By Jay Ambrose (Scripps Howard Syndicate, June 13) Just maybe, possibly, conceivably we've come to a non-violent revolutionary moment in America, and here's one reason I think so: A Denver area conference. Called the Western Conservative Summit 2010, it impressed me not just because of the recitation of principles to which I subscribe -- individual liberty, limited government, constitutionalism, strength in the face of our enemies -- but because of the mood conveyed by both the audience of some 600 and more than a dozen speakers. Their disposition struck me as cheerful, positive and informed more by an idea of mission than anger at the other side.
Dennis Prager, a radio talk show host, told the crowd that liberals were mostly good people, that many people in his own family were liberals. Don't attack them, he said. It's their fallacious arguments you want to deal with. He spoke of the great slogan on coins, "E Pluribus Unum," meaning of course that out of many different people, we are still one as a nation.
Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota talked about self-sacrifice, unity and dedication to one another as Americans. She ended her speech with the true story of four chaplains in World War II, a Jewish rabbi, a Roman Catholic priest and two Protestant pastors. Aboard a ship that was hit by a torpedo, they did everything they could to help the men aboard survive, even taking off their own lifejackets to give to others. They went down with the ship, their arms linked together.
Putting such earnestly conveyed feelings of purposes beyond the narrowly partisan together with various acute analyses, I had an image of an emotionally balanced, powerful, alert, energized, morally informed, widely inclusive force awakened from slumber by an overly leftist administration and marching toward something pretty big.
I don't mean just possible conservative control of the House after the November election, but rather long-term, significant efforts to subdue the threat of runaway statism while maintaining this country as "the last, best hope of earth," in the words of Abraham Lincoln.
Of course, one regional gathering does not a revolution make. In and of itself, it proved nothing, though quite a bit, it seems to me, in the context of the town hall and Tea Party protests, of radio, cable TV and Internet commentary coming on top of what is being said in more traditional media and of polls telling us that increasing numbers of Americans are frightened about the direction of government.
It is extraordinary to see the Tea Party rallies involving everyday, middle class Americans. Bashed, of course, as racists -- unlike Prager, many liberals cannot live without the ad hominem slur -- they are nothing of the kind. What set them off as much as anything was a new, ill-conceived, vastly controlling, misrepresented health-care entitlement that will cost hundreds of billions over the years on top of other entitlements that could be economically ruinous all by themselves.
If you think the Tea Party represents just a tiny slice of America in its disenchantment with almost all things concerning Barack Obama, check out a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll saying close to six in 10 voters think the president is more apt to be wrong than right in policies. Most would agree with the Tea Party that the president's handling of the economy is better described as a mishandling of the economy. The public has even less use for both parties in Congress, as it should, given the irresponsibility of so many Republican and Democratic members.
Some might think conservatives are still too unrepresentative of the whole to have long-term sway. But consider, first, that the latest Gallup poll says 42 percent of Americans call themselves conservatives while only 20 percent say they are liberal. Then consider estimates that no more than 40 to 45 percent of American colonists were clearly behind the independence movement while 20 percent remained steadfastly loyal to Great Britain.
Remember who came out on top?
Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com.