A Tale of Two Conferences

 

This weekend, I attended a Defending the American Dream Summit in Dallas. An annual conference organized by Americans for Prosperity, the event brought together politicians, policy wonks and grassroots activists for two days of training, presentations and socializing (sans socialism).

Speakers included a lot of possible presidential candidates such as Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. Mike Pence and Dr. Ben Carson. The power of free markets was extolled by Carly Fiorina, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Bill Whittle, and AEI’s Arthur Brooks (Dr. Brooks told me he’s a Ricochet fan, by the way).

While several bloggers and reporters have detailed specific speeches and breakout sessions, what stood out to me was the positive energy of the crowd. A month back, I attended the progressive Netroots Nation conference and the difference couldn’t be more striking.

Netroots attendees were highly Balkanized. A group of suspicious feminists on one side of the room warily looked at a group of African American activists on the other. In room 140E, the LGBT caucus argued why they should add “Q” to their acronym, while ignoring the Domestic Workers Union organizers in 140F. After sessions would break up, progressives would keep to their own discrete “community” for lunch, protest or after-hours entertainment.

Since I didn’t fit with any group, I was actively ignored for the most part. The only folks who so much as nodded in my direction were, for lack of a better term, pajama boys. These young, urban metrosexual males were typically deferential and apologetic to pretty much everyone, including outsiders like me. Their primary conversation topic was determining to which “group” I belonged; the more helpful told me to attend my state’s Netroots caucus room to get properly categorized.

At AFP’s summit, I was accepted as an individual, not as a cog in a greater collective. Whether I was attending a workshop, a general session speech, grabbing lunch, riding a shuttle bus or milling about the hotel lobby, everyone was welcoming and chatty. There were young and old, male and female, rich CEOs and broke bloggers alike. But we weren’t stratified by class or gender or political issue; we were 3,000 individuals united by (mostly) common goals. And where we disagreed, there was acceptance and even encouragement.

Netroots attendees were much more dour. Some of this is due to Obama’s obvious failures, both foreign and domestic. But even in good times, the liberal mind is tortured by their innate victimhood by shadowy oppressors. Can a female Asian minimum wage worker criticize the male privilege of a wealthy black panelist, or does the fact that he’s gay give him the moral advantage? (The only way to be the winner of a left-vs.-left argument is to prove you’re actually the loser.)

The Left can attempt to argue that they’re correct on the issues. But there’s no debate over which side is more fun to hang out with.

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  1. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    The Left can attempt to argue that they’re correct on the issues. But there’s no debate over which side is more fun to hang out with.

    Prettier women too, and the freedom to say so without being called sexist (or anyway not much).

    • #1
  2. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Jon,

    This makes me imagine writing the rules to left-wing poker.  I’ll see your black-gay with a female SEIU worker and raise with a gender reassignment.  I’ll see that with a vegan lunch menu and raise with an accusation of look-ism.  I’ll call with a check on your carbon footprint.

    Of course, the winner gets to feel the most oppressed.  Any financial gain would be capitalist exploitation.

    Regards,

    Jim 

    • #2
  3. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    This makes sense. The Democratic Party is a collection of special interests — each asserting its primacy. The Republican Party, at its best, is the party of the national interest.

    • #3
  4. user_124695 Inactive
    user_124695
    @DavidWilliamson

    There are indeed two Americas, but not in the sense Mr Edwards intended.

    Let’s hope the American dream returns, after the current nightmare – I wish I had more confidence that it will.

    I enjoyed Sen Cruz’s speech  – grounds for optimism – “The Russian bear is encountering the Obama kitty cat” – or deferential and apologetic pajama boys.

    • #4
  5. Eeyore Member
    Eeyore
    @Eeyore

    The Left loves them some Balkanization. But sometimes they come together. At one point I was trying to see what categories of stories NPR carries. I decided it was Race-Class-Gender (of course), the Arts, the Environment and…oddities (like, who knows, interviewing the person who changes light bulbs on a 2,000 ft radio tower.)

    Then I tried to figure out The Perfect NPR Story. I decided it would be a Disabled Minority Lesbian Artist who was mounting a successful campaign (using her art) against a *blecch* Corpor-a-a-ation whom she had determined was doing environmental damage in her Community. The damage may or may not be real (cf. fracking). I assume anti-capitalism falls under “class”.

    The polite-but-vicious war inside the NPR newsroom would be who gets to do this Covers-Every-Base! story. I think they would grudgingly acknowledge that it would be whichever reporter shared the highest number of Identity Groups with the person to be interviewed. There would be poignant, telling sharing of important common In-Group issues between interviewer and interviewee.

    Following broadcast of the interview(s) and followup, the story would obviously trend worldwide on social media.

    • #5
  6. user_199279 Coolidge
    user_199279
    @ChrisCampion

    I wish I could understand what creates the Progressive fear that then creates the motivation to put oneself in a box.  The Box allows you to carp and whine, and understand your place in the Greater Box Hierarchy.  I picture a very large pyramid of oddly annoying and loud boxes.

    They’re using laws to create more boxes for everyone to be put into.  They seem incapable of understanding a world without boxes, without a definition of who you are, and have no interest in finding out what living in a boxless world looks or feels like.

    It probably feels like having personal responsibility.  And being free.

    • #6
  7. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    Paul A. Rahe:

    This makes sense. The Democratic Party is a collection of special interests — each asserting its primacy. The Republican Party, at its best, is the party of the national interest.

    Yes, but…as the Japanese would say.

    Is this example really apples-to-apples? Netroots Nation is a conglomeration of the diverse progressive interest groups, and explictly so. It is aware of the silo-by-interest problem and tries to address it. The conference Jon attended is put on by a group that represents only one thread of the American Right, Americans for Prosperity. As you’d expect, The Defending the American Dream Summit agenda was focused on economic issues and how to work for them: the school choice panel was about the only policy panel that focused on a SoCon topic.

    My take is that self-selection produced the comity Jon witnessed.

    • #7
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