Politics: September 2010 Archives

While the Republican Party has a quadrennial convention, which not only conducts the official business of the party but provides a networking opportunity for activists, elected officials, bloggers, consultants and others connected with the conservative movement, many conservative non-profit groups hold events every year that allow the networking to continue between Republican National Conventions. CPAC is the oldest such conference, but many more have sprung up in recent years, each with its own focus and target audience, but with considerable overlap.

Last weekend, for the first time ever, I attended a national event targeting conservative activists -- BlogCon 2010, sponsored by FreedomWorks. It was wonderful to meet political bloggers from all over the country, the conference panels were full of interesting and valuable information, and the social events were great fun. I don't recall hearing a word of grumbling about the weekend from anyone.

Some of the bloggers at BlogCon have attended many of these other conservative conferences. Many of them were at Red State Gathering in Austin this weekend. Others stayed in Washington for Values Voter Summit or went to Chicago for Right Nation. Many were at Right Online in July and plan to be at CPAC next February.

As a way of keeping all these different events straight, I've put together a list of national conservative events that have occurred or are scheduled for 2010. Let me know if there are any that I've missed.

Each item in the list includes dates, conference name (with link if available), location, and sponsoring organization. Where appropriate, I may add a summary of the conference's target audience and emphasis.

More video from the 9/12 March on Washington, this time from the rally point at the beginning of the march, northeast of the Washington Monument.

Stand-up comic Stephen Kruiser is a blogger, has appeared on Fox News "Red Eye," has a show called "Kruiser Control" on PJTV.com, writes for Big Hollywood and Big Journalism, and performs in military outposts around the world with Armed Forces Entertainment. He's also a conservative activist, helping to organize Tea Party events in Los Angeles and participating in events like Right Online, BlogCon, and the 9/12 March. He's on Twitter, too, and he and Melissa Clouthier led a BlogCon session on how to make the best use of Twitter.

Here's Stephen Kruiser's talk to the Tea Party activists gathered to march in support of limited government, and his theme comes from a Thomas Jefferson quote: "I own that I am not a friend to an energetic government. It is always oppressive." Our job, he said, is to be the Government's Xanax. We're also here "to make sure the Federal behemoth doesn't get any fatter."

If you're a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, there's a bit you'll especially enjoy about 5 minutes in.

(NOTE: All the videos I've posted of the march were taken by me with a Flip camera. FreedomWorks loaned several out to BlogCon bloggers to help us cover the event. This was only the second video I took, and you can tell I'm still getting used to it.)

Thanks to FreedomWorks, I had a press pass to the 9/12 March on Washington and accordingly had access to the speakers' waiting area on the north side of the stage. I took the opportunity to talk to one of the people wearing a "Speaker" badge. His name is Bob MacGuffie, and he's a leader of the Tea Party movement in Connecticut, heading a group called Right Principles. He talked about the progress that they've already made -- Chris Dodd has been dumped -- and the ongoing project of making principled conservatism welcome again in the hierarchy of the Connecticut Republican Party.

To be effective in shaping the party you have to know the nuts and bolts of party organization. If you don't like the way the Republican Party is, you can, with diligence, help to shape what it will become.

As quickly as I can, I'll be posting the video I took at Sunday's 9/12 March on Washington. Here's the first.

I caught up with this lady, Gail Champion from Ohio, as we were about halfway along Pennsylvania Ave. What caught my attention in the first place -- and you can't see this in the video -- is that she was using a walker. That is dedication, and it makes her intention to delay retirement, in order to avoid adding to the unpayable burden of Social Security, all the more impressive.

She told me that she came to Washington "to restore the Constitution and to restore our country to the people." She has been involved in activism for only about a year, when she joined up with the 9/12 movement. I asked what motivated her to get involved:

The fact that as citizens we weren't being represented by our so called representative, that they are ignoring us and are more focused on staying in power than doing what's right for the country.

More of her comments:

For me it's not a party thing. I want to see term limits. I really want us to be represented again. We need to clean house, we need to face our debt, and that's going to be horrible....

We need to change Social Security. I'm 64 and unfortunately next year I have no option but to go on Medicare. My so-called retirement date is 67; I've already made a personal pledge not to retire until 70; later or never if I can manage it financially, because they lied to us, we know they lied to us, and at some point we need to suck it up and be like our parents and save our nation....

There's a very popular saying now. "Pull on your big girl panties and just deal with it." That's what we need to do.

Just a quick note to mention that I'll be at the 9/12 March on Washington this afternoon, along with many of the other BlogCon attendees. You can read live updates on the BatesLine Twitter feed and by searching for the hashtag #912dc. A number of us will be shooting video as well, but look for that later in the day.

The first ever BlogCon, sponsored by FreedomWorks, has been a huge success. FreedomWorks new media director Tabitha Hale put together an event that was fun and highly worthwhile. On Thursday, bloggers had a chance to get face to face with congressional staffers -- how they can do a better job of working with us, which begins with understanding how we differ from traditional media.

Friday was packed with excellent seminars, many of which were more technological than political -- for example, how to make more effective use of Twitter, the role of humor in blogging, and the amazing capabilities of WordPress and its many plugins. (I'm now very tempted to switch, and it appears there's a plugin that makes it possible to migrate without breaking old links.) Matt Kibbe delivered an informative lunchtime lecture on Austrian economics. The day was capped off with a left-right debate at the Newseum.

Saturday morning we got a bit of a respite, which I used to visit some nearby friends who have a brand new baby. In the afternoon, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and FreedomWorks head Matt Kibbe held a book signing for their new book Give Us Liberty. That evening a bunch of us attended the premiere of a new movie by Citizens United and Newt Gingrich called "America at Risk: The War with No Name." All of us bloggers were badly underdressed for what turned out to be a gala occasion. The film was introduced by Citizens United head David Bossie and Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista.

Every evening has concluded with informal socializing, a great opportunity to connect faces and real-life personalities with Twitter handles. Among many memorable conversations, my favorite may be talking to Iowahawk, who digs Tulsa and mid-century modern architecture.

You can get a sense of the event by looking at the Twitter hashtag #blogcon.

In the current issue of National Review, the conservative magazine's editorial board sets out the case for marriage as it has traditionally been defined, a definition that has been reaffirmed repeatedly by Congress, legislatures, and the voting public from coast to coast.

If you are a conservative, you need to study this article and fully digest it. National Review has done a great service with this piece, equipping conservative elected officials, activists, writers, and voters with sound argument to back up the conservative intuition against proposals to alter radically the institution of marriage. One of the challenges of conservatism is that you are called upon to defend ideas and customs that are long-established and were once universally accepted. When a radical idea like same-sex marriage is no longer immediately derided as a crackpot notion, conservatives need to prepare themselves to argue from first principles.

We think that there is quite a bit to be said for [marriage]: that it is true, vitally true. But it is a truth so long accepted that it is no longer well understood. Both the fact that we are debating same-sex marriage and the way that debate has progressed suggest that many of us have lost sight of why marriage exists in the first place as a social institution and a matter of public policy.

The editorial sets out the reason government is involved in marriage at all:

So at the risk of awkwardness, we must talk about the facts of life. It is true that marriage is, in part, an emotional union, and it is also true that spouses often take care of each other and thereby reduce the caregiving burden on other people. But neither of these truths is the fundamental reason for marriage. The reason marriage exists is that the sexual intercourse of men and women regularly produces children. If it did not produce children, neither society nor the government would have much reason, let alone a valid reason, to regulate people's emotional unions. (The government does not regulate non-marital friendships, no matter how intense they are.) If mutual caregiving were the purpose of marriage, there would be no reason to exclude adult incestuous unions from marriage. What the institution and policy of marriage aims to regulate is sex, not love or commitment. These days, marriage regulates sex (to the extent it does regulate it) in a wholly non-coercive manner, sex outside of marriage no longer being a crime.

Marriage exists, in other words, to solve a problem that arises from sex between men and women but not from sex between partners of the same gender: what to do about its generativity. It has always been the union of a man and a woman (even in polygamous marriages in which a spouse has a marriage with each of two or more persons of the opposite sex) for the same reason that there are two sexes: It takes one of each type in our species to perform the act that produces children. That does not mean that marriage is worthwhile only insofar as it yields children. (The law has never taken that view.) But the institution is oriented toward child-rearing. (The law has taken exactly that view.) What a healthy marriage culture does is encourage adults to arrange their lives so that as many children as possible are raised and nurtured by their biological parents in a common household.

The article addresses the distinction between bans on interracial marriage and affirmations of the traditional definition of marriage, and it addresses the oft-stated objection that childless couples are allowed to marry:

Some couples that believe themselves to be infertile (or even intend not to have children) end up having children. Government could not filter out those marriage applicants who are certain not to be able to have children without extreme intrusiveness.

I appreciated this point, too, which echoes a discussion we had in the comments here:

Same-sex marriage would introduce a new, less justifiable distinction into the law. This new version of marriage would exclude pairs of people who qualify for it in every way except for their lack of a sexual relationship. Elderly brothers who take care of each other; two friends who share a house and bills and even help raise a child after one loses a spouse: Why shouldn't their relationships, too, be recognized by the government? The traditional conception of marriage holds that however valuable those relationships may be, the fact that they are not oriented toward procreation makes them non-marital. (Note that this is true even if those relationships involve caring for children: We do not treat a grandmother and widowed daughter raising a child together as married because their relationship is not part of an institution oriented toward procreation.) On what possible basis can the revisionists' conception of marriage justify discriminating against couples simply because they do not have sex?

Read the whole thing and arm yourself to make a stronger defense of the societal benefits and rationale behind the government recognition of marriage, as traditionally understood.

Many of my fellow conservative bloggers have been beating the drum loudly in opposition to proposals for "Net Neutrality." I can understand their skepticism -- truth-in-labeling laws don't apply to legislation and net neutrality is no more likely to be about neutral handling of internet data than NAFTA is a simple declaration of free trade between the U. S., Canada, and Mexico. Special provisions and sneaky codicils find their way into what should be a simple expression of a simple idea. I wouldn't be shocked if a Democrat net neutrality proposal in fact imposed net bias through some obscure amendment passed in the dead of night.

Nevertheless, the concept of net neutrality is not one that conservatives should dismiss out of hand. This concept is not a Fairness Doctrine for the internet that would require every website to provide equal time for every point of view. It is the simple notion that packets should be routed by the backbone and by ISPs without regard to the contents, source, or destination, in the same way that the phone company connects calls and the postal service delivers mail. Only in a case of abuse (e.g., denial-of-service attack) should the ISP care about what data is going where.

It's a mistake to think about this issue in terms of the free market. There are high barriers to entry to the ISP market; one of the biggest is getting local government permission to run your cables or build your towers on, over, or under their property. Where I live, we have two choices -- the phone company and the cable company. If both providers choose to allow their customers access only to a limited number of "partner" websites (imposing the cable TV tiering model on the internet), I wouldn't have any alternatives, and it might mean I could no longer read my favorite conservative bloggers and news sites.

An internet that routes data without discriminating based on content, source, or destination is what we have now, for the most part. There is now a low barrier to entry to publish your information and make it available for the world to see. If ISPs begin to discriminate in favor of certain sites, it may mean bloggers would have to pay a high fee to each ISP to gain access to those customers. You might also see ISPs pressured by the usual suspects on the left to cut off access to conservative websites.

(To the argument that ISPs aren't engaged in this kind of discrimination yet: I don't think they will until they feel comfortable that net neutrality is dead and buried. If they were to begin now, it would build popular support for net neutrality.)

The future of the internet as a medium for free speech and public accountability needs true net neutrality -- an internet infrastructure that passes data along without regard to content, source, or destination.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from September 2010.

Politics: August 2010 is the previous archive.

Politics: October 2010 is the next archive.

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