GOP Convention 2010–Arkansas
I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2010 GOP Convention in Arkansas.
I almost didn’t make it to Arkansas. Due to a bizarre set of circumstances, it took me 34 hours to get from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to San Antonio to Dallas, and finally, to Little Rock. After that, the drive to Palm Springs was a piece of cake.
The convention itself was one of the shortest conventions I have ever attended. In less than half a day all of the business was done. In the past Arkansas has even wrapped up the entire convention in only 2 hours, while some states (even small ones) need 3 days. This convention lasted 6 hours at most, but the pre and post convention activities provided plenty of political importance.
The convention itself was in Little Rock, but much of the convention action before and after was in Hot Springs, about 45 minutes away.
In Little Rock, the night before the convention, the gubernatorial dinner took place. The main speaker was Jim Keets, the Republican nominee for Arkansas Governor.
I was not at the dinner because I was speaking to the Garland County Tea Party in Hot Springs.
I cannot praise this Tea Party group enough. Diane Silverman leads this group. In addition to this special pre-convention gathering, she also has meetings Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. She even gets different people at her meetings. The problem with most Tea Party groups is that they hold rallies, have speakers, and then do nothing after the rallies end.
Mrs. Silverman’s group actually follows through. They are backing several candidates, and I got to meet and hear many of them speak. Every Tea Party group in the country could learn from the Garland County group. They are intelligent, passionate, and most importantly, productive with their time. It was an honor to speak to them twice in the same week, before and after the convention.
Two of the candidates the Garland County Tea Party is backing include Rick Davis for Judge and Tommy Thompson for County Assessor. Normally a person way off on the left coast would not care about such local races, but these are good people, and local races get overlooked. Most people never care about the assessor until their taxes get raised through the roof. Most people never focus on judges, then complain when a liberal activist judge blocks the will of the people by judicial fiat. People cannot complain unless they do their part. Check out Mr. Davis and Mr. Thompson.
At the convention itself, my highlight was meeting former Congressman Asa Hutchinson and his wife Susan. Susan Hutchinson is one of the loveliest human beings you will ever meet. She is kind, warm, empathetic, and funny. She is a devout Christian with a deep love for Israel. She and her husband have always supported Israel. No, they did not try to convert me. Like most Christians, their affection for the Jewish people is biblical and noble. There is no hidden agenda.
I have always admired Asa Hutchinson since he was one of the Clinton impeachment managers. I know he did the right thing, and he conducted himself with dignity while the left was trying to trash his reputation to protect another Arkansas fellow in the White House who acted with none.
What Mrs. Hutchinson let me know is that her husband has done many other noble deeds as well. He successfully prosecuted the Aryan Nation in Arkansas. For those who think that nothing has changed in the South, try being a bigot and breaking the law when Asa Hutchinson is coming after you. Bill Clinton was deemed to be the first “black president” by an insulting standard of what that means, but it was Asa Hutchinson who was truly enforcing civil rights in the most important way possible. He broke the Aryan Nation in his state. Like most truly good people, he did this quietly. I am mentioning it because somebody should, and he is too modest to do so.
One of the things I noticed at the convention was how diverse the attendees were. Leftists in the media love to point out the number of Caucasians in attendance at GOP functions, but this convention had plenty of Republicans who happened to be minorities. The number of Republicans who happened to be black was higher than at any other convention I had attended. The treasurer is a black man, and I can tell you that merit is alive and well in Arkansas. I look forward to his gubernatorial campaign in eight years.
A major highlight of convention weekend came at the post convention rally. The Paint Arkansas Red Rally was put together by Garland County GOP Chairman Alan Clark. had the honor of speaking at the rally, and making friends with Alan was a great experience.
In an act of bipartisanship, Alan had Arkansas radio host Dick Antoine emcee the event.
(Initially I was going to emcee it, but I deferred to Dick. I did not know the politicians, and they deserved proper introductions. Dick provided that in spades.)
Dick is actually a Democrat who voted Democrat in the 2008 presidential election. It may seem odd to have a Democrat host the biggest GOP rally of the weekend, but Arkansas people are very friendly. They don’t get in the gutter across party lines. They take great pride in the honor in which they conduct themselves.
Dick and Alan teased each other, but it really was good natured. Alan did not convert Dick to the GOP, and Dick failed to convert the entire crowd to his side.
Dick’s son Drew Clark chairs the Garland County Young Republicans, and he has them energized. The young man is a workhorse, balancing a couple jobs in addition to his political responsibilities.
One of the candidates for congress was a former Miss Arkansas who is as physically stunning as she is made of steel. A former Army girl with several brothers serving America, she made it clear that Arkansas were not going to be separated from their guns. She is only 5 feet and 100 pounds, but she pointed out that “somebody needs to go to Capitol Hill and look Nancy Pelosi straight in the eye.” She is a former assistant to Mike Huckabee, and Arkansas will be lucky to have her in congress.
Naturally when I spoke to the Arkansas crowd, I pointed out that they were “the loveliest bunch of Astroturf I had ever seen,” and that, “when I heard the Pelosiraptor use the word astroturf in a sentence, I thought that another immoral liberal woman had just admitted to being in Bill Clinton’s pickup truck.”
The keynote speaker at the rally was gubernatorial candidate Jim Keets. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the convention, and I liked his style at the rally. I prefer standing up on the stage in a rigid manner. He easily waded into the crowd and spoke in a style that was pleasing to all involved.
I was surprised and honored when I was summoned to Mr. Keets in front of everybody. I was by myself getting a soda when I was told to get back to the center of the crowd where Mr. Keets was.
He said that I “should go to Capitol Hill and replace Al Franken because you are a lot funnier than he is.”
I am a believer that one should never upstage somebody else, and I was not going to forget that he was the next governor and I was just a guest. So I very gingerly had him move the microphone toward me one last time.
“It was my honor sir. I believe you should come to my home state of California and replace everybody. You can have any job you want.”
I then left the microphone to him, and he lit up the night sky.
After Mr. Keets spoke, musician Rick Roberts played his guitar, doing mostly John Denver covers. The left loves to make GOP and Tea Party rallies out to be violent groups of mob activity, but this was a love-in. I referred to it as Woodstock without the hippies and drugs. You can’t get more peaceful than a group of people singing John Denver songs.
After the rally, Alan took the volunteers out to dinner. Given how awful my sense of direction was, I was glad that one of Alan’s friends is a respected police officer. The officer gave me his personal cell phone in case I got lost. He said he would rather hear from me at 3 or 4am than find out about me. I was told by others that this type of caring is simply what Arkansas is all about.
I got to meet the ladies of the Arkansas Republican Women’s Federated. Their new president is as nice as can be. Their next state convention is in April of 2011. Whether then or at other times, I look forward to being back in Arkansas many times over.
I did not manage to meet the Jewish community of Arkansas on this trip, but I did get to go the Clinton Presidential Library. I went in with an open mind, and left convinced that Mr. Clinton was simply peripheral. Many good things happened during his time in office, but not because of anything he did.
The thing about Mr. Clinton was that he was very immodest. He takes credit for things that would have happened without him.
This only made the GOP Convention and Paint Arkansas Red Rally even more important, because it showed the contrast. The people I met were not interested in taking credit for everything. They just wanted to get the job done. They were committed to electing conservatives, but they did not treat the other side as evil.
The Arkansas Republicans and conservatives I met, from Jim Keets to Alan Clark to Diane Silverman to the Hutchinsons, were just simply good people following the main ingredient of “Arkansas values.”
It starts with a healthy dose of “love thy neighbor.” After that, it only gets better, and that is before the Southern barbecue is cooked and the Razorbacks come on tv.