By DEXTER DUGGAN
SUN CITY WEST, Ariz. — The example of 19th-century emancipation leader Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, can change the political culture in the United States, an activist conservative Republican told the first annual Arizona Tea Party state convention here.
Most people at heart are conservatives, keynote speaker KCarl Smith told the convention of close to 300 Tea Party members from around Arizona on May 31, but the life and example of Douglass, a Republican, can make the necessary emotional connection to win them over to a political allegiance.
Smith, an Alabama resident, described himself as a black, Christian, Tea Party conservative who wants conservatives “to find out ways to share our message” despite “the vile and malicious attacks of the left-wing propaganda machine” against them.
“The way we try to share our message of conservatism . . . falls on deaf ears” among people who’ve been told conservatives are callous racists, said Smith, the founder and president of Frederick Douglass Republicans (www.con
servativemessenger.com; Facebook: Frederick Douglass Republicans).
His book, Frederick Douglass Republicans: The Movement to Reignite America’s Passion for Liberty, can be ordered at the website.
Smith was introduced to the audience here as “one of the most influential people in America who is never heard of.”
Last year Smith persuaded a leading black Louisiana Democrat, State Sen. Elbert Guillory, to become a Republican because, Guillory said in a video, the Democratic Party had distanced itself from “American values.”
Douglass’ “life-empowering values,” Smith said, can be summarized in four points: respect for the Constitution, respect for life, belief in limited government, and belief in individual responsibility.
Smith emphasized the importance of developing one’s talents and abilities and becoming independent. He told the Arizonans that Douglass’ slave masters had told him, “Frederick, make no plans for the future. I’ll take care of you.”
Instead, Smith said, Douglass honed his literacy skills and human-rights advocacy and went on to become an adviser to five Republican U.S. presidents as well as amassing a fortune that in today’s terms would be millions of dollars.
Douglass also was a prominent advocate of women gaining the right to vote.
The adversary media’s national story line that the Tea Party has died was rejected here.
A.J. LaFaro, chairman of the Phoenix area’s Maricopa County Republican Party, told The Wanderer, “For those individuals, both progressive socialists and RINOs [Republicans in Name Only], who think…grassroots conservatives and Tea Party members are dead — [they’re] going to have a rude awakening. This republic is too important to surrender.”
LaFaro said Tea Party candidates flexed their power in the recent Texas Republican primary runoff elections.
A Scottsdale, Ariz., Tea Partier told the audience, “The Tea Party is not dead. . . . We’re going to take the 2014 elections the way we did in 2010,” when Democrat Barack Obama conceded that he received “a shellacking” in that midterm vote.
Despite one media narrative that Tea Partiers are secular libertarians focused on financial concerns, the necessity for a moral foundation to the nation was a strong theme here.
Tom Jenney, Arizona director of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, drew applause when he told the audience, “I’ve got a Lord, a Savior, that’s keeping me alive for some reason on this planet. . . .
“This is a special country. It is unique,” Jenney continued. “. . . It is a moral country, and we are losing it. . . . Government, all the time, steals. . . . It’s not only immoral. . . . It’s stealing people’s health care. . . . We’ve got a lot of votes, but we need missionaries” to reach other Americans.
A long list of proposed goals for conservatives that was distributed with the conference’s program included: “Promote family as the key structure of a healthy and moral society,” “Honor the unalienable rights of children in the womb,” and “Defend marriage as being between one man and one woman, and impeach any judge who overrules the will of the people in this matter.”
When one speaker mentioned efforts by Planned Parenthood to promote its goals in Tempe, Ariz., schools, there were moans from the audience.
The daylong Tea Party state convention, in the northwest Phoenix metropolitan area, included a morning presentation lasting more than 45 minutes as leaders from around the state gave brief descriptions of their groups, some numbering in the hundreds of members, from the low-elevation desert city of Yuma to the pine-covered mountains of Flagstaff.
Speaking of the convention’s purpose, Ted Farmer, of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party, won applause when he emphasized the movement’s aversion to top-down command by saying there’s no intention to put everyone together in one big Tea Party because it’s a grass-roots movement.
The convention participants assembled “to restore independence, not dependence” among people, Farmer said. “We are declaring war on dependence. . . . We are losing liberty by the day.”
Smith, the president of Frederick Douglass Republicans, told the convention that despite the Democratic Party’s long history of overt racism and discrimination, Democrats “accuse, and they rewrite history,” in order to hide their own record while putting Republicans on the defensive.
When the Democratic Party’s website says Democrats have led the fight for civil rights for more than 200 years, Smith said, such false claims “are demonic techniques.”
Pointing to Douglass’ own life history, Smith said, “You can’t call a Frederick Douglass Republican a racist. . . . The answer is Frederick Douglass, and it works. . . . All three of my brothers are Frederick Douglass Republicans.”
Smith’s website explains his goal to enlighten, educate, empower, and equip people with the “Frederick Douglass Republican Methodology,” enumerated as: 1) Reignite America’s passion for liberty; 2) Help the Republican Party recapture its political distinction, 3) Save the souls of the politically lost, 4) Promote racial unity, and 5) Create an atmosphere for political dialogue without the accusation of racism or Uncle Tomism.
A Concealed Past
Another Tea Party national black activist at the convention here, Jennifer Burke, told the audience that from the very first, she saw that Obama was unqualified to be president, with facts of his past sealed away from the public.
Obama was elected president because of what the U.S. has become culturally, Burke said — where socialism and Communism are thought to be good, but capitalism is regarded as selfish.
“The most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard,” Burke said, is that the Tea Party wants to take the presidency away from Obama as a black man, but the fact is they want to take it from a man whose every belief “is contrary to everything the United States was intended to be. . . .
“This is not an overnight fight,” Burke added. “The progressives have worked a long time” to take Americans away from the path of freedom and liberty.
“Look at your pay stub and see how much politics affects you. Look at how much you pay for gas and see how politics affects you,” she said.
Ron Ludders, chairman of the Phoenix area’s Arizona Project Tea Party, told the convention that just talking to each other won’t win.
He said that when his group recently held a debate between local constitutional expert Shane Krauser and a very liberal Democrat, it made sure there would be a large proportion of Democrats in the audience to listen. When the debate was over, Ludders said, audience members went over to a table to reregister as Republicans.
The Sweep Of History
Michael Gibbs, a computer scientist and Arizona representative of the Center for Self-Governance, said that government “requires active involvement by citizens all the time.” People can’t simply vote once every four years and then watch football, Gibbs said, because the government isn’t safely running on autopilot.
Gibbs said the Center for Self-Governance (www.tncsg.org) was founded two years ago in Tennessee. Its mission statement: “To help citizens rediscover, own, and preserve their civic authority.”
Trevor Laky, a regional coordinator here for the Washington-based Heritage Action for America, said it’s necessary to build rapport with political officials. Laky said people are behind the curve if they haven’t gone by their local representative’s office simply to meet the staff face to face.
During a lunchtime breakout session, as people munched their catered Chick-fil-A sandwiches, Laky said Arizona has “the greatest dichotomy” between the Establishment and the grassroots.
The state’s remote, “moderate” Republican U.S. senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, are known as forming a considerable contrast with the more conservative GOP U.S. House delegation from Arizona — a reflection of the continuing crusade by the elite to override popular conservative sentiment.
The convention began with a presentation of the colors by four men dressed as U.S. Revolutionary War soldiers. As the day progressed, one of the men, still wearing his tricorn hat and 18th-century uniform, sat next to some uniquely Arizona photos on the wall, including a towering saguaro cactus and Monument Valley.
At a glance, the sweep of U.S. history was captured, from New England to the Southwest deserts, and from the birth of the nation to its present-day struggles.