Glenn Beck, who ended the 9/12 Freedomworks event in Orlando by announcing that Ted Cruz had won 41% in a straw poll of the thousands of attendees, at first joked that Donald Trump had won. (Trump actually came in third with 8%, and Ben Carson was second with 12%). The groans in the audience indicated that many prefer the steadfast conservatism of Cruz over the Trump phenomenon.
I mention this first, as it is indicative of the difficult year that is to come.
Glenn Beck also believes it will be a difficult year, even comparing it to 1968. In a reference to the Chicago riots of that year surrounding the Democratic convention, where the forces of Gene McCarthy battled it out with the Humphrey “establishment”, Beck suggested that the circus to surround the 2016 Philadelphia convention may “burn that city to the ground”.
Freedomworks was the key organizer of the 2009 “March on Washington”, in which many of us participated. With 1-2 million people in front of the Capitol (estimates vary), those were heady times filled with a combination of outrage over Obama’s actions and optimism that with enough of us working together, we could take our country back.
Today’s reality is different from what was imagined six years ago. A conservative uprising took back the House in 2010, along with many state legislatures and governors mansions, and then the Senate in 2014. But our presidential standard bearer Mitt Romney failed to take the fight to Obama in 2012 and little has actually changed. The Obama agenda marches on, with many victories and few defeats. There is a general feeling that the Republican leadership in both houses are either not up to the task of effective resistance, or worse, in thrall to the special interests that like the status quo just fine.
The conference highlighted members of the “Freedom Caucus” – a group of legislators who seek a change to the status quo. One of their members, Mark Meadows, is leading the fight to replace Speaker John Boehner. A number of other members spoke of the difficulty of the fight, of how they were ostracized by the insiders, losing key committee assignments and worse, as the Republican elites circled the wagon to protect their interests.
Currently, the Freedom Caucus consists of about 42 members – less than 10% of the 425 seats in the House of Representatives. Their mission is to give a voice to the countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them. Given recent polls, that group would be a large majority of the country. At the conference we heard from Caucus members Ted Yoho (FL3), Mark Meadows (NC11), Ron DeSantis (FL6), John Fleming (LA4), Tom Massey (KY4) and Tim Huelskamp (KS1). All are committed to finding a way to resist the Obama juggernaut, and the current focus of the fight is to replace John Boehner. Freedomworks CEO Adam Brandon thinks they may succeed and Boehner may not last out the year.
Currently there is no Freedom Caucus in the Senate, unless you count Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. Most will say that although Mitch McConnell has to go, there is no clear path to make that happen.
If there was a theme to this conference, it was that we should not lose hope, that there are legislators in Washington ready to fight the good fight on our behalf, and they deserve our support and protection. That support is the number one priority of Freedomworks, followed by fighting the regulatory state and promoting pro-growth economics.
The conference though, was originally promoted as a venue for the Presidential candidates. I suspect many signed up originally for this reason (at least I did). Yes, it is important to support the good work of the Freedom Caucus, but given the realities of the Congress and their inability to counter the President, it is the 2016 Presidential campaign that should be the primary focus of every conservative activist everywhere.
Which brings us back to Donald Trump, and why he is leading in the polls. On the one hand, Trump has not presented enough policy detail to determine if he is “conservative enough” to do the right things if he becomes President, and it is difficult to support him until his plan for the country becomes clear. What he does represent though is a “disruptive force” – a rolling cannonball who will go to Washington and roll over the kind of obstacles that tie the hands of even reform-minded leaders. Many pundits have concluded that Trump is leading in the polls because voters are rejecting “insiders”. Another explanation could be that they are rejecting those candidates who “talk the talk” but like so many who were sent to Congress in 2010 and 2012, do not have the courage or the ability to create the change that is needed.
To right the ship of state will take some well-placed disruptions that re-order the status quo. Trump seems like a candidate who could do that, being at the same time self-funded and untethered by conventional wisdom. If the other candidates, who we know to be true conservatives, would adopt the Trump world view that “creative destruction” can be applied to government as well as business, they would make themselves into much more electable candidates in the current political climate of anger and desperation.
Next weekend, Heritage Action will be hosting 12 of the presidential candidates at their grassroots event in Greenville, SC. I look forward to that meeting to see if there is a different message than Freedomworks presented, and will report on it next week.
Palm Beach County Tea Party leaders were volunteers at the Freedomworks event, including Mel and Barbara Grossman, Terry Gallagher and Marion Frank.
For Marion’s take on the event see: Freedomworks Event
The Common Core standards and the processes that they have created, have a wide impact on K-12 education, with policy implications at the local, state, and national levels.
Many see them as an onerous regimen imposed on local school districts by the federal government, loaded with progessive bias in content, and counter to the local control of education that our system has featured since the dawn of public education. Teachers don’t like the program because it has too much emphasis on testing, and whittles away at their autonomy in the classroom. Administrators oppose them for the high stakes they impose on scoring individual schools. Parents object to the way subjects are taught (which some find incomprehensible, particularly in basic mathematics), the critical importance given to test results, and the lack of local control over the classroom.
In spite of this opposition, the train has left the station and Common Core is being implemented to various degrees across the country. Our speaker, Rebecca Negron attempted to make sense of all this from the point of view of a Martin County School Board member who was drawn to the office when she did not like the way her own children were being taught.
So what is the current state of Common Core in Florida?
In her view, testing is out of control – the tests are too frequent, and because teachers pay and school rating depend so heavily on the results, the objective of learning is sometimes lost. Martin County this year has opted out of giving End of Year exams.
Teachers evaluations – an attempt to separate the excellent from the mediocre, have failed – after spending $1.3M on implementing an evaluation process for the county, almost all teachers fall in the top two categories – hardly the differentiator that was intended.
School choice (vouchers) – in her view a good, market driven program, has caused a circle the wagons mentality within the system, with the FSBA (Florida School Board Association) joining with the teachers union (FEA) in a lawsuit to end the Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Martin County has considered withdrawing from FSBA membership for this reason.
Mrs. Negron claimed that the problem is not the content of the Common Core Standards themselves, but the implementation, particularly in the “approved” textbooks that she describes as choosing the “best of the worst”. Change is hard though, and she has had little success in convincing her school board colleagues to seek new textbooks or push back against the state imposition of the standards and curriculum. The issues have moved up in the government food chain and local School Boards can do little given what is mandated at the state level, which in turn is influenced by the education dollars flowing from the federal government.
Quite a few questions led to a lively discussion at the end of the session, with many in the audience having been on the front lines of the common core fight. Identified by some as the villian of the piece, Jeb Bush and his “Excellence in Education” foundation have been a driving force for common core. It was pointed out that many in the legislature, including Rebecca’s husband Senator Joe Negron, have served on Bush’s board, making opposition in Tallahassee an uphill fight.
As many continued the discussion with Mrs. Negron after the session ended, it seemed clear that her assessment of the state of common core does not sit well, and there is much frustration that School Boards in Martin and Palm Beach County are not doing enough to push back against the common core juggernaut.
Pastor Rafael Cruz, father of presidential candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, brought his particular brand of bible driven politics to the PBCTP on Saturday at the library branch in Palm Beach Gardens.
Pastor Cruz was introduced by Kiwi pundit Trever Loudon, who yearned for another Reagan to emerge and save us (“Now have Carter on steroids and need a Reagan on Meth”), and doesn’t think much of some of the choices, such as “illegal immigration is an act of love, common core loving” Jeb Bush. While stopping short of an outright endorsement of Ted Cruz, Loudon made it clear he is a fan, and suggested that Senator Cruz should pre-announce his cabinet selections. (See sidebar).
With an overall theme of the urgency of action leading up to the 2016 election, Pastor Cruz’s remarks were less a campaign speech for Ted Cruz as much as a call to action to save the country from the destroying influences that under the banner of social justice, encourage dependence on government rather than self reliance.
Using Common Core as an example, brainwashing created by the secular humanists with a political agenda, he tied it to the 1934 “Humanist Manifesto” which features situational ethics, values qualification, and the rights of the group over the individual – all concepts in opposition to the values of the founders.
“America is worth saving” he declared. If the most exceptional country on the face of the earth were to succumb, where would people go if freedom is lost?
He recalled the days of the “black robe regiments” when the American Revolution was driven and nurtured from the pulpit all across colonial America. If the evangelical voters stay home next year, as they did in 2012, we will lose. We are on the edge of a precipice in 2016, with a corrupt political establishment and a lack of values in many institutions. Pastors need to stop hiding behind their pulpits and the liberal’s view of separation of church and state, and find the courage to stand up for America.
Although it’s been said before, Pastor Cruz clearly left the audience with the impression that the next election is truly “the most important of your lifetime.”
In a quickly expanding field of GOP Presidential hopefuls, several candidates stand out for what they are not.
Most have been in the political arena for much of their careers and currently are sitting (or former) Governors or Senators, and few of these have made much of a mark in the private sector.
Only two – Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, are known for their accomplishments outside of politics and have not held public office. Carson, a leading neurosurgeon, was inserted into the national psyche when he took on Obama at a national prayer breakfast. Fiorina, well known for being the first woman to lead a Fortune-50 tech company, made an unsuccessful attempt at a Senate seat from California. One of these, Carly Fiorina, visited Palm Beach County on Wednesday and spoke to a good size crowd of party regulars.
Considered a long shot, barely registering in the polls, Ms. Fiorina should not be overlooked. Since her debut on the national stage, she has rained fire on the presumptive Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton, deftly turned the tables on snarky media types like Chuck Todd and Katie Couric, and staked out her own territory in the emerging campaign narratives.
For whatever reason, Clinton is getting a pass from most of the other candidates, in spite of hiding from the press and having new scandals emerge on a regular basis. Carly Fiorina on the other hand, is not shy about pointing out Clinton’s most outrageous failings, from the Benghazi coverup, to the server in her basement, to the “pay to play” aspects of Clinton Foundation slush fund collecting millions from foreign governments as she handed out favors as Secretary of State. Mrs. Clinton will not be able to hide behind the “war on women” shield with this candidate.
Speaking forcefully on the characteristics of leadership and what she can bring to the table, Ms. Fiorina’s themes are compelling.
There is an uneasy feeling in the country she says, that we are losing something precious. The country that has offered the most opportunities to all people, regardless of who you are or where you came from, has lost its way. Oppressive regulations like Dodd-Frank have consolidated the too-big-to-fail banks, while driving smaller regional and community banks out of business. Crony capitalism is alive and well, and only the larger companies have the financial and legal resources to effectively deal with big government. Our foreign policy is in disarray as we curry favors with adversaries like Iran while turning back on our traditional allies like Israel and Egypt.
Carly Fiorina lays out a reasoned case that our government needs change, making the arguments without resorting to red meat and applause lines. Whether her campaign will catch fire is anybody’s guess, but she brings a new perspective and should liven things up as we go forward into the debate season.
Colleges and Universities today are overwhelmingly liberal. They indoctrinate their students and punish conservative thought. They have been like this for many years and we all know it. The old saying that “everyone is a liberal until they start working and paying taxes” is partly because of this academic conditioning, and refusing to be suppressed by it takes courage and determination.
Our speaker at the Boca and Wellington chapter meetings this month, Lauren Cooley, refused to drink the Kool Aid. Now 22, she became an activist while attending Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. As a campus leader of Furman’s Conservative Students for a Better Tomorrow (CSBT), she became nationally known for pointing out the hypocrisy of a school that would deny student credit for a lecture by Anne Coulter (which she organized), but provide it for race baiter and shake-down artist Jesse Jackson (who was lauded as a “historical figure”). At the Jackson event, she distributed a pamphlet listing many of Jackson’s actual quotes that led to a battle with the administration. Attacked by the student paper and her professors, she involved the media in a project to illustrate the curious “qualifications” of those speakers for which credit was granted and for those where it was not, and filed a Title 9 complaint alleging harassment.
Now working as a Florida field coordinator for Chicago based Turning Point USA, she maintains a presence on campus at many South Florida schools, engaging the students to consider conservative points of view. Beginning the conversation with “Big Government Sucks”, or talking about “generational theft”, she presents an alternative to the insidious bias experienced in the classrooms. The organization also distributes a pamphlet to recent high school graduates that gives them a “heads up” as to the political conditioning they can expect when they arrive on campus.
If you would like to learn more about Lauren and her work, you can visit the Turning Point USA website. A 501(c)(3), donations are tax deductible. She also asks that if you know of young people of a conservative bent that would be willing to participate in her campus outreach, to hook them up. Lauren is on twitter @laurenacooley and facebook and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The meeting was held in a new location – the conference room at the recently completed Bethesda Hospital West. Besides use of the room, the hospital graciously provided light refreshments, and a health oriented “goodie bag” for all participants, and their hospitality was well received.
The January meeting of the Jupiter chapter featured Colonel Arthur DeRuve and PBCGOP Chairman Michael Barnett.
Colonel DeRuve, a regular participant at tea party events and other civic groups in the county, gave us an appreciation for veterans and the large role they have played in our history. From those who sacrificed at Valley Forge during the revolution, the early sailors and marines under President Jefferson who triumphed over the Barbary Pirates (“to the shores of Tripoli” – our first encounter with radical Islam), through the War of 1812 against the British, the Civil War, the Spanish American war, through two world wars, the cold war and now the fight against today’s Radical Islam, it is the veteran who deserves the thanks for keeping us strong and free.
The Colonel’s historical narrative also put our battles in an ideological context, defending the cause of liberty against the oppressive “isms” of the past – Fascism, Nazism, Imperialism, Communism, and now Islamism, pointing out that all of today’s opponents with different names – Al Queda, ISIS, Boko Haram …, share a common goal of world domination and the oppression of freedoms everywhere.
Mel Grossman, Birthday Boy
The new chairman of the Republican Party of Palm Beach, Michael Barnett, no stranger to the tea party, gave an optimistic assessment of a future where grass roots preparedness will be a key goal. Pointing out the tea party roots of the new county GOP board (including Pam Wohlshlegel and Calvin Turnquest), and the new RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, Michael made it clear that the party belongs to the rank and file, and the elected officials (including the Governor in the case of the RPOF election) don’t always get their way.
Also at the meeting were possible future congressional candidate Carla Spaulding, and the Martin County GOP Chair Don Pickard.
The day of the meeting also coincided with two special occasions – Ground Hog Day, in which we learn that the rest of the country will suffer through another 6 weeks of ice and cold, and the birthday of President Mel Grossman, who didn’t want a cake but got one anyway.
“I am a Frederick Douglass Republican” – thus begins K. Carl Smith’s method for penetrating the walls that separate conservatives from minority voters.
On the premise that many minority families hold conservative values (eg. school choice, life, self reliance) and have much in common with us, yet are conditioned by upbringing and / or liberal propaganda to reject conservative thought, Mr. Smith explained how for many, “Republican”, or “Conservative” means “Racist”. Starting from that perspective, it is no wonder that “outreach” efforts are difficult.
In order to “retake control of the narrative” with Black and Hispanic constituencies from the liberal media and the Democrat party, we must expose their ongoing practice of rewriting history and routine accusations of racism against any who oppose them. Example: Lincoln (a Republican) ended slavery, and was opposed by the Democrats who were invested in it, yet the DNC website claims that “Democrats have been the champion of civil rights for 200 years!”
Frederick Douglass, a Black contemporary of Lincoln, has said “The best representation of slavery in politics is the Democrat Party”. He was a strong supporter of the Constitution, life, the limited power of government, and personal responsibility. By identifying with Douglass, in K. Carl Smith’s view, we can begin to explain that conservative principles are color blind, and knock down the wall that limits dialogue.
Mr. Smith holds seminars on his methods, and has helped local GOP groups do effective outreach, and his lectures at the three PBCTP chapters this month were well received. For more information, check out his book: “Frederick Douglass Republicans: The Movement to Re-Ignite America’s Passion for Liberty”
The United West founder Tom Trento, began his talk by asking Mel to walk to the western door of the meeting room, “you know what to do” he said. Holding the microphone near a speaker playing an air raid siren, 15 seconds went by before he declared “you’re dead”.
Thus he began an exposition of life in Israel under the constant threat of Hamas rockets coming from Gaza. Fifteen seconds is all the time you have to seek shelter when the rockets are incoming and the slow can pay a price.
With charts and maps, he described the types of rockets, the tunnel systems, and the over 70% of Israel which is threatened. Pictures of the multi-millionaire Hamas leaders who live in luxury in Egypt or elsewhere while the war rages Gaza, and excerpts from the Hamas founding principles that proclaim the end of Israel put it all in perspective.
Broadening his discussion beyond Israel, he made a compelling case that the most critical threat to western civilization is not a rising China or re-emergent Russia, but Global Islamic Jihad. Until the leaders of the west realize that we are in a war for which there is no negotiated settlement, the outlook is grim. Current Obama half measures against ISIL and his weak support for Israel are the wrong path, and the next election (2016) may be our last chance to meet the threat.
Also speaking was House district 82 candidate and incumbent MaryLynn Magar. Running in 2012, she found the most pressing issue in the district was jobs – and that has not changed two years later. Holding 2 or three part time jobs and desparately seeking health care for their families, people are struggling, however the administration paints the “progress” of the recovery. In favor of “all of the above” on energy, she supports drilling off the Florida coast, as long as it is far enough off shore to not be visible and interfere with tourism, opposed the medicaid expansion, and is against Common Core and All Aboard Florida.