PART 1 of 3
Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall
August 4, 2013
Mirrored at Western Conservative Summit
GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER OF WISCONSIN
The 4th Annual Western Conservative Summit was called to Order on July 26th at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Denver by John Andrews, director of the Centennial Institute. It was attended by 2,000 people who define themselves as “Conservatives.”
I was surprised at the quality, content and efficiency – especially the size – of the Conference. The Hyatt Regency did a great job hosting the event. It was, generally speaking, one of the best conferences I’ve attended (and I’ve been to a lot of them). The 2013 version of the Summit was attended by many Conservatives from out-of-state (non-Coloradans) and if you’re looking for a great way to spend time next summer, you might want to consider starting a vacation with three days at the Western Conservative Conference and the rest of your available time enjoying the cool mountains and streams of this beautiful state. Contact the Western Conservative Conference and ask to have your name put on their mailing list.
What does that word “Conservative” mean? One thing made itself quite apparent during the three-day event: There are two clearly defined meanings of the word “Conservative.” Governor Scott Walker’s speech on Friday’s opening night was representative of one of those definitions; Senator Ted Cruz of Texas gave a speech on Saturday representative of the other definition. For that reason, I will review those two speeches and write a third article analyzing what was really meant by what was said.
The crowd was large – about 2,000 registered attendees – and the interest in all things Conservative was intense. It was an interesting crowd… pretty evenly split by those who define “Conservative” as “Republican” and those who define it as a philosophy with specific principles of behavior that encompasses the entire social order, not just politics.
To the second group, conservatism is based on three basic elements; 1) America’s founding documents (which guarantee the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and points out that the rights of the people do not come from government and that government works for the people, not the other way around); 2) Truth based on discernable facts (rather than media/political talking points and expert opinions – as in liberal scientists who, until scientific evidence of fraudulent research practices were made public, were adamant that “humans are the primary cause of global warming’); and, 3) the guarantee that the Rule of Law will dominate the social order so that all people have equal access to justice, regardless of race, color, creed, or social status. That is the basis of Conservative principles and philosophy. Democrats (not Liberals, but Democrats) who believe in these things could easily call themselves “Conservative” – and many Republicans who say they are Conservative would fail the definitional test.
As you read the information about two of the four keynote speeches (Friday, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin; Saturday at noon Senator Ted Cruz of Texas; Saturday evening, Governor Mike Huckabee; and Sunday at noon Lt. Col./Congressman Allen West), it should be apparent that the 2016 Republican Primary for President of the United States has begun. In fact a straw poll was taken, asking attendees who they favored for the presidential nomination. One interesting result was that Jeb Bush got one vote. Mike Huckabee got 4 votes.
It was interesting to talk to the people wandering through the various exhibits (which were very well attended). Though all would label themselves “Conservative,” the questions I asked of various people tended to depend on which camp the individual with whom I was speaking felt most comfortable – conservative as defined by the Republican Party, or Conservative as defined by the people (and one thing was very clear at this Conference: the Party is out of touch with the People on this definition).
How did I know which definition of “Conservative” the people with whom I spoke felt best defined them (I spoke with people at random… people I did not know)? First I asked if they would mind answering a question for me for an article I was going to write about the Conference. I told them I didn’t need their name, I just wanted an opinion. If they agreed (and no one turned me down), I asked if they had heard Governor Walker’s speech. If they said “Yes,” I asked if they had heard the speech given by Senator Ted Cruz. If they said “Yes,” I asked which speech they liked best and why.
The answers I got from a couple of dozen people confirmed my own feeling – that there is a split within the Republican Party about the definition of “Conservative.” That “split” is, I believe, clearly exhibited by two of the speeches given at the Summit… the speeches of Governor Walker and Senator Cruz. This article will express Governor Walker’s views of what things interest Conservatives – that was his audience. Article two will express what Senator Ted Cruz believes is of interest to Conservatives. Article three will explain the harbinger of predictable future events based on the differences between the two.
Colorado-born Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker opened the Conference with a speech that gained him numerous standing ovations.
Walker, born November 2nd in Colorado Springs and the son of a pastor, is known for his leadership in education, pension reform and establishing more taxpayer friendly rules of collective bargaining. His leadership style is synonymous with taking on powerful teachers’ and Wisconsin state employee unions… unions and collective bargaining are not highly important issues west of the Mississippi River. They are very important in the east.
Walker has supported family options for educational choice, for example. As it relates to collective bargaining, educational choice, reducing state debt and strong leadership, Walker served as a good opening speaker for a huge dinner crowd that places a high priority on correcting issues of importance to them. Home schooling, for example, is a very important issue in the West (excluding the west coast, collective bargaining is less so).
It is interesting indeed that no speaker who calls him/herself “Conservative” can seem to get through the introductory part of the speech without mentioning when first being impacted by Ronald Reagan. Walker was no exception… but the Reagan quote he gave was better than most: “We must always remember that the States created the federal government, the federal government did not create the states.” He got a standing ovation for that one. Walker pointed out that real reform happens in the states pointing to welfare reform that began in Michigan and Wisconsin in the 1990s. “Today,”, Walker said, “30 states have Republican governors and 27 have Republican majorities in state legislatures.” That being true, shouldn’t we be seeing more change in government policies that are abusive to personal freedom than we are seeing?
Governor Walker pointed to three specific things he felt needed reform, or change at the national level. First, he said, we need to be more optimistic. As an example, Walker pointed to the negative news coming out of Washington, D.C., beginning with fiscal cliffs, debt ceilings, and how sequestration will shut down the federal government and will cause people – like the elderly on Social Security – to lose access to benefits on which they rely to sustain life. Conservative political candidates do not say enough about where we are headed and what we can do, Walker said. And, he said, when they do address such issues, they do it using terminology not easily understood by the public.
Using himself as an example, Governor Walker discussed how his strategy for getting elected was to explain very specific plans for reducing the tax burden on the people of Wisconsin. He told the people how he would attain a balanced budget very quickly if elected to office. He emphasized that he had a specific plan… one he could explain to the people in terms they understood. That strategy got him elected – twice – once in a scheduled general election and once in a recall effort by Progressive Democrats and Union Bosses. He asked the people: “Is it best for us to continue down the road of traditional collective bargaining strategies that have put us in a huge financial hole? Or, it is time for the power of collective bargaining to be put in the hands of the people who are paying its exorbitant costs: The taxpayers?”
“How did that work for the people of Wisconsin?” he asked. “We took a $3.6 billion deficit and turned it into a $1 billion surplus within two years.” That is mighty impressive, regardless of which side of the Conservative fence you call home.
The billion dollar surplus enabled the Walker Administration to expand its education programs throughout the entire state of Wisconsin. The program gave public, charter and home schools more options and better alternatives. He got another standing ovation from the numerous home school parents in attendance.
Walker told Conservative political candidates to talk with voters in more relevant terms, pointing out the differences in the way people versus legislators/bureaucrats talk about problems and goals and objectives. He pointed out that people don’t write him letters saying how sequestration is harming their family. Rather, he said, they want to know how to make schools better for their kids or what can be done to stimulate the economy because ”my neighbor’s been out of work for the past six or seven months.” He strongly suggested that Conservative candidates learn to talk with people rather than to them. Walker is quite good at doing just that.
“We need to go where they (the public) are and not just expect them to come to us. We need to have faith in the common sense of the people to choose what is best for them once they are told the truth about things. Second, we need to explain the issues we support more positively.” I believe he was saying that Republican Conservatives need to stop reacting to Democrat attacks against Conservative issues – to get off of the defense and go on the offense… but to make sure that offense is defined as positively-stated Conservative values that tell people truthfully what their choices really are – and be ready to prove what you’re saying.
Walker recommended that people who are in office learn to be more courageous in choosing the issues on which they will campaign.
Most Americans remember the disgusting scenes of teachers (who should have been in school teaching students but who got phony “sick leave” vouchers so they could spend time shouting obscenities at Governor Walker and his Republican legislators) waving posters and yelling things that set a terrible example for their young students.
Most of us remember the Democrat legislators who ran across the Illinois state line to hide themselves so they could not be called into session to face the problems they had created for taxpayers (who had voted them into office). The result of Democrat/Union behavior? When they tried to get rid of Walker at a recall election, he won by a larger margin than that by which he had won the general election.
Walker suggested that the Conservative message is the message of the people and encouraged those running for office to take that message to where the people were and to stop underestimating the intelligence of the American public. “And we can do that,” he said “because we have truth on our side.”
Governor Walker’s speech was based on his own experiences – and his experiences ring with success in implementing positive change. For example, he pointed to a statistic of which most people around the nation are unaware. Part of the Governor’s education reform package included the removal of tenure for educators in Wisconsin. If a teacher isn’t producing students that can read and write and add and subtract, that teacher can be terminated. Try doing that in any other union-dominated state. That comment got a standing ovation from Conference attendees.
In addition to being optimistic and laying out a clear vision for Conservative programs and in addition to providing a clear and positive explanation of those programs and going to places we usually don’t go to tell our conservative story, Walker told his audience that the most important thing we can do is show people that we have the courage of our convictions.
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In closing, Walker talked about what it was that people really want. He found that out after winning his recall election. It is this: “People want leadership.” He got another standing ovation.
He also talked about how political candidates seem to think the best way to get public support is give-aways -- from food stamps to Obamacare – and there is no doubt there is a very large percentage of Americans to which “free” stuff appeals – “free” meaning it’s paid for by other people, not you. Some people call that “coveting” – Daniel Webster’s Dictionary and the Holy Bible, for example.
Governor Scott Walker represented his state well in the speech given. There are, however, two things that might bite him in a Presidential campaign. I’ll tell you what they are in Article 3… and I’ll tell you who won the straw poll.
© 2013 Marilyn M. Barnewall - All Rights Reserved
Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career in 1956 as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 years (plus) as a banker and bank consultant, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, was U.S. Consulting Editor for Private Banker International (London/Dublin), and other major banking industry publications. She has written seven non-fiction books about banking and taught private banking at Colorado University for the American Bankers Association. She has authored seven banking books, one dog book, and two works of fiction (about banking, of course). She has served on numerous Boards in her community.
Barnewall is the former editor of The National Peace Officer Magazine and as a journalist has written guest editorials for the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Newsweek, among others. On the Internet, she has written for News With Views, World Net Daily, Canada Free Press, Christian Business Daily, Business Reform, and others. She has been quoted in Time, Forbes, Wall Street Journal and other national and international publications. She can be found in Who's Who in America, Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Finance and Business, and Who's Who in the World.
Web site: http://marilynwrites.blogspot.com