This weekend, I had the opportunity to address CPAC — the Conservative Political Action Conference. This is the same group to which Ronald Reagan delivered his historic "bold colors, not pale pastels" speech in 1975, sparking a new center-right coalition that would become the ground troops of the Reagan Revolution.
In my speech, I called for a conservative "declaration of independence" from the Republican Party.
By a "declaration of independence" I don’t mean a third party. I mean a renewed willingness among center-right Americans to criticize Republicans when they are wrong as vigorously as we criticize Democrats when they are wrong.
And I mean a reinvigoration of the grassroots to focus on all 513,000 elected officials in our country, not just those in Washington.
I told the conservatives at CPAC that we need to embrace the movement for change in America and make it our own. As I argue in my new book, Real Change: From the World that Fails to the World that Works, all change is not equal. We need the right changes, not the wrong changes.
You can watch and read my whole speech here.
‘If We Want to Get Competitive, We Had Better Change, and We Had Better Change Now’
There’s one more point I touched on in my CPAC speech that points to a real challenge for Republicans in November.
Last week, on Super Tuesday, 14.6 million Democrats turned out to vote versus only 8.3 million for the GOP. A similar thing happened over the weekend in the Washington and Louisiana contests. This Democratic advantage in turnout is the continuation of a troubling pattern: More energy, more votes and more money are being poured into the Democratic contest than the Republican race.
As I told my audience at CPAC, "There is something big happening in this country. We don’t understand it, we’re not responding to it, and we’re currently not competitive. And if we want to get to competitive, we had better change, and we had better change now."
The Coming Democratic Train Wreck
But the Republicans aren’t alone in facing challenges this election year.
Remember when the Michigan and Florida Democratic parties moved their primaries up in the calendar in violation of the Democratic national party rules? The Democratic Party bosses decided to punish them by refusing to seat — or count — their delegates at the party’s national convention in August. At the time, it seemed like a good move, since everyone assumed that the Michigan and Florida delegates wouldn’t really matter in the nomination battle. The conventional wisdom then was that one Democratic candidate would emerge early in the contest and arrive at the convention with a comfortable margin of delegates for the nomination.
So much for the conventional wisdom.
Because of the troubles being experienced by the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, it appears more and more likely that the Democrats’ fight for their presidential nominee will go all the way to their convention in Denver in late August.
So here’s the Democrats’ dilemma: If the delegate count of both campaigns is close by the time the convention rolls around, Florida and Michigan’s combined 366 delegates will suddenly become very relevant.
Compounding the Democrats’ Dilemma: The Super (Politician) Delegates
Compounding the Democrats’ dilemma is the existence of 796 so-called "super delegates."
I call these delegates (who are technically uncommitted and can decide to vote for either candidate) "politician delegates" because that’s in fact who they are: Democratic insiders whose purpose is to put down insurgent campaigns and protect the interests of Democratic politics as usual.
Sen. Clinton is mounting a full court press for the politician delegates. But any effort by either campaign to win with these party insiders what they can’t win with the voting public should concern all of us.
Not counting the votes of Democrats in Michigan and Florida and allowing party insiders to choose the party’s nominee has the potential to ignite civil war in the Democratic Party.
Much worse, it will produce a tainted Democratic presidential candidate and de-legitimize the election itself.
The Answer: Hold New Primaries in Michigan and Florida
Democrats know they need to resolve the dilemma before their August convention. The question is: How?
Giving the Michigan and Florida delegates to Sen. Clinton — particularly in light of reports that she bent the Democratic Party rules against campaigning in both states — is a recipe for chaos.
On the other hand, leaving the Florida and Michigan delegates unseated runs the risk for the Democrats of alienating two big states they want and need to win in November.
The answer for the integrity of the process is to hold the Michigan and Florida primaries again.
The voters — not the party insiders — have the moral authority to choose the nominee. The voters should get that chance.
For Those Who Still Doubt: The Director of National Intelligence Speaks
You may have missed it in all the coverage of Super Tuesday, but Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell gave his annual national security threat assessment to the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.
For anyone who still doubts that the United States and our allies are in a fight for our very existence, Director McConnell’s testimony should put those doubts to rest.
Here’s part of what he said (emphasis mine):
Al Qaeda is improving the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S.: the identification, training, and positioning of operatives for an attack in the Homeland. While increased security measures at home and abroad have caused al Qaeda to view the West, especially the U.S., as a harder target, we have seen an influx of new Western recruits into the tribal areas since mid-2006. We assess that al Qaeda’s Homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets designed to produce mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the population.
We judge use of a conventional explosive to be the most probable al Qaeda attack scenario because the group is proficient with conventional small arms and improvised explosive devices and is innovative in creating capabilities and overcoming security obstacles. That said, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are attempting to acquire chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and materials (CBRN). We assess al Qaeda will continue to try to acquire and employ these weapons and materials — some chemical and radiological materials and crude weapons designs are easily accessible, in our judgment.
Read his entire testimony here.
A Success Story of Real Change
Last week, I reported to you about the beginnings of a movement for real change. The House Republicans are leading an all-out fight to end the corrupt, undemocratic practice of congressional pork-barrel earmarks.
House Republicans are calling for an immediate moratorium on pork-barrel spending. But earmarks can’t stop without the cooperation of Democrats. So last week, the House Republicans forced a vote on a GOP bill to immediately halt earmarks and establish a bipartisan committee to fix Washington spending. All Republicans supported the bill, but 204 Democrats voted against it and the measure failed.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that House Republicans are vowing to keep up the fight. Here’s what Minority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio) had to say following the Democrats’ rejection of the reform:
"Washington is broken, and it will never be fixed until the earmarks stop and fundamental reform begins. Today’s vote is not the end of the earmark reform fight. Rather, it is just the beginning. House Republicans will continue to force votes on this issue until the earmark process is brought to an immediate halt, and we hope the majority eventually joins us."
House Republicans Seize the Moment of Change
I write in Real Change that one of the reasons Republicans failed to make the Reagan and Contract With America revolutions permanent is that Republicans, especially in the House, haven’t been able to get over their minority party mindset. They’ve been too complacent and too timid.
"Those who want Republicans to become a natural governing majority have to come to grips with how deep and serious the problem is: Republicans must be capable of seizing the moment of change and making it permanent by implementing real change."
I’m happy to report that House Republicans, led by John Boehner, have seized this moment of real change with their battle to eliminate earmarks.
To learn more about this worthy fight, please visit the House Republicans new website dedicated to earmark reform at earmarkreform.house.gov.
P.S. — E-mail Your Friends About Real Change. My most sincere thanks to all of you who have helped make Real Change such a success. As I write this, Real Change is set to be announced as the No. 3 non-fiction book on the New York Times bestseller list (for February 17) and No. 10 on Amazon.com’s non-fiction list. If you haven’t yet purchased the book, you can do so here. And for those of you who have, thank you, and there’s one more thing you can do. Use your own e-mail lists to tell your friends about Real Change. You can send them to newt.org/realchange where there are all sorts of videos, tools and sneak peaks to convince them to join the movement to transform American, from Washington to Sacramento and everywhere in between.