Sunday, March 28, 2010
"Showdown in Searchlight": My Take, Unplugged & Unfiltered
Phew! Wasn't yesterday something? I was on a whirlwind... At some times, LITERALLY! (I really was close to being blown off the sidewalk during the heavy winds yesterday morning in Searchlight.)
We saw plenty of talk, plenty of pomp and circumstance, plenty of sloganeering, and plenty of raw politicking at the "Showdown in Searchlight"... And later that evening at the Clark County Democrats' Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Las Vegas. I'll get to the fun stuff at The JJ Dinner later, as I just want to offer my take today on yesterday's events in Searchlight.
Honestly, I wasn't originally planning to go. Teabagging isn't my cup of tea, and I didn't know if I could handle all the shouting and fighting and canned slogans from Sarah Palin. But hey, history called and I ultimately didn't want to be left out of it. I carpooled with a bunch of other local Democrats (we had two shuttle vans leave from Las Vegas in addition to all the people who drove on their own from Vegas and Laughlin) up to Searchlight, where we staged our own not-so-little rally.
Yes, we probably had a few hundred Southern Nevada locals, so we weren't as big as the "tea party" a mile up Highway 95. However we also didn't bus and "caravan" in thousands of folks from other , so that should be taken into consideration.
To their credit, most of the "tea party" folks driving up the 95 from California and Arizona (with a few Texans, Utahns, Montanans, and other states thrown in the mix) just gave us thumbs down and didn't try to start a fight. Just a few drivers made the effort to roll down their windows and shout, but those who did used some language that good parents wouldn't let their kids hear. There were claims at the teabaggers' event that we had thrown eggs at one of the Tea Party Express bus, but I did not witness anyone in our group throw eggs (or do anything else violent, for that matter) and our friends at Progress Now Nevada (who will soon be releasing their video footage of the teabaggers' rally) reported seeing no crushed eggs on the Tea Party Express buses.
So how did the "tea party" in Searchlight go? Well, they certainly brought in a big crowd... But it wasn't the 10,000 organizers had originally hoped for, and nowhere near the 20,000 they were claiming yesterday (more like 7-8,000). The big draw for their event was really Sarah Palin, as she got most of the attention and the biggest crowds. Multiple reports so far confirm that after Palin left the stage (and before most of the Nevada GOP candidates were set to speak), the crowds started emptying the valley they were occupying. When I was with the pro-Reid rally in town, about 90% of the cars heading to the "tea party" rally were from out of state (with, again, the bulk of those being California and Arizona righties). And when our shuttle was leaving town on the way back up to Vegas, about 80% of the cars parked along and near Highway 95 for the "tea party" rally were from out of state.
So now let's talk about "the progressive resistance" meeting at The Searchlight Nugget in support ofhe progressive Senator Harry Reid. Most of us there were from Las Vegas, but there was also a good chunk of Searchlight locals who "testified" of Reid's humble roots, hard work for Nevada, and caring for the local community at our rally. We also saw some folks drive in from Laughlin, Boulder City, and even Mesquite (!!). We just had a few hundred folks there, but we were all locals and we definitely had high spirits when we met Reid's Searchlight neighbors and saw all the Reid signs they had along the 95 in town.
So what does this all mean? I'm sure you've read Jon Ralston's take (quite accurate) by now, and I hope you've also had a chance to read Steve Friess' report (Yes, he also reports on politics... And he really hit this one out of the park with his honest and witty take on all the wild & crazy events yesterday). They added their $0.02, and now it's my turn.
Make no mistake, the teabaggers are here to stay this year and they will continue to blame all of our country's woes on "socialism" and the supposed "Communists" Obama, Reid, and Pelosi. They will continue to make their mark on today's Republican Party... But I doubt they will entirely be of help to the GOP. As I said on Thursday, the "tea party" has successfully moved the GOP to become "The Party of 'HELL NO, YOU CAN'T!'", and I don't think that will appeal to the majority of Nevada (and American) voters looking for real solutions. The "tea party" is also not as unified as they claim, as a split emerges between the faction set to neatly merge into the Republican Party (largely the corporate-funded groups) and the faction "declaring independence" from the GOP and set to chart its own course on its own terms (largely a mix of Ron Paul fans, libertarians, and other outfits unhappy with the GOP's own support for "socialism"). If nothing else, all the teabagger infighting gives Harry Reid the opening all the DC pundits thought was impossible just at the start of this year.
And now, this gives me a chance to swerve back to our side of things. Certainly the Democratic reponse to yesterday's "tea party showdown" in Searchlight was just a hint of what's to come. This won't be easy, but Nevada Democrats certainly aren't about to sit back while the teabaggers attack, attack, and attack some more. And with health care reform now a reality and more economic relief on the way, the progressive base finally has reason to believe again. I myself was angry in January when it seemed like Democratic leaders were (yet again) wasting a great opportunity to make change happen as they were basically letting the Republicans get away with torpedoing President Obama's entire domestic agenda. But all of a sudden, President Obama "got his groove back" and the push for health care reform seems to be a major turning point that now has the DC pundits wondering if they were writing off Democrats too early.
The key is action... Action that helps working people. The teabaggers were picking up steam last year because they were able to drive the media narrative that Democrats supported big bailouts and they were "for the people". But now, the early signs of success on health care and banking reform illustrate just how much public opinion can change when people see their President and their Congress actually working for them. This is the challenge that Democrats must be up to if we want to see success this November and in 2012. We must urge the President and our Congresscritters to stay focused on delivering on what matters to working people. Health care is only the start. We need more jobs, more action on climate change (which means even more jobs for us in Nevada!), more oversight of Wall Street, and all in all more action that shows that government is working for working people again.
The whole premise of the "tea party" is that government doesn't work. And not that long ago, they would have been correct. However, they either don't realize or don't want to admit that government didn't work during "The Bush Era" because the Republican plan all along was to defund government and deregulate to the point where it couldn't work. As long as Democrats can make the case that government can and will work, 2010 won't be all that scary here.
This is why I still hope. I'm finally seeing the change I was hoping for in 2008. I know the folks who packed that valley north of Searchlight are afraid of it, but most Americans won't as long as they see the results.