Heritage Action hit Birmingham on their Defund Tour, and over 300 eager (albeit slow-moving) people showed up to hear former Senator and current president of Heritage Foundation, Jim DeMint, discuss the importance of defunding Obamacare and the unfair nature of the legislation in general.
The Defund Tour is sweeping through American cities just two weeks before Congress convenes to vote on a temporary spending bill; one that DeMint and the Heritage Foundation hope will not allot money for Obamacare. The tour has hit heavily conservative cities—including Atlanta and Dallas—with the purpose of galvanizing the grassroots to lobby their respective congressmen to defund Obamacare. It was most simply a call to activism, as DeMint assured the crowd that change in Washington couldn’t happen without them. It was with almost candid urging that DeMint told the crowd:
“It’s really up to you… you have a lot more power than you could imagine. If several hundred of you are opposed to something [a Senator] is doing, they sit down and ask themselves what they need to do to get on the right side of [an issue]. It makes a big difference.”
It was at this point that I took a good look around the crowded room. Every seat was taken, every wall lined with people willing to stand throughout the duration of the event. All these people, presumably conservative, were old and white. Balding heads and white hair were the themes of the room. One hand was all that was needed to count the number of blacks and Hispanics present; two hands to count the youth.
I couldn’t help but think that these are not the people you want canvassing neighborhoods; this demographic alone could never pull the numbers needed to be successful in politics—even if every single elderly person was compelled to vote.
It’s not exactly a secret that conservatives are hesitant to expand their voting base. Traditional values before victory seems to be the Republican way. DeMint, the true conservative that he is, reinforced this when a woman in the audience asked him, “What strategy do you have to solve the conservative’s diversity and inclusion problem?”
“Well I don’t think we need to change our ideas and principles,” DeMint answered, “We need to recognize that Republicans have a damaged brand. There are those who identify with our principles but don’t necessarily believe the Republican Party represents them… it doesn’t matter if we are right, if people don’t perceive that we are that is their reality.”
Despite the fact that DeMint contradicted himself, his answer was received with applause from the audience—and one lone voice (ok, it was mine) shouting out that this is why we lose and will continue to lose.
DeMint did a beautiful job of appealing to the crowd. He cited Alabama legislation as examples of success; he opened the event with prayer; he fondly joked about his staff beginning to use the conjunction “y’all”—and the audience ate it up. But it is all for nothing if the old folk demographic is the only one to champion the conservative agenda.
I don’t know what it will take for the Republicans to give refuge to the conservatarians, minorities, women, or lower class citizens who want to identify with them but feel unwelcome; but if the DeMints of the right want to reclaim and change Washington, they are going to have to give a little.
Maybe some things (like winning an election) are more important that pushing conservative values on those who want to leave them in the past.