, as inconsequential in your life as I can." He also said: “As Americans we are not defined by class and we will never be told our place... As Americans we realize there is no taxpayer money that was not first earned by the sweat and toil of one of our citizens." He referred to “this president’s unbridled fixation on taking more money… and giving it to a central government.” He talked about a “failed stimulus plans and other misguided economic theories… with far too many unemployed.” Referring to current economic statistics, Perry said: “That is not a recovery, that is an economic disaster”. He also said: “This president and his big spending, big government policies have prolonged our national misery, not alleviated it.”
Good for Perry. These are the type of blunt, straightforward charges that will bring down Obama. This is precisely how Ronald Reagan went after Jimmy Carter. And we know how that worked out.
Governor Haley played host to the Charleston event as the state's leader. And if you want to meet a dynamic, well-spoken, and “profoundly decent” individual as Erickson described her, Haley is the ticket. Talking about the dichotomy between Democrat-backed obstructionist lawyers and growing businesses, Haley said plainly in her opening remarks, "It's either lawyers or businesses... you pick."
I spoke with Haley for several minutes about the Boeing controversy in South Carolina and she gave me straight, direct answers. If you want to meet a genuine leader with “White House” written all over her, maybe you will be lucky enough to meet Nikki Haley next year at the RedState gathering. To top it off, she’s only 39 years old...
Charleston was a great choice. It was hot outside, but the Francis Marion hotel was classy, and the food was well done and plentiful so you didn’t even have to go out. It was well worth the price of admission.
But the heat did not stop me from several tours around the town. I love to walk, and Charleston has scores of streets lined with historic homes. It was a delight for a person with a passion for early American architecture as I have. The Battery area, along the harbor, is the oldest and most historic part of town, with narrow lanes lined with the most elegant homes of all. Charleston once was one of the richest cities in the world.
On my way to the airport, I was driven by Mitch, a black man with his own limousine shuttle. Mitch was genuinely worried about the state of the nation, and I think he felt gratified that one of the hotel guests from the elegant Francis Marion was willing to take the time to engage him and was interested in his views. But that's me. I am always interested in the ideas of the hard-working people of America.
I reassured Mitch that his own future would be secure with his own business. He then told me that he was very much concerned about too many people on the dole, including Social Security disability, and too many black males having children and not raising them but putting them on the dole as well. So Mitch thinks a lot like you and me.
As I paid him for the ride, Mitch looked at me with a question in his eyes. "You think everything is gonna be OK?" he asked me. And I said of course, that there are people like him and like me who are going to change the nation person by person, and good people like Nikki Haley who is working to change South Carolina. He seemed relieved
All in all, the RedState annual gathering was a very stimulating confluence of people, place and ideas. And there will be many more of them.
See you in 2012…
Please visit my blog at www.nikitas3.com for more conservative insights.