Reporting from the heart of the vast right wing conspiracy, surrounded by Tea Party luminaries like Jim DeMint, Michelle Malkin, and James O'Keefe, sponsored by the Charles Koch Institute to warn of the evils of crony capitalism, and extending a helping hand from Yankee libertarians, your intrepid Huffington Post contributor files this alarming report from the Conservative Leadership Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Freedom is on the march.
The Republican Party, for the first time in modern history, has gained control of all three branches of the Tar Heel State's government. With supermajorities in both houses of the legislature, the governorship, and a majority on the state supreme court, plans are afoot to make North Carolina a laboratory of democracy. By instituting radical changes to business-as-usual tax, spend, and regulate policies that have saddled the state with 9 percent unemployment, anemic growth, substandard schools, and a potentially ruinous Obamacare "partnership exchange," leaders hope to challenge states like Texas to see who can reap the most benefits from enacting limited government policies.
I have no idea why they call these people "conservatives." The only people in North Carolina desperately trying to conserve the status quo are members of the liberal/progressive/crony capitalist complex that have given North Carolina an income tax burden even greater than my own home state of "Taxachusetts."
Fittingly, at the top of the list is a plan to eliminate North Carolina's personal and corporate state income taxes. The goal is to vault North Carolina into the ranks of high growth states by making it attractive for corporations to locate businesses there, while stimulating the economy by allowing workers to keep and invest more of what they earn. Taxes on incomes will be replaced by broad-based consumption taxes that reward savings, shifting the tax burden to fall most heavily upon those who consume the most rather than those who produce the most.
Next up is a major expansion of school choice, restoring both local and parental control to K-12 education while encouraging market forces to discover and reward excellence rather than rewarding the worst performing schools with ever more tax dollars. Already, a removal of the state's charter school cap has encouraged experimentation, while plans to shift to a voucher-based system that attaches education funds to the child rather than the school is commanding increasing attention. This could be considered the state's most important civil rights initiative, as it would free minority communities from the dead hand of the entrenched public school bureaucracy.
Unwinding the prior governor's commitment to abide by the dictates of the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by setting up a partnership exchange between the state and federal governments is another top priority. Hoping to join the 30 states that have "just said no" to participating in these ill-conceived exchanges, a window of opportunity exists to convince incoming Governor Pat McCrory to reverse course.
I was enormously encouraged by the respect and acclaim that was afforded to the African-American attendees and speakers who stood out in the crowd. Hailing from all walks of life representing a cross section of the Black community that extended beyond successful doctors and businessmen, the African-American politicians who spoke have clearly figured out that personal opportunity for advancement abounds in a party begging for their participation. Of course, no one is expecting the Al Sharptons of the world to stop playing the race card, having made careers out of feeding and exploiting a culture of victimhood. But only an overt propagandist operating with reckless disregard for the truth can call the Tea Partiers I met racist.
While the overt religiosity of most of the attendees felt a bit strange to a devout secularist like myself -- it's been a long time since I've shared a meal with people who say grace -- I was encouraged by the muted emphasis the conference placed on culture war issues, as evidenced by the program. Even the luncheon speaker who talked about gun control focused on facts and figures, not Second Amendment tirades. (The overwhelming evidence that posting "gun free zone" signs is a good way to attract criminals was pretty compelling.) And the abortion issue was nowhere to be seen.
While nothing will change the core values and convictions of the conservative attendees, most of them are beginning to figure out that if they want to win votes from the growing majority of independent voters who have had enough of both parties, they are going to have to consistently apply the live-and-let-live credo they claim to follow. If the vast right wing conspiracy learns to reach out to the majority of Americans who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal, they can develop a winning strategy that could just turn the tide before bankruptcy engulfs us all.