780 conservatives attended the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in Harrisburg on April 8th and 9th –the highest attendance ever, to date. The current turbulent political atmosphere no doubt had a great deal to do with the size of the crowd. 36 of those attendees were Berks County Patriots, including all of the officers and most of the board members.
Speeches and panels with notables such as John Fund of the Wall St. Journal and Fox News Channel contributor Charles Krauthammer, were part at this year’s function. Many of the speakers and attendees would have been very familiar to our Berks County Patriot audience. In fact, your intrepid reporter counted at least ten well-known figures there who have been featured speakers at our meeting in the past sixteen months. Unfortunately, 2012 presidential hopeful Herman Cain was unable to attend as planned, due to a transportation snafu.
Krauthammer was in top form, and his amazing mind was on display, as he spoke for almost two straight hours without notes, barely pausing to catch his breath. He reviewed the history of President Obama’s career, from candidate to today, pausing only to insert a bon mot here and there. Krauthammer emphasized the foolishness of underestimating this president, saying that Obama is an astute political animal with terrific skills.
At the time of Mr. K’s speech, we were only an hour from the announcement of a compromise between Republicans and Democrats over a continuing resolution, which some feared might end in a government shutdown. Krauthammer recommended that John Boehner not push the envelope and risk offending public opinion, describing this as a sideshow to the main event—the upcoming 2012 presidential election. Interestingly, Mr. K feels that Obama doesn’t hate America, but is a “social democrat” who envisions a European-type cradle-to-grave welfare society for our nation. (Editor’s note: I disagree. I believe our president has only scorn for America’s world leadership, and for traditional American values. Also, I have not forgiven Krauthammer’s criticism of Delaware Republican senatorial candidate Christy O’Donnell on national TV on election night, 2010. He did refer to that incident, saying, “You wouldn’t believe the mail I got over that!” However he expressed no regret, and no apology was forthcoming.)
Mark Block, a spokesman for Herman Cain, addressed the audience on behalf of that candidate, saying, “In all my years of political activism, I’ve never seen anything to compare to the tea party movement. The left has nothing to compare to it.” Block said the movement is so deep that we won’t really understand it until the history books are written. He cited, as an example of tea party influence, the recent re-election victory of Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Proesser.
One of the more contentious events was a panel set up to discuss SB-1—the school choice legislation pending in the Pennsylvania Senate—which many conservatives view as just another income redistribution scheme to funnel taxpayer dollars to residents of Philadelphia. Several audience members were very outspoken in pointing out the deck was stacked against them in that no one holding that opinion was allowed to participate in the panel. PA State Senator Jeff Picola, a member of the panel, noted that this is just a first step, and that this bill is the best that we can hope to pass at this time.
Tea parties were very much in the limelight at the conference. Sam DeMarco, of Veterans and Patriots United, felt that, “If we succeed in taking back our country, it will be because of tea party activism.” DeMarco also stated that, “Endorsing candidates is the surest way to divide the tea party movement.” Kim Schmitner of Lehigh Valley 912 Tea Party Group agreed. “We don’t endorse anyone, or tell our members whom to vote for. We’re trying to encourage independence, for people to make up their own minds. We’re not a political party. We endorse values and principles, not candidates!”
The Pennsylvania Leadership Conference is always a great opportunity to network with other tea party groups, politicians, and political activists of all stripes. If you didn’t make it this year, I’d recommend putting it on your calendar for next year. You’ll probably be glad you did.
Berks County Patriots