Grover Norquist, conservative general, explains it all. (Credit: Jeff Malet)
On Friday evening, conservatives and Occupy forces talked trash outside the Conservative Political Action Committeeconference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C. To my right stood two Occupy soldiers, Michael and Mo, both African-American, shouting slogans about the 1 percent. To my left, a cluster of jacket-and-tied CPAC men shouted sound bites about freedom In between them stood a line of grim-looking, blue-suited officers of the Metropolitan Police Department, both white and African-American, quite possibly thinking,These people are nuts.
Both sides came equipped for a war of words. Michael is a young Iraq war vet from Alaska who once admired George W. Bush, and is now an Occupier par excellence. He offered the high-decibel insight that “The system has failed!” Standing next to him, Mo, a big guy and a regular at the now-evicted OccupyDC camp, shouted, “The 1 percent are using you guys.”
“The 1 percent?” a CPAC man volleyed back. “God bless ‘em. What’s wrong with making money?”
Another CPAC-er tossed this verbal firecracker: “Just because you’ve failed, doesn’t mean the system’s failed.”
That was rich, the Occupiers thought. Michael had done a tour of duty in Iraq — probably one more than the CPAC man had done. Mo was personally offended. “I haven’t failed,” he said, his face crinkling up at the insulting assumption. “I havea job.” He shook his head and turned away like: There’s no talking to these people. And the CPAC gang turned away, no doubt thinking: There’s no talking to these people.
The CPAC cluster hungrily took up the chant of “Steak! Steak! Steak!” Occupiers replied with a mocking chant of “White power! White power! White power!” And so the confrontation dissolved.
“Truth on our side”
But inside the big hotel, there was no such failure of communication. Several thousand energized, if anxious, conservative activists launched themselves into the 2012 presidential campaign with a display of divisions — but also an unmistakable resolve to end the presidency of Barack Obama by any legal means necessary. Their mood was upbeat, and barely shaken by the falling unemployment rate and the president’s recent uptick in the polls.
Jefferson Morley is a staff writer for Salon in Washington and author of the forthcoming book,Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten
Race Riot of 1835 (Nan Talese/Doubleday).
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