Civitas has a luncheon every month or so to spin the results of their push polls. These meetings are primarily used to offer advice to Republican elected officials and GOP campaign workers on how to win elections. Given that Civitas claims a 501(c)3 tax free status, this ought to be illegal, but who honestly expects the GOP to play by the same rules as the rest of us?
Several of the statements made, particularly by Fetzer, are shocking in their cold ruthlessness. I think it is telling that nobody objected on principle to some of his ideas.
I think this is the best example:
Fetzer: This isn't like what we did with Reagan. Since we don't have anti-communism to unite the Republican party anymore we'll have to find new issues to agitate our political base.
An audience member then suggested, why don't we just replace fear of communism with fear of terrorism?
Fetzer: Yes, that's the plan.
Here are my notes (statements are paraphrases, not direct quotes):
D.G Martin, Tom Fetzer, and Jack Hawke were the speakers.
Jack Hawke started off the luncheon by giving thanks to Art Pope.
D.G. Martin: Education policy makers don't understand the enthusiasm and public angst over the immigration issue. There is a disconnect between policy and the public.
Hawke or Fetzer jumped in: We can "exploit" this. We should agitate on immigration concerns. This is going to resonate even more as we get closer to the election.
In talking about polls results that show that most North Carolinians intend to vote for Democratic candidates, Hawke and Fetzer made half-hearted little attempts to talk about why these stats didn't really matter (I think for the audience's benefit). There was an awkward pause.
Fetzer: Obviously Bush is hurting our chances. While Dole is going to get a pass because she is a "super star" woman, white male Republicans don't have that luxury. He then launched into a stern warning about how scary it is that Democrats could win Senate seats. "Democrats might win 60 seats." Fetzer urged the audience to take action to prevent this.
D.G. Martin: Federal Republicans have been blatantly irresponsible about tax cuts. They have cut taxes without reducing expenses. You have to pay for tax cuts, and the GOP has refused to do this.
Martin starts to talk about how federal Republicans have created a deficit, and Hawke can't control himself. He interrupts to insist that deficits caused by North Carolina Democrats are even worse. Martin tries to speak again about the federal budget, and Hawke interrupts again, this time apologetically, to reassure the audience that even when Republicans are bad, Democrats are always worse.
They start to talk about the presidential race. Hawke goes on a irritated tangent about how Huckabee is hurting the GOP's chances at winning the general, therefore he has a losing strategy. McCain is our man. McCain beats Clinton.
Martin quips, the Devil would beat Clinton.
Hawke: "Speaking of the Devil, Obama" performs better than Clinton against McCain. He goes on to talk about how if the Democratic nominee is Clinton, things are much better for Republicans.
Fetzer starts to talk about the possibility that the any Democratic nominee could win, and Hawke interrupts: "you're always ready to find bad in good." The good he is referring to is Clinton's negatives.
Fetzer agrees, Obama nomination is "dangerous" and "we would have a much better chance with Clinton as the nominee."
Hawke: Republican registration has gone down. "That's not good news for those of you who happen to be Republican." The audience laughs at the joke.
Fetzer comments the bad economy is going to help Democrats and that's not good news.
Talking about the gubernatorial race, Fetzer says: "Moore has a slim chance of pulling off the nomination, and he's going to have to run a much, much better campaign than he has been running if he's going to have a chance."
Hawke: Jay Reiff is a great campaign manager, the best out there, but Moore is too conservative for the Democratic primary.
Fetzer: McCrory is the front runner. He could get 40% and not even have to face a run-off.
D.G. Martin said something I didn't really catch about how Republicans with girls' names do better than Republicans with boys' names. I don't know if it was a joke or not.
He then makes a bunch of jokes about how Davidson is a really great school. I take it recent Republican Governors have been Davidson graduates: "It takes a liberal education to produce a successful conservative Governor."
Fetzer returns to immigration, again stressing the need to make every issue about immigration: you see the level of intensity go higher on immigration once it starts to bleed over to other issues.
Martin suggests balancing the emotional aspects of immigration with pragmatic concerns and human decency, and the crowd start grumbling. Hawke pushes back against this idea. Hawke does a little speech about how all immigrants are illegitimate people that ought be denied anything possible to deny them.
Fetzer: The conservative movement and the Republican party are "by logical extension" one and the same. We here in this room have been sleeping too long and we need to get to work for the Republican party.
Fetzer, shockingly candid: This isn't like what we did with Reagan. Since we don't have anti-communism to unite the Republican party anymore we'll have to find new issues to agitate our political base. Audience member suggests, why don't we just replace fear of communism with fear of terrorism? Fetzer, yes that's the plan.
Hawke moved to the next slide which illustrated the point that many North Carolinians don't think that the government should pay for everything for everybody. Apparently not satisified with that simple point, Hawke volunteered that he personally didn't think that he should have to pay any taxes at all.
Martin started to talk but Fetzer interupted: Voters don't understand health care, they aren't intelligent enough to understand it, and that helps the Democrats.
Martin takes objection to the blatantly skewed poll question:
Is health insurance getting so expensive that the government should raise taxes and pay for the healthcare of everybody?
Hawke refuses to acknowledge that the poll question is even the slightest bit skewed and tries to change the conversation about how the government is always bad always. Martin somehow manages to continue making articulate, well-mannered replies, to Hawke's increasing shrill anarchism.
Fetzer refers to Obama as Hussein Obama, and says that Republicans will need to be "hostile, mobile, and agile" to win the election.
At that point I figured the luncheon had jumped the shark and I left.