Conservative and Tea Party Rallies and Trainings Dominate the Capital: Are Progressives and Liberal Democrats About to Be Out-Organized?
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"We're big fans of what FreedomWorks and AFP are doing," Ralph Reed told me between break-out sessions at his Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, "but they are primarily, if not exclusively, focused on the fiscal and spending issues, which are very important. We're focusing not only on those, but also on the pro-family agenda, and on foreign policy and defense."
And so we have FreedomWorks' 9/12 march kicking off with a "non-denominational" religious service, in deference to Christians who wouldn't dream of marching on Washington on a Sunday without first having attended church. And at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference podium, Ralph Reed seemed to blow a dog whistle to the militia and patriot movements.
Speaking of the rights endowed to man by the Creator in the Declaration of Independence, Reed told his activists, "The Declaration goes on to say that if any government, so organized, should ever violate those God-given rights, namely, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then the people within that commonwealth, the people who have so organized that government, have not only the right, but they have the duty and obligation to overthrow that government by force, if necessary."
He continued, "Now that is a pretty radical idea. I'm not necessarily advocating that this morning, by the way; I'm simply advocating that we go out and vote." He's not necessarily advocating that, but he's not saying he isn't.
The next day, I asked Reed if he was seeking to broaden the circle by using rhetoric that would appeal to the patriot movement.
"Yeah -- I, uh -- what do you mean? I don't know what you mean by the patriot movement," he replied.
I explained that I was referring to the catch-all term used to describe people in or allied with the states' rights and militia movements.
At the mention of the word militia, he interjected, "No."
"I would really consider myself and Faith and Freedom Coalition to be a mainstream, conservative, pro-freedom organization," Reed continued. "If the patriot movement as you're describing it is those things, then no."
At an Americans for Prosperity rally against health care reform last year, Reed told the assembled activists, "Our right to protest has been purchased with the blood of patriots who paid the ultimate price so that we could be free men and women and have the ability to petition our government." The "blood of patriots" phrase is part of a famous line from Thomas Jefferson that is a favorite of patriot movement members: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
Focused on All Things Obama
Gobsmacked by the fact of Obama's election, the right finds its rallying point in the Obama presidency, and its organizing model in his presidential campaign. While the 9/12 march was meant to focus on the congressional elections, the signs held by protesters more often referenced Obama -- as tyrant, Marxist or stupid guy -- than Congress or its leaders.
At the FreedomWorks blogger party, reporter and blogger Robert Stacy McCain spoke to me in awe at the ground operation he saw in place in the 2008 election in, of all places, West Virginia. McCain -- a distant cousin of the former presidential candidate who actually goes by the moniker "the other McCain" -- is one of the right-wing blogosphere's great characters. With the face of a Buckley and the twang of a country-music star, McCain is a man of broad gestures and frenetic energy. At an Obama campaign office in West Virginia, he said, he saw Obama volunteers instructed to go through the contact lists in their own cell phones to locate people in key areas whom they would call to get out the vote. Calls from someone a voter knows are likely to get answered. This peer-to-peer organizing, McCain thought, made all the difference.