by John Hawkins | June 20, 2011 2:46 pm
After missing last year’s RightOnline in Sin City, I was happy to get back into the swing of things by heading to the heart of T-Paw country to attend RightOnline in Minneapolis.
The trip there featured a flight from Myrtle Beach to Atlanta and then a flight to Minneapolis. Although Ann Coulter has more warm feelings towards John Edwards than I do towards the TSA, I do have to admit that airport security was friendly and efficient at every stop. The airports, however, have this weird Orwellian vibe to them now because every 10 minutes or so a voice comes on and warns you about federal regulations or urges you to report suspicious activity to the authorities. Between that and the security, it produces an oppressive, police state sort of vibe in the airports that you’re happy to get away from when it’s over.
Also, although all my trips were on time, I was lucky. Just before I hopped on the plane back, I talked to a woman who had gone on a 3 day trip and Delta had ended up delaying her for 23 hours. There was no snow, no horrible weather, just “maintenance problems.” She even ended up sleeping in the airport. Her compensation for the inconvenience from Delta? $24 in food service coupons to use for the incredibly overpriced airport food.
Anywho, after arriving in Minneapolis, I hopped on their light rail and headed towards my hotel. The light rail there is an interesting little government project. The trains are convenient and they take you from one end of the city to the other but, and here’s the catch, the cost for a ticket is $2 and even that piddly sum is paid on the honor system. In other words, there’s no one checking to see whether or not you paid to get on the train. (I tried to find out how big of a money loser the light rail is, but I wasn’t able to find exact data. Still, given that it cost $715 million to build and undoubtedly costs more to maintain than they bring in on the honor system, it’s a safe bet that at some point, it’ll crack the billion dollar lost mark.)
While all of this was going on, Right Wing News was in the midst of a website apocalypse. While I was traveling, the page was down most of the day and unbeknownst to me, in the process of fixing it, Rackspace decided to take down the front page of RWN, replace it with a basic word press theme, and left it that way. After much frustration and spending probably a couple of hours on the phone with them, they finally started to get it straightened out, although there are still a lot of broken parts of RWN at the moment as a result of their “tech support.” Some of you may want to email me about that, but unfortunately, my johnhawkins -at- rightwingnews.com email address isn’t working either right now. Don’t even ask. Don’t. Even. Ask.
On top of all that, I forgot my laptop cord and since I needed to be on the internet to cover the conference and deal with the Rackspace mess, I really had to get another one. Cost? $85. Yes, I know.
That was how my day was going when things kicked off, on Thursday night, with the DCI group’s “Right Meets Left and Left Meets Right Happy Hour.” I was actually one of the sponsors of that event because it sounded like fun and kind of dangerous. Would people get along? Would there be fist fights? Would someone go all David Brock and switch sides? I mean, I did my part to help keep everyone friendly by introducing myself as John Hawkins from the Daily Kos and shouting “Screw those conservatives” every so often; so maybe it was my presence that kept things in hand.
Actually, everyone seemed to get along fine, although in my experience, the libs ranged from “I’m happy to meet you,” to “I’m trying to be polite, but I’m standing next to a conservative, it makes my skin crawl, and it’s all I can do not to grimace.” The conservatives showed up late and one point, it was like 25 liberals and me at the event.
Still, it was a good time, there was free booze, free appetizers, and the Huffington Post did interviews (Yes, I’m in it).
They could have done 2 full minutes of me because I was having a good time talking to them. For example, I asked if any of them were getting paid. I also noted that Arianna was cute and had lots of money; so I asked if she were single. We also had this exchange:
Q: What if Ronald Reagan was gay?
A: He’s dead; so it wouldn’t hurt him.
Q: What if he were alive?
A: He’s Ronald Reagan. He could get by with it.
After the event, I had to go back to my room to continue futilely trying to fix all the tech problems on RWN; so that was my night.
On Friday, the conference kicked off and at 9:30 that morning, I teamed up with Sean Hackbarth to teach blogging 101.
Everything went well.
Fun Factoid #1: The rumor that Chris Christie is in the bag to endorse Romney and they’re just waiting for the right time to roll out the endorsement.
I also caught what had to be the presentation of the day: James O’Keefe talking about his gonzo journalism. The highlight, for me at least, was O’Keefe explaining how he got Lucky Charms temporarily banned at his college by claiming they were racially insensitive to the Irish.
Incidentally, the rumor is supposed to be that O’Keefe’s kind of stand-offish, but at his seminar and later, he seemed to be really friendly and personable to everyone.
Here are a few other pics from the conference that day, which, including the rubber chicken dinner, ran until about 9:00 PM.
* Incidentally, I think this pic was taken as Breitbart was returning from crashing the Netroots conference
That night, after the day’s festivities were over, Heartland Institute was throwing a shindig.
Unusually, for me anyway, I spent most of the night talking to Dan Gainor, Rachel Alexander, and Brian J. Symes instead of circulating. I took a snap of the group, but replaced Dan with Jenny Erikson and Katie Favazza, because well, they’re prettier.
There was one particularly noteworthy event that happened that night — well, besides a random drunk from the bar walking up, trying to go to sleep on the floor, and being dragged away down the stairs by security. I would love to put a name with this story, but she would MURDER me if I put it out there.
One of the women there, who was sort of on the periphery of our little group, wasn’t sloppy drunk, but she was tipsy. I look over and she’s engaged in RAPT conversation with this guy. They look like they’re totally clicking and I was thinking, “Yep, she got her one. He may be in for a good night.” The two of them are close to us, but it’s loud and I can’t hear anything they’re saying and I’m not paying close attention anyway. Meanwhile, her foot barely touches my leg a couple of times and I don’t think anything about it.
Finally, the guy she’s talking to walks away for whatever reason and she runs behind me, leans on my shoulders, and is like, “Why didn’t you save me?” I said, “What do you mean?”
She told me that she was kicking me (not really, lol) because the guy was a liberal and he was coming on strong, but she was too polite to break away. She said he was dropping lines like, “I’ve never slept with a conservative Catholic woman before. Let’s go back to my hotel” and “There have been a lot of great conservative, liberal romances. We could be like James Carville and Mary Matalin.”
Hearing that story was a perfect end to another great day at RightOnline.
Business picked up on the final day of the conference.
Over the course of RightOnline, we had three different presidential contenders speak. Although all of them were good, the best, I thought, was Michele Bachmann.
Although I didn’t see it, some Netroots dirtbag apparently “glitterbombed” Bachmann. Maybe next year, we can go to the Netroots event and throw coal dust at them. Then, we can call it even.
Herman Cain, who’s firing up the crowd in this pic, also gave a heck of a good speech.
Afterwards, however, Cain didn’t help himself much by yelling at a reporter.
It’s 13:19 seconds in during this video shot by Nice Deb.
Tim Pawlenty doesn’t have as much charisma as Bachmann or Cain, but he has upped his game a lot — which is unusual. Usually, charisma is a “You either have it or you don’t” kind of thing. Pawlenty has just plain, old gotten better at it and his speech was good.
PS: I also liked this line from his speech, “If we’re going to have political charges against Barack Obama about health care reform, we better do it with somebody that is not a co-conspirator leading the charge.”
RightOnline Fun Factoid #2: There was a lot of talk about presidential contenders at RightOnline. During all that time, I met exactly TWO PEOPLE who seemed to like Mitt Romney. Both of them were professional political consultants, who, although they’re both great people and were very nice about it, had a smug “Romney is going to win and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it” attitude. Honestly, it reminded me of the vibe after Charlie Crist announced he was running for the Senate in Florida.
So, after attending a few breakout sessions (I loved Justin Hart’s seminar in particular), I decided to walk over to Netroots Nation to see what I could see.
While I was there, I ran into a couple of libs I knew and not even realizing whom I was talking to, I got Dan Choi (He was kicked out of the military via Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) to take a picture of me in front of a Netroots nation sign. He figured out I was from RightOnline and kind of stormed off after the picture, although he was friendly enough later (More on that in a moment.) Here are the 4 observations I gleaned from my time at Netroots Nation.
#1) The agenda was much more advanced than the one at RightOnline. RightOnline was more geared towards people who are just getting into activism while the Netroots Nation event seemed to be designed for experienced/professional activists.
#2) From what I saw, the attendees seemed to be 90-95% white, which is extremely ironic. Liberals claim Tea Parties are racist because few minorities attend the events. Yet, even though 90% of black voters and 2/3 of Hispanics vote Democrat, Netroots Nation is almost as white as the Tea Parties. So, I think the pertinent question here is, “Why does Kos hate black people?”
#3) Even though both conventions were mostly made up of white activists, people dressed very differently. RightOnline was very rural country club, while Netroots Nation had a sort of hippy chic look going on.
#4) In the one panel I listened to, one of the panelists dropped an F-bomb from the podium. At Netroots Nation, nobody cared. That would have probably led to a lifetime ban for a speaker from RightOnline. I think that tells you a lot about the different mentalities on display. Whether you think it’s good or bad probably depends on how you look at the world.
After my jaunt through enemy territory, I headed back over to home base, where there was a little excitement going on. First off, there were a gaggle of liberal bloggers standing around and I took the opportunity to get some snaps. Why get pics with liberal bloggers who hate everything I stand for? Because it’s ironic and who doesn’t love irony (My dream would have been to get one with Kos)?
Shortly thereafter, I figured out why they were there. Twenty women in hijabs walked upstairs. I noticed it, but had no clue who they were, what they were doing, or if they were part of some event.
It turns out they were a liberal flash mob.
They were supposedly protesting a blogger “connected to Breitbart” who harassed some Muslim women on the street to the point where he got arrested.
While this was happening, Dan Choi (Remember him?), started doing interviews right in front of the escalators. He was asked to move. He refused. He was asked to move again and he refused. At that point, they were supposedly going to call the cops to move him out of the way.
After a few minutes, nothing had happened, and another staffer came downstairs to ask him what he was doing. Then, and perhaps this is breaking the “reporters shouldn’t be part of the story rule,” I told them that he was trying to get arrested and that they should ignore him. They did and he wasn’t arrested. Still, since I was getting pics with liberals, I figured I’d get a photo with Dan, too.
While Dan Choi was trying to get arrested, I was talking to a liberal who said that she thought it was a great media strategy. If he gets arrested, then the headlines would be, “Gay Activist Arrested At Conservative Conference.” She said she thought conservatives have a lot to learn from that. I told her things were a little different for us: If a conservative were arrested for blocking an elevator, everyone, even on our own side, would think he is an IDIOT. Only liberals make heroes out of people for blocking escalators, throwing food at people, or pouring glitter on them.
Here are a few more pics from the day, which concluded with a well attended GOProud event at the hotel bar (Every event they throw is a party) and a blogger dinner that was put together by the Health Care Compact Alliance . The point was to promote health care compacts, which I strongly support.
As you might have guessed from looking at these pictures, the event was a blast and Erik Telford, along with everyone else at Americans for Prosperity, deserve a lot of credit for putting it on. If you get a chance to go next year, I’d highly recommend it. Hope to see you there!
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