Southern Republican Leadership Conference – New Orleans

( – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)

I’m here, reporting a bit for Red Mass Group among a few other outlets, and want to give a small wrap-up from the action so far.

There are a decent spattering of people here, mostly your typical big-dollar GOP types, and if I want any cred as a left-wing journalist I should complain repeatedly about how “white” the audience is, but I’m not.

There is also a strong vendor presence, with a lot of people working business deals on the side.  Three of the national-level vendors I know and spoke with all say they have more business than ever right now, with people running for races across the board.  

Local Congressman Joseph Cao was here, notable for being a relatively liberal Republican, but still the best the GOP will ever get considering it’s New Orleans.  

Liz Cheney spoke, and gave pretty typical GOP talking points.  She got a decent amount of applause and had a few basic themes in her speech.  People come to a ‘conservative’ conference and give pretty bland policy speeches, and then go to primaries and give slightly ‘conservative’ speeches and then campaign for the masses as the bland popular quarterback.  So, everyone followed the same formula as one would expect.

JC Watts also spoke.  What’s interesting about Watts is that he’s generally conservative, though he talked about voting for Obama, even though he’s been out of office for almost a decade.  Watts is pretty unaccomplished outside of football and eight years in Congress, but he has always been, and still oddly is, a party darling.  I’d hate to lay on a bunch of left-wing analysis as it relates to race, but it seems unavoidable here.  

Later, people were falling over themselves to get a picture with Watts.  He received a great deal of applause for pretty boring speech lines, and even his content wasn’t all that conservative.  He talked about putting his kids through college, generic Christian ideas, and fundraising for all-black colleges.

Did I mention the audience was white?

Watts prevails though, and was perhaps the most well-received of all the speakers in the night.  He even had odd lines such as that we shouldn’t oppose healthcare reform until we got healthy, that political opposition and protest was being done incorrectly on the right right now in that it needed to better embrace ‘Christian love’ and also that he was “Republican before he was Republican.”

Watts is lauded and praised because he puts a black face on what are portrayed by the media as exclusively white values.  So the adage goes, that “blacks are conservative on social values” as I’ve been told by others many times, but that racial recruitment doesn’t seem to be paying dividends.  It just seems odd to so aggressively ignore race, but then lie to ourselves in elevating a man… primarily because of his race.  

Newt Gingrich spoke next, and did a decent job avoiding his normal bloviation on various topics.  When not endorsing Hillarycare, Newt runs his own think tank shop of all-newt-ideas, all-the-time.  In case you couldn’t get enough Heritage white papers, Newt has even more ideas to implement for a party completely out of power.  And he expanded on those ideas tonight, though I can’t say there was anything that was particularly exciting.  Newt has become an ideas man without any zest or zealousness to enact the ideas, making the classic center-right conceit that ‘ideas have consequences’, forgetting that they do only when those ideas lead to actions.

As to what actions it might be that will get the victory enabling his solutions, Newt’s answer, other than a future presidential run which he was careful not to disavow, was to say that the Republicans need to win.  He got applause for that line, but probably shouldn’t have, as it’s the same tired nonsensical crap delivered to the grassroots year after year.  The man of ideas seems clueless as to how the GOP can win again, and avoid the mistakes made by the Republican Congress from 94-2006, a topic one would think he could muster an idea about and perhaps have some insight into.

Instead we got to hear about tax policy and healthcare reform.

Talking with the vendors was much more fun, and more enlightening, as I got to hear all the logistics of what different organizations and campaigns have been doing lately.  I’ll tell that story tomorrow or Saturday.

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