Mark Skoda, one of the organizers of the first-ever national Tea Party convention in Nashville, is no revolutionary. “I get irritated when people say, ‘Let’s take our country back.’ We have a country,” he told one interviewer at the three-day-long gathering earlier this month. “In America, we only have to move the dial a little bit. We’re not off the rails.
On night one of the Conservative Political Action Conference, as George Will entertained GOP mucketymucks in the Marriott Wardman’s cavernous banquet hall, the next generation of Republicans was downstairs, in the basement, enjoying something more hip. Or, at least, Stephen Baldwin’s idea of hip. “I know you don’t hear the word gnarly too much in conservative circles, but you’re gonna start hearing it in the future!” the 44-year-old ex-actor told a crowd of about 200 assembled youths.
Sunday, February 7, 3:28 p.m. Among the convention’s several last-minute saves—opening the conference to media, replacing one speaker who fell ill and another who dropped last minute—was bringing on Andrew Breitbart. Convention spokesman Mark Skoda knew the conservative media mogul through their mutual friend Mike Flynn, who manages the Breitbart site BigGovernment.com, and when Marsha Blackburn and Michele Bachmann backed out, Breitbart swooped in to help. At first, Breitbart himself was just supposed to introduce Sarah Palin. But to no one’s surprise, really, his portfolio grew.
Here's one thing about the Tea Party movement everyone can agree on: It's confusing. With decentralization as a core value, the Tea Party phenomenon can seem like a baffling collection of individuals and organizations, often divided against each other. But with its first national convention now underway in Nashville, and as Tea Party groups gear up for campaigns around the country, it's time we met the movement's main players.
Over the weekend, The Washington Post took a look at how D.C. residents are adapting to a new five-cent tax on plastic bags that went into effect on January 1. It turns out that shoppers are now taking extreme measures to avoid paying that extra nickel—even schlepping groceries in their arms if they didn’t bring a backpack. The fee may drive people crazy, and the Journal may grumble about “bureaucracy,” but it actually seems to work: Stores report giving out half as many bags as they did before they started charging for them.
The senate special election in Massachusetts was, for reasons that have been articulated on this site and others, a complete disaster. The Coakley campaign was hopelessly inept. The White House didn’t step in until too late. An insurgent tea party fringe was too much to beat back. It was also, however, the first electoral test of the operation that’s designed, in part, to overcome these sorts of situations: Organizing for America, the skeleton of Barack Obama’s campaign apparatus that morphed into the Democratic National Committee’s grassroots arm.
On the assumption that a good idea—even one that’s 15 years old—can never be replicated enough, Washington conservatives are hard at work designing knockoffs of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. Three of them, in fact. The options so far: Republican Study Committee: On Wednesday, I reported that Republican Study Committee members have joined with movement conservative groups on a “solutions agenda,” to be released sometime in the coming year.
The closest thing Congress has to its own Tea Party takes place every Wednesday afternoon, in the Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office building.
Oh hey look, the Drudge Report’s front page is trumpeting the news that Cuba’s foreign minister had some harsh words for President Obama over the Copenhagen climate conference. “Cuban official says Obama lied in Copenhagen... 'Imperial, arrogant'...” This is weird on a couple of levels. First, Drudge appears to be bandwagoning on the Castro administration’s condemnation of Obama—anyone’s criticism will do, I suppose, even though Drudge would seem diametrically opposed to Cuba’s belief that global warming is a problem and Obama isn’t doing enough to help poor countries adapt.
Pity Audi: These days, the feds seem to be lavishing most of their attention (and money) on near-bankrupt Detroit automakers, foreign car companies benefitting from cash for clunkers, or upstarts promising newfangled batteries. And that's left Audi straining to attract Washington's attention. So, last year, the 100-year-old German company moved its U.S. corporate headquarters from Detroit to Northern Virginia, started hosting swank policy soirees, and sponsored Obama’s inauguration, the Symphony, the Washington Ideas Festival, and the Redskins. Why so little notice?