The Wall Street Journal’s recent scoring of the 2010 political primary season had its winners (the conservative Club for Growth; Senator Jim DeMint; and Erick Erickson’s RedState.com) and losers (politicians who had changed parties; TARP supporters; the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee; and liberal Democrats.) By good fortune, I spent the past weekend at a gathering of the Red State community in Austin, and have some observations about this driving force of conservative activists.
1. This is the year of the conservative woman. About half of the attendees were women; Nikki Haley of South Carolina was perhaps the speaker with the greatest political upside; a centerpiece video, “Fire From the Heartland“, featured female leaders from Margaret Thatcher to Michelle Bachman and several leaders of the Tea Party movement.
– My premise: Sarah Palin has legitimized pro-life conservative women. Diversity has come to feminism.
– With over 50% of voters being women this is a critical demographic, with younger single women who tend liberal outweighing older married women who tend conservative. But, there are plenty of conservatives.
2. Red State leader (and now CNN contributor) Erick Erickson’s success in identifying and being an early supporter of viable conservative anti-establishment candidates is astounding – Marco Rubio (Florida); Nikki Haley (South Carolina); Rand Paul (Kentucky); Ken Buck (Colorado); Mike Lee (Utah); Joe Miller (Alaska). Also in the cohort, if perhaps less electable, are Sharon Angle (Nevada), and Christine O’Donnell (Delaware.) Thus the Wall Street Journal recognition.
3. The ideology was simple across all Red State speakers – rolling back the scope of the federal government to its constitutional place (as required by the 10th Amendment) and fiscal responsibility. These energized activists did not spend much time on immigration, abortion, terrorism, or anything else that would distract from the central message of this election cycle. There was equal criticism of Bush administration transgressions – the expansion of Medicare, the federal role in education, and earmarks.
4. To liberals, Red State is a real threat – median age perhaps 40; very proficient technically with blogs, videos, Twitter, Facebook, and precinct mapping. Whatever Howard Dean and Barack Obama’s subsequent Organizing for America might have brought technically, these folks have it – along with “citizen expert commentators” on subjects as diverse as the Gulf oil industry, union organizing legislation, and myriad other subjects.
If you haven’t yet, you should attend a Tea Party event to witness the gap between the mainstream media’s depiction of the participants in this movement and the reality.
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