With a column titled The Red Kool-Aid Stand, I need not apologize for dispensing red-state Republican viewpoints. I am a Republican, after all, attending a Republican National Convention. But here are 10 things that really struck me this week: ---
1. CONVENTIONS ARE TORTURE—FOR THOSE WHO HATE POLITICS. Many people I know would hate being here in humid Tampa. We run on five hours of sleep, eat at irregular hours, listen to lots of speeches, spend lots of time on buses and have to spend quality time with legislators, lobbyists and party hacks.
2. CONVENTIONS ARE NIRVANA FOR POLITICAL JUNKIES. I have loved every event. I have loved collecting the political buttons and memorabilia. I have been inspired by many of the speeches. I have thoroughly enjoyed the great patriotic men and women I’ve associated with in the Utah delegation. The Utah GOP staff has been absolutely terrific, working hard to make sure all involved have an enjoyable experience. I just can’t believe it’s taken me this long to go to my first convention!
3. JOURNALISM’S LINES ARE BLURRING. It has been an interesting week being both a Republican activist here to cheer on my nominee and a correspondent for Utah Policy and City Weekly. But I saw further blurring of the lines in the Utah delegation’s brunch meeting with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. While press was banned from the event, there were dozens of delegates recording, tweeting, Facebooking and otherwise sharing Christie’s comments. In essence, as long as there is social media, any human being is a potential reporter. It really is futile to ban the press from such things.
4. HERBERT HAS RESPECT. In various forums and small group meetings, I have heard from governors who shared how impressed they are with Gary Herbert and the direction Utah has been going. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker expressed his enthusiasm for Herbert systematically looking at reducing government regulations. Christie told us how he personally really likes Gary, and that is why he is coming to Utah to fundraise.
5. MIA LOVE IS A ROCK STAR. One of the highlights for me this week was Tuesday night, when my friend and fellow Utah mayor Mia Love brought down the house. I watched her speech surrounded by folks from Georgia, New Jersey and Texas who were profuse in their praise and were blown away by her commanding performance, enthralled by her narrative and, yes, by what she represents as some much-needed diversity for our party. I was so proud of her and Utah at that moment that I literally had tears rolling down my cheeks by the time she was done. The big orange Mia Love campaign buttons have become the hottest trading item for this button collector as I have worked the halls, and she is attracting big mobs of well-wishers everywhere she goes at the convention.
6. PAUL RYAN IS YOUNG, BUT HE CAN DO IT. When I saw a young guy just six years my senior (Ryan’s 42) onstage with his wife and three young kids Wednesday night, I saw in some ways the average demographic of my Elders Quorum. But Ryan dazzled the crowd on that big stage, talked tough truths, is smart, and will be a solid leader who could help put Mitt over the top.
7. MITT REALLY COULD WIN THIS. Longtime delegates are saying there is something special about this convention. The base is rallying together to defeat Obama, and top analysts like Charlie Cook, who met with the Utah group Thursday, told of the enthusiasm gap between this year’s Republicans and Democrats. As the country gets to know Mitt as someone beyond “rich, successful, white Mormon” they will want to hire him to replace a president who is in over his head in this economic crisis.
8. TRULY A HISTORIC MORMON MOMENT. It was a somberly historic moment for me to watch the roll call of the states and to see the delegate vote tallies officially make Mitt Romney the first LDS nominee of a major party. I think of Joseph Smith being rejected in the White House by Martin Van Buren. I think of James Buchanan sending one-third of the U.S. Army to replace Brigham Young as governor of Utah. As Latter-day Saints, we have come so far. But, more importantly, as Americans, we have come so far. I did not vote for Barack Obama and disagree with his politics, but as an American, I appreciated the historic moment of seeing the first black president. Seeing the first nomination of an all non-Protestant ticket by the Republicans is not merely a Mormon moment. It is a historic American moment!
9. THIS ELECTION IS REALLY A CONTEST BETWEEN TWO VERY DIFFERENT VISIONS. There is increasingly a clear choice in this election. Do we want a path toward more government regulation, more government involvement in attempting to jumpstart the economy and an acceptance of a watered-down American dream? Or do we want to avoid the pitfalls of a more socialized Europe and return to the free-market principles that built America? Do we squabble more about how to divide the pieces in the pie of prosperity, or do we unleash the private sector to help make the pie larger?
10. THE AMERICAN DREAM LIVES. This week really has recharged everyone’s patriotic batteries. We are reminded through soaring rhetoric, solid solutions and inspiring music that America is an exceptional nation. We are reminded that our best days can be ahead. And we are motivated to do what we can to help strengthen our community and nation.
(Photos courtesy of Mike Winder)