In short, this group wants change. And they were ready to applaud like mad for anyone who promised it. Even the mildest of anti-Obama jokes had them laughing and cheering.
“President Obama says if he weren’t president, he’d be buying stocks,” I reminded them. “To which I say; if you weren’t president, I’d be buying stocks, too, Mr. President.” The crowd roared.
For the seventh consecutive year I served as Master of Ceremonies for “the world’s largest gathering of free minds,” which means I got to introduce our keynote speakers, numerous panelists and the opponents in several heated debates.
Things got off to a lively start the very first morning. I told the audience that, “When I sat on Santa Claus’s lap last December, I told him there were only two things I wanted this year. First, could you please demote Nancy Pelosi? I want a new majority leader in the House of Representatives!” The crowd stomped and cheered.
“For my second gift, Santa, would you please retire Harry Reid from the U.S. Senate?” More loud cheers and applause.
Then I said, “Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to introduce the feisty young grandmother who is going to make my second wish come true. Please join me in welcoming Harry Reid’s opponent in this November’s election for the U.S. Senate in Nevada, Mrs. Sharron Angle.”
I don’t think Sarah Palin would have gotten a bigger welcome had the hall been hosting a Tea Party convention. The crowd was loudly and enthusiastically ready for change in Nevada’s Senate seat. And they made it clear they hoped Sharron Angle would be it.
I’m proud to say that even before she left the stage I made the very first contribution to the “Angle for Senate” campaign that day. But I was far from alone. Her campaign manager told me later that they received more than $60,000 in contributions while she was there. Frankly, they’re going to need every penny of it—and a whole lot more. Reid has boasted that he already has more than $10 million in his campaign coffers… and he expects to raise at least $15 million more. If there’s one seat the Democrats are determined not to lose this year it is Reid’s in Nevada.
The very next day, the White House announced that President Obama was flying to Las Vegas for a special campaign appearance on behalf of his beleaguered Senate majority leader. Those of us at FreedomFest probably wouldn’t have known anything about it, except for one thing: Because of security considerations, the Las Vegas airport and all the airspace in a 20-mile radius was closed for most of the afternoon to all traffic except Air Force One.
Obama couldn’t have known (and probably wouldn’t have cared if he did) that as a result, our final speaker of the day was not allowed to land. We had invited Greg Mortenson, author of the runaway best-seller Three Cups of Tea, to tell us about his experiences building schools for impoverished children, mostly young girls, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. His plane circled the area for nearly two hours before it was allowed to land 90 miles away.
We quickly shuffled the schedule so he would be the first speaker the next morning. The hall was packed when he strode to the podium at 8:00 am. And 2,000 people listened with breathless fascination as he showed photographs and told stories of the work he had done, the friends he had made, the lives he had changed, and the threats he had faced.
I don’t know how many other people were affected by the closure of McCarran Airport for several hours that day. But as it turned out, we got the last laugh from it. At our closing banquet on Saturday I was able to tell the crowd that yes, they could finally go home: “President Obama has left the city and the airport is open again.” That got some mild applause and laughter.
Then I added, “By the way, the latest polls have just come out. They confirm that President Obama’s appearance here cost Harry Reid 14,500 votes!” Then I concluded, “So please come back and campaign some more, Mr. President. But please wait until we’ve left town.” The crowd hooted and howled. As I said before, this was a group ready for change.
By the way, I had an epiphany of sorts during this year’s FreedomFest. I realized that I’ve been wasting a lot of time over the past 50 years trying to educate liberals. It finally dawned on me that is almost always a waste of time.
For all sorts of reasons — liberal guilt, indoctrination in school, a vested interest in government largess, whatever; there are a whole lot of people out there who aren’t going to change their minds, no matter how many facts we put in front of them.
No, let’s forget about persuading the Left that we’re right. It isn’t going to happen.
Instead, let’s look for people of principle who have not been politically active before — and let’s them energized and activated to throw the rascals out.
Sound difficult? It’s not. Select a friend or neighbor whom you know is a person of good character. Share your concern about what’s happening to the country you love. Ask if they are also alarmed by runaway spending, exploding deficits, rising taxes, and other aspect of growing government.
If they agree with you — and I’m betting the majority of them will — ask them to work with you to help make a difference. Find people running for office you think you can trust. Give them the support they need to get elected.
And once they win, keep your eye on them. Make sure they vote the way they promised. Support them when they’re right. Argue with them when they’re wrong.
And if you get too little of the former and too much of the latter, go to work to replace them. Remember, every election matters. Victory isn’t going to come from the White House down; it’s going to come from local communities up. That’s how we won our freedom in the first place; it’s how we’re going to restore it now.
Resolve that this year you’re going to help make a difference. Then, find a few people who agree with you. Repeat this often enough, in enough places, and it will happen. Believe it.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.
Chip Wood was the first news editor of The Review of the News and also wrote for American Opinion, our two predecessor publications. He is now the geopolitical editor of Personal Liberty Digest, where his Straight Talk column appears twice a month. This article first appeared in PersonalLiberty.com and has been reprinted with permission.