There’s a huge rift in conservatism these days. On the one hand, you have a faction that looks back in dismay at three losing election cycles and is trying to retool their message in hope for a better outcome in the future. On the other hand, you have a faction too stubborn to abandon their extreme views, not because they necessarily think they can still win elections, but because they don’t want to admit their views were ever that extreme in the first place. Over the weekend, the latter faction showed up in hundreds to the Defending the American Dream Summit put on by Americans for Prosperity.
Mark Block, state director for AfP and board member of the new MacIver Institute, and his mustache, hosted the event. The first speaker was AfP president, Tim Phillips, who like every other speaker had nothing new to offer’cap and trade ‘bad’, drilling for cheap oil ‘good’. He did a canned performance picking out the most outrageous earmarks in the federal budget, which to him included energy, food, and astronomical research. He then went on to say ‘We can do anything in the U.S.’. Anything except study those things which are supported by federal funding I suppose he means.
A few speakers later, Samuel ‘Joe the Plumber’ Wurzelbacher was welcomed with the hysteria you would expect. He took a poke at RNC chairman Michael Steele for making the GOP ‘hip hop’. Then Scott Walker came on stage to huge applause to say exactly what this lot of conservatives wanted to hear: there is nothing wrong with our message. Later Stephen Moore, Wall Street Journal editorial board member and former Club for Growth president, got the crowd fired up with the mere mention of Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and the Washington Post editorial page. He went on to call global warming a huge sham. Again, nothing new here.
Rose Fernandez spoke right after Jim Troupis announced the formation of the MacIver Institute, another free market think tank in Wisconsin. She preached to the choir about school choice to huge applause’suburban Milwaukeeans know their pro school voucher leaders I guess. Fernandez fit right in with rest of the speakers in her desire to tear down Wisconsin’s infrastructure in favor of for-profit corporations.
Later in the event, Randy Koschnick took the stage to do his song and dance about judicial activism to the fire-breathing crowd that wouldn’t know judicial activism if it elected their last president. He also brought up the $30,000 Shirley Abrahamson received from trial lawyers while failing to mention the wad of cash his campaigns have received from attorneys who were on cases before him. Sticking to a flawed message was definitely the theme for the day.
Later I attended a breakout session on the state budget featuring Robin Vos (R), Alberta Darling (R), and Todd Berry of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. Berry was right on message with the other speakers that day who blame everyone who’s in office right now for the recession and forget about who’s been in control when those lines on Berry’s graph started angling downward. I wonder if anyone else in the crowd picked up on the fact that it was then-Gov.Tommy Thompson/Scott McCallum and the conservative assembly who were in office when the trend started to change’judging from the mob calling for Gov. Jim Doyle’s recall, probably not.