Wednesday, March 10, 2010

At The Right's Woodstock

By Baynard Woods

I walked out of the Capitol building, waist high mounds of gray snow glistened in the sun.

I walked down C Street, thinking about Senator DeMint and the highly political, yet tax exempt, organization that rents him a room in its frat house on the street.

But DeMint wasn’t on C Street. He was across town at the Marriot where the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) was meeting.

I made my way to the nearest Metro. As I rode down the escalator on my way to CPAC, I felt like I was descending into the underworld.

It was about 3:00 o’clock when I got there. Before I went up to the Marriot, I stopped at Murphy’s Irish Pub around the corner.  It was filled with young Republicans in suits, looking over their shoulders every other minute, hoping some luminary may walk in.

A union organizer I know goes there every year for a CPAC happy hour and tries to pick a fight.  He didn’t go this year. Knowing he likes a good fight, I could see why.  Though the rhetoric of the CPAC Republicans has become robust—downright revolutionary, in fact—the guys at the bar were the same dweeby young Republicans I knew in college and high school.  Picking a fight at Murphy’s that day would have been like shooting wolves with machine guns from helicopters and calling it sport.

But, as I walked up the hill to the Marriot’s service entrance, I was a bit nervous. Aside from being a straight white dude—the obvious favorite racial and gender characterization of CPACers—I was the embodiment of so many of the hatreds they’d been railing against. I live on the east coast where I teach at a University. I write for what they would consider the “mainstream media.” (If you imagine a world where Columbia City Paper is considered mainstream and FOX News independent, you can get an idea of just how skewed the CPAC worldview is).

In fact, I had no trouble getting in at all, even though I didn’t have any kind of badge or pass. I walked into the lobby. Everyone was either watching the conference they were attending being broadcast on wall-mounted televisions, talking on cell phones, or scanning the room for important people. Nobody even noticed me. By the time I made it to the exhibition hall, I grabbed a couple of the most radical stickers I could find and stuck them on my jacket, and I moved around the conference freely.

Then people were running and screaming, as flames engulfed them. Oh no, that wasn’t here. That was an IRS office that a right wing anti-tax terrorist flew his plane into at the exact moment that Pawlenty was urging conservatives across the country to emulate Elin Woods and smash out the government’s windows just as she had done Tiger’s.

And this is the amazing thing. None of these staunch anti-terror advocates will call this terror. And, so afraid of them are we, that no one else will either. A guy gets on a plane with some kind of ridiculous flammable underwear and is apprehended and it is all Obama’s fault. In the middle of a conference where radicals are urging citizens to do harm to their own government, a man attacks the very heart of conservative hatred—the IRS—and nobody “connects the dots” as terrorism people like to say.

But that explained why there was no heightened security—these were the terrorists. Or at least the people who share their ideological hatred of the United States government.

Earlier, I watched the worst comedian I had ever seen—some bozo with a book called Obama Zombies.  He called CPAC “our Woodstock.” Sure, I’ll take those odds. We get Jimi Hendrix, you get Alec Baldwin’s right wing brother. We get Janis Joplin, you get Anne Coulter.

But, as I walked around, I figured the zombie guy was right. These tea party folks are like the Right’s hippies.  I saw a couple of guys dressed in Colonial garb and wondered if everyone in the Marriot had taken the brown acid. John Kerry lost in 2004 because of what the hippies did over thirty years earlier. Stopping at the NRA exhibit, I wondered what long-term negative effects CPAC types would have on the Republican Party over time.

In a flashback moment, I saw a pony-tailed guy running the John Birch Society booth. Their booth had a picture of black children smiling hanging above it.  I wasn’t even alive in the Sixties and it freaked me out.  Birchers should not have ponytails.

I talked to the man who navigated the Enola Gay and dropped the atomic bomb. He told me “it ended the war, but did not win it.” He asked me if I wanted to have my photo taken with him. I did. I talked to some radical student groups, because everyone here was obsessed with “capturing” the youth.

Oh, and I forgot, when the zombie guy compared CPAC to Woodstock he claimed “our women are more attractive.” (That may not be an exact quote—I couldn’t bear to watch him again). Well, there did seem to be an overabundance of the type of blonde that every network must now hire as sportscaster. But they were as bland and boring as the rhetoric is radical.  As I walked around, I noticed that they were definitely showing the dorky guys exactly why the Republicans are called the party of no.

Most importantly of all, I kept my eyes peeled for Senator DeMint. See, I had called him earlier. I wanted to write about one of his staffers in the same way I wrote about Clyburn’s policy director. When I called and asked for the Press Secretary, the woman who answered the phone asked who was calling. I told her. She put me on hold. She came back.  â€œHe’s not in right now.”

“OK,” I said. “Could I get a voicemail?”

“He doesn’t have voicemail.”


“He doesn’t do email.”

It’s hard to know how DeMint gets by with a luddite press secretary. Or maybe, he is just living up to his principles and cutting the costs of his office staff. He had after all, just called for the abolition of the Federal income tax that pays his expenses.

When I got back out onto the street, it was dinnertime.  I noticed large groups of blue blazers standing stunned on the street-corners. I listened in and realized what was going on. The only obvious restaurants in Woodley Park were ethnic—Indian or Ethiopian—and the CPACers didn’t know what to do.  â€œI don’t think I’m hungry anymore,” one young man said. I didn’t know if it was because he was a bigot or because he had been fed such a load of shit all day.

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