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Scott Ott


August 13, 2014 - 8:37 am

“In Texas, gun control means hittin’ what you’re aimin’ at.”
— Sen. Ted Cruz

That reliable applause line was one of many that fired up an audience of more than 400 who came from around the country to hear, meet and question heroes of the conservative movement like Sen. Cruz, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and many less-known leaders. If the reaction from the faithful was any indication, most speakers hit what they were aiming’ at.

PJ Media, along with Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks and others, helped to sponsor the event, organized by Eric Erickson’s I attended the sessions, interviewed participants, and consumed Texas-sized portions of barbecue. It was a weekend full of laughter, enthusiasm, and serious discussion of issues and values.

It may sound antiquarian or naive, but the annual event shows that there are still a lot of people who harbor a deep love for this country, for her Constitution and for the values that make America great.

Jim Pinnell, a retired financial advisor from nearby Fairview, Texas, probably best summarized why folks spend the time and money to come to RedState Gathering:

“These people care,” Pinnell told me. “Many of us were former Republicans. I think deep down we’re all conservatives. We’re all Constitutional conservatives. We believe in this country. We believe in the rule of law and freedom. And these people preach it and live it.”

Of course, the speculation about the next presidential cycle never stops, and Red Staters had a rich menu of options set before them.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, evangelist of red state principles, enthused about the policies he claims make the big state great — a magnet for business, a factory for jobs, a farmland of opportunity and a refuge for anyone who relishes the sweet aroma of freedom.

Sen. Ted Cruz encouraged brow-beaten conservatives with the “seven victories” he says they’ve achieved.

Cruz, whose Cuban-born father fought in the revolution and was imprisoned and tortured before fleeing penniless to Texas in 1957, spoke eloquently of his personal visit to McAllen, Texas, a border town that has become a way-station for unaccompanied minors headed north. He said that young immigrants are flooding across our Southern border because they all believe they’ll get un permiso, and amnesty. It’s a lie that has cost untold lives. The House has passed legislation to block that practice, Cruz said, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refuses to let the Senate take up the measure for debate (along with 350-some other House-passed bills that languish in Senate Democrat purgatory).

“Let’s compare what we’ve got here,” Cruz said. “We’ve got one body — the Republicans in the House standing up and leading and trying to fix the [immigration] problem — and you have another body, Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats, engaged in naked obstruction. That clarifies it. Are we going to pass this legislation this year with Harry Reid? No. But the lines have been made very clear for voters in November.”

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley made Red Staters remember what a chief executive officer looks like, as she laid out how Republican principles have become practice in the Palmetto State, resulting in more jobs, less unemployment, and a sapping away of job-killing labor union power. But perhaps her biggest challenge comes from within the party.

“I have a Republican House and a Republican Senate,” Haley said, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have a Republican State. And I will tell you than I want a conservative House and a conservative Senate, and we’ve had to fight very hard for that.”

Red State’s “top of the batting order” was powerful, but the way Erick Erickson rounded out the line-up with rising stars engendered even greater hope, because conservatives could see that the bench is deep.

Texas Rep. Scott Turner, candidate for House speaker, turned the talk of his home state’s goodness toward a call to greatness, eschewing the complacency that can settle on a party which owns all of the statewide offices, and controls the legislature. I spoke with Turner one-on-one after his speech, specifically about education and healthcare, and noted his distinctive ability to speak without hackneyed buzzwords about the potential for greatness among inner-city kids now trapped in failing schools merely because they live in the wrong zip code.

“These kids have a mental capacity, literally, to change the world, if given the opportunity,” Turner told me. “I believe — because education was very important to me growing up — I believe that if we give these children and parents the opportunities to expand beyond just a zip code, that we will see a tremendous change in the education system. Because competition always [brings out] the best in everyone and everything.”

Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general seeking to succeed Perry as governor, noted that he’s the only candidate who truly has a “spine of steel.” He gets around in a wheelchair, three decades after a falling tree snapped his back. Surgeons implanted steel pins to put him back together, but it’s more than a metaphor for Abbott, who has sued the Obama administration some 30 times.

He started his platform remarks with taxes.

“The time has come to return tax dollars to taxpayers,” Abbott said, to vigorous applause. Texas already has no state income tax, and Abbott called for elimination of the business franchise tax.

He also turned a liberal rallying cry — “It’s for the children” — into an irrefutable common sense call for the protection of human life.

“In order for a child to have a chance IN life, he first must have a chance AT life,” Abbott said. It’s a strong message as he runs against the Planned Parenthood darling, Wendy Davis, facetiously called by some Red Staters, “Abortion Barbie.”

Konni Burton, candidate for Wendy Davis’ old state Senate seat, lives out the story of a grassroots activist who, by staying grounded, won double-digit victories in her primary and run-off elections. She urges the party to avoid nominating pretty faces with pretty phrases, but to look among the hard workers laboring in the trenches to find new candidates. Test their mettle, she seems to say, before you let them wear your mantle.

“I was from the grassroots,” Burton told me. “The minute I announced, the amount of support was phenomenal, because these were people that knew me. We had all been working together — good old fashioned boots-on-the-ground, knocking on doors, talking to neighbors about other candidates.”

Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine spoke with a sincerity grounded in principle, and informed by intense study,  about the threats that face our country…and the audience loved him for it.

Matt Kibbe, of FreedomWorks, encouraged the crowd of liberty-lovers that “there’s a lot more of us than there are of them,” and the “disintermediation” of news and information has brought that fact to the surface for all to see. He delivered a call to work together around shared values.

“I don’t really care what the brand is, but the values bind us together,” Kibbe said. “And by the way, those values didn’t come from Washington D.C., they didn’t come from FreedomWorks. To be honest with you, I stole them from your Mom, and she stole them from her Mom, who probably stole them from church on Sunday, right?

In the hallway, before his speech, I asked Kibbe if liberty-loving folks should feel obligated to back establishment Republicans who beat so-called Tea Party candidates in the primary.

“Well, it’s interesting, because historically in ’10 and ’12 and in ’14 it’s always been the establishment candidate that bolts the party when they lose the primary,” Kibbe said. “Lisa Murkowski did it in Alaska. Of course, Charlie Crist did it in Florida. Arlen Specter did it in Pennsylvania. So it does seem like there are two sets of rules, and we’re constantly being brow-beat to fall in line and support the Republican candidate. I suspect that in Mississippi, regardless of what you and I think, a lot of activists will not vote for Thad Cochran because of the tactics they used. It’s one thing to fight a tough primary, and I think we’ve always been willing to support a candidate that wins a fair primary, but that wasn’t fair. They stole it and they did it with some pretty underhanded tactics.”

A few days at RedState Gathering made at least one thing clear.

As conservatives continue to shift their financial allegiance from the Republican Party to candidates and independent PACs, the RNC and state GOP committees will have to adapt, either by marginalizing the conservatives and building a “moderate” base — an ill-advised move that could wind up marginalizing the party — or by staying out of the in-house debate (and the primaries) completely, to focus on fundraising, database management for nominees, and organizing the quadrennial convention event. The latter is a technocratic solution that ends in a party that’s a mere administrative back-shop for activists and candidates…not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s already a thriving cottage industry of private businesses that do it better.

Of course, there’s a third option: The RNC could embrace Republican principles, recruit freedom-loving Constitutional candidates, draw clear distinctions with Democrats, and thus rally a quiescent base yearning to hear the song of liberty again.

Last weekend in Ft. Worth, that song came to full-throated crescendo at RedState Gathering.

Scott Ott co-hosts a news, commentary and humor show called Trifecta on PJTV. He created and hosted the 20-part series on the Constitution titled Freedom's Charter. His satire site, ScrappleFace, spawned three books and praise from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and many others.

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All Comments   (10)
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The Republicans should get a guy who is cool, handsome, an athlete and a true man's man who is into audacity, hope and transparency. That's the ticket. The Democrats are looking for Barry, Jr and when they find him
Hillary will be toast once again. The Republicans may just screw themselves
out of an easy victory by pushing Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney.
We need new blood, Cruz, Perry, Herman Cain, Scott Walker. The bench is deep but not for Rove and his fellow spoilers.

28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Love the Cruz speech. What a guy.

28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Cruz, whose Cuban-born father was tortured in a communist prison and who escaped penniless to Texas in 1957....

I'm rather fond of Ted Cruz but this sentence is flat out untrue as written. Cuba didn't go communist until 1959 so there were no communist prisons in Cuba in 1957; Batista was still in power in 1957. Now, Batista was a thug but he was not a Communist; his prisons were apparently a lot softer than what they became under the Castros. Fidel apparently had a rather comfortable time when he was in one of Batista's prisons and was allowed to wear any clothes he liked and do what he wanted with his time - mostly reading - as a self-declared political prisoner. If Cruz's father really was in prison in 1957 and not, say, 1967, then he shouldn't have had too tough a time of it.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
The communist reference was my misreading of the Cruz bio, Sparky. Thanks for the correction. However, according to Cruz's Senate website, his father was indeed "tortured."
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
If Cruz's father fought in the revolution -- I assume this was Castro's multiyear effort to overthrow Batista, not some other revolution - it's very possible that he was tortured and eventually found an opportunity to flee for Texas in 1957. However, this raises a very disturbing question: he was in a Batista-administration prison so why was he tortured? Was it because Cruz Sr. was a Communist fighting on Castro's side? Or was there some other reason he was imprisoned and tortured?

I regret raising this question - I really do - but I can't be the only person who knows a little bit about Cuban history. There have to be Leftists who can see the implications too. If Cruz's background story has a skeleton in it somewhere, isn't it better to know now? Or would we prefer that it come out in late October 2016 when Cruz might be hovering on the edge of a narrow victory?

Imagine the spin they could put on the story: Cruz's father was a Communist who fled to America and raised his son to look and act the part of a conservative to get elected, then was programmed to turn Hard Left. Or something like that anyway. A lot of folks who post at PJM feel that Obama was tailored from birth for a high role in government as a cloaked Marxist. What if Cruz is the same, but masquerading as a fire-breathing conservative?

I really want to believe Cruz is what he says he is and believes the things he claims to believe but this issue demands further exploration. He may have very different views than his father - many children consciously deviate strongly from their parents politics - but shouldn't we know what his father's politics where when Cruz was growing up? It doesn't mean Cruz adopted those views but it could tell us something significant about his beliefs and how he came by them.....
(show less)
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ted Cruz's dad is a cool guy, have seen him speaking a few times on behalf of his son.

Whatever he was or wasn't in Cuba doesn't impinge on his son's integrity one iota.

This country desperately needs someone of Cruz's courage, integrity and intelligence, the infamous Alan Derschowitz observed that T. Cruz was "drop dead brilliant" when they were both at Harvard.

In the political class of this country, he is stand alone, and we're lucky he is who he is and does what he does.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
This all sounds good and wonderful... But the GOP establishment is taking a dive in 2016. Mark these words please. THE GOP IS TAKING A DIVE!!!
Just like in 2008.
Remember McCain? ZERO SEX APPEAL! NEGATIVE SEX APPEAL! The electorate is 51% women and the GOP nominates McCain. That's a Dive! That was the GOP establishment trying to elect Hillary.
In 2016, look at the line up:
THAD COCHRAN - does he even have a pulse?,
LAMAR ALEXANDER - Hey Ladies! Get a load of him. Whooeee!,
Republicans are not going to win the Senate. Period. And the GOP establishment planned it thusly.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
So we should choose candidates on the basis of sex appeal ?

Although I do share your dismay at entrenched Congressional lifers getting re-selected in their respective states. They don't seem to understand, or don't care, that the health of the republic depends on new blood.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I mistakenly wrote 2016 when I meant 2014. And renominating old, ugly, hide bound, senile, gaseous, Washingtonians, such as the ones mentioned in my first comment, is no way to sway the popular vote.
And whether or not we should choose candidates on the basis of sex appeal is a moot question. A jury, or an electorate, dominated by women will choose an OJ over a Marcia Clark, and an Obama over a John McCain, every time. The women demographic is not especially an intelligent one. There are very intelligent women, but not so many that the voting bloc is going to vote rationally.
In 2008, McCain was put up so that Hillary Clinton could win the Presidency. McCain was the worst possible candidate; he had no appeal with conservative and no sex appeal. Unfortunately for Clinton, Barack Obama, backed by David Geffen and his Hollywood crowd, came along and took the nomination. And the rest is history.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
You do wonder, in very low approval Congress & people complaining about old entrenched fossils...and then the voters re-nominate the very people they complain about.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
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