The Battle for America 2010: In Maryland, Is the Left Emboldened or Afraid?
While those on the liberal side of the political equation had a difficult time last weekend drumming up support for their cause -- even with the prospect of a free bus trip to Washington, D.C., and a box lunch courtesy of Big Labor -- a small protest at a rural Maryland Americans for Prosperity rally could be a harbinger of things to come as the left gets more desperate.
Maryland's Eastern Shore is best known as the home of Perdue chicken. But it's also ground zero in a rematch between freshman Democratic Congressman Frank Kratovil and his Republican opponent, state Senator Andy Harris. In 2008, Kratovil won by a plurality of less than 3,000 votes out of 360,000 cast (a Libertarian candidate took just over 2 percent), and chances are the second battle could be as close as the first. While the district was one of the areas in Maryland carried by John McCain, Kratovil prevailed by stressing his “independent, conservative” values and garnering the endorsement of outgoing Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, whom Harris defeated in a bitter GOP primary.
But the reality of Kratovil voting for the stimulus bill and cap and trade angered a number of his constituents to the point of contentious townhall meetings and his being hung in effigy. This year Kratovil has shied away from public events and, sensing his vulnerability, last Thursday the national chapter of Americans for Prosperity scheduled its only Maryland visit for the “November is Coming” bus tour at a stop just outside of Salisbury. Here's part of what happened as the rally got underway.
The chicken suit man, dubbed the "Offshore Bird" as an obscure way to say something lame about outsourcing jobs, is a liberal with another operative, who as we'll discuss in a moment is well known to Maryland Democrats. Certainly the counter-protest was a surprise and shock to those at the meeting, which drew about 60 people even though it was a midday event forced inside due to weather. Andrew Langer, who heads the Washington-based small business advocacy group Institute for Liberty and was a featured speaker for the event, stated that “as a rule, I have no problem with infiltrators, counter-protestors, or anyone (who) comes from a left-leaning persuasion showing up at Tea Party events. ... I generally thank them for coming and invite them to engage in respectful discussion. Though I've been at events where their manufactured opposition had shown up, I've never actually engaged directly with the astroturf, and hadn't seen it so blatant until this event.” This came from a man who spoke at last year's 9-12 rally in Washington.
Added local radio host Duke Brooks, the other featured guest: “Since the leftists ... know for a fact that they can't win in the open marketplace of ideas, and they have lost on the issues, their only recourse is to 'Pearl Harbor' people like AFP and try to get some camera time.”
That's exactly what they did, although in this case they may have been disappointed because the only media that showed up for the event were a couple of local bloggers. The even worse news is that I was one of them.
Leading the counter-protest was a local left-wing activist by the name of Chuck Cook, who bills himself as a field organizer for the Maryland Democratic Party. He was running the "Offshore Bird" show; his presence put the state Democratic Party directly into AFP's event. As you can see in the video, Cook was recording the event as it went down, as were some of the AFP members. Presumably he intended to disrupt AFP's event and then post it to YouTube for the world to see. And as we'll see in a moment, his plan may have had other state Democratic Party involvement.