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ACU’s Cardenas Questions Tea Party’s Grasp Of Principles

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By Tom Tillison
Florida Political Press

In an interview this week with Human Events discussing his ‘vision’ for the American Conservative Union, newly appointed chairman Al Cardenas had this to say about the tea party;

“I’m exited, [and] I think for all the good reasons. I don’t think it’s a fleeting movement that will last a cycle or two. I really think there’s a re-energizing of the average American who has kind of lost faith in both political parties.

“And every Tea Party event is all about issues, whether it’s a D or an R. And the amazing part about people is they’ve got great instincts, as Americans usually do.”

As flowering as these comments may be, you just know there’s a ‘but’ coming…

“They don’t really have a toolbox of principles. [The Tea Party movement] is probably a less-educated conservative movement group than any I have witnessed in my 40 years of being [politically] active. They will get upset. They know that they’re angry and they have a pretty good idea that they’re going to support change, but they don’t really understand what principles drive us to why those changes take effect and why there’s this set of principles this movement is about.”

Cardenas then goes on to talk about his mission to mobilize Tea Partiers as activists by calling for regionalizing CPAC;

“These Tea Party activists are not going to have some national network of organizations. They like to have it the way it is. And with Twitter and Facebook, the new technology, they can mobilize in ways that otherwise you need a national organization structure for.”

“What I’d like to see us do is have four or five a year… and try to tap those Tea Party activists to fill a room.”

“And the idea is, ‘Look, we’ve got some issues now that take a while to get people to fully understand: entitlement reform, pension reform.’ This is the kind of stuff that you really need to go around the country and spend time on for people to really embrace and understand.”

“It’s easy to explain why somebody shouldn’t fund National Public Radio, but it’s a lot harder to get people to understand how you tackle entitlement reform. That takes time, that takes effort, that takes content, and that’s what these regional CPACs ought to be about.”

So, this expert analysis begs one to wonder if Cardenas has ever sat down with a member of the tea party and had a conversation, or is he basing his conclusion on his vast political experience?

According to Frank Luntz, a pollster for The Word Doctors, polling data reveals that members of the Tea Party movement are more engaged, more likely to vote, more knowledgeable, and more active in the political process than the general American public.

Rasmussen Reports also shows that 52% of voters believe the average Tea Party member understands the issues facing America today better than the average member of Congress – although I’m not sure if this reinforces my argument or not!

As for Mr. Cardenas’ vast experience, he served three terms as Vice-Chairman and two terms as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. He was also appointed to the Executive Committee of the Republican Party, the highest policy-making board at the RNC.

Cardenas then parlayed the wealth of connections he gained in his ‘service’ to the Republican Party into a very rewarding career as a big time lobbyist, being named one of D.C.’s top lobbyists by The Hill. Just prior to his current position with ACU, he was lobbying for high speed rail.

And in a totally unrelated move, I’m sure, Cardenas’ lobbying firm hired Lanny Wiles – FL Gov. Rick Scott’s right-hand-man on the campaign trail – who’s also married to Scott’s campaign manager Susie Wiles, as “senior counsel” at the lobbying firm in January of this year. This move coming prior to Scott making a decision on whether or not to accept federal money for the HSR project. Scott eventually rejected it.

Cardenas also endorsed Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate, although he did rescind the endorsement when Crist left the GOP to run as an Independent.

American Conservative Union, you say?

Cardenas’ condescending sanctimony is so typical of the establishment Republicans who view the tea party as little more than an annoying inconvenience. It’s the ever present elitist attitude that says vote us in and leave the governing of this country to those who are best ‘equipped’ to handle it. After all, how can such simple minded people as tea partiers ever grasp the complexity of the problems before us?

Let me be perfectly clear here, those days are over in America!

As for tapping “those tea party activists to fill a room”, Cardenas may want to think real hard about coming to Central Florida peddling his wares, I have a strong hunch that there’ll be tepid interest in what he’s selling.

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