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The AFP Summit - Some thoughts
Posted by: Bryan Pick on Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Just got back from the Americans for Prosperity summit. My immediate reaction is that there ought to be more to it than enter-listen-leave. You have a room full of hundreds of like-minded individuals who all paid to be there on a Wednesday afternoon; don't just march them in, seat ten at a table, and speechify at them until it's time to march them all back out. Provide for some mingling. As AFP is just getting started in this state, it's important that their gatherings become places where people can form bonds and become a network for future activism. If you can't connect people when they're all in the same place at the same time, that's a missed opportunity for building exactly what the organization is supposed to be: grass-roots political activism. As it was, I had some contact with the people at my table directly before and after the event, and not much else.

I was also disappointed by the content, although some of that isn't their fault. They put this event together in ten days, after all, and the AFP chapter in California is brand new. But when they originally sold me on the event, they had a list of "Invited & Confirmed" speakers who, it turns out, were mostly invited and not confirmed. Of the presidential candidates still in the race, only Huckabee showed up; the others apparently didn't feel like reaching out to the small-government, anti-tax crowd. Perhaps the biggest disappointment, based on crowd reaction, was that California Republicans' favorite son, Tom McClintock, was called up to Sacramento on state business (unusual for a Wednesday); the same went for Jeff Denham. Also absent was Dennis Miller, to the disappointment of the people at my table. I had been looking forward to hearing from all three of them in particular.

As for the speeches, two stood out as the clearest, one of which was Mike Huckabee. Mike, of course, has been practicing this speech; the organizers of the event played a video including several GOP candidates as we waited for Huckabee to arrive, and one of his quips in the video made it untouched into the speech he gave five minutes later. I suppose that's to be expected, and it's a good line anyway: how Americans fear an IRS audit more than a mugging, because at least a mugger is done quickly and can only take what you have on your person. Mike talked up his plan to end the IRS and move to the FAIR Tax, and surrounded that with some general talk about how taxes stifle small business and how IRS audits are such a harrowing, nasty thing. Almost all present stood to applaud him on entrance and exit; somehow, the people at my table gathered that I wasn't the biggest Huckabee fan. It might have helped that we all expressed sadness that Fred Thompson had dropped out.

The other clear (and more compelling, IMO) speaker was Hugh Hewitt, who was about as cogent and crisp as could be, and talked about climate change, the upcoming changes in the Supreme Court, and the threat of radical Islam. For three topics as different as those, he managed to hold it together rather well, and didn't lose focus. Not bad. To finish he plugged Townhall, including the new Townhall Magazine (which, ironically, doesn't have its own website).

The other speakers all stressed the general anti-tax message, but there weren't any fireworks, just boilerplate stuff: third-party spending (i.e., someone else spending your money on someone else) is wasteful spending, more taxes is less freedom, taxes are bad for growth, and that at some not-very-high point, taxation becomes theft. Oh, and an overt hostility to our Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Which is all fine and good; at a basic level, that's what AFP is about. But that's that; on to the debate, I guess.
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