At US confab, Republicans embrace 45 commandments for victory
"Never get mad," and don't deploy technical jargon: girding for battle after recent election setbacks, Republicans this week unveiled to diehard activists what they consider foolproof strategies for winning back the White House and other political posts next year.
"In 2022 a lot of us in this room were upset because there wasn't the red wave we expected" in November's mid-term elections, host Corey DeAngelis tells a panel at CPAC, America's annual conservative convention held through Saturday in suburban Washington.
But President Joe Biden's Democrats "have awakened a sleeping giant," insists the conservative clad in a blue suit. Come the next presidential election, he promises an eager audience of activists, conservatives will make sure "those socialists can go and cry harder."
Just what is this recipe for success in 2024, the year CPAC attendees dream of reclaiming the presidency, seizing the Senate and expanding their narrow majority in the House of Representatives?
All Republicans must do is follow 45 simple maxims, assures Dena Espenscheid, a member of the Leadership Institute which specializes in training conservative in grassroots organizing and campaigning.
Apply these commandments, and victory is "almost guaranteed," she says enthusiastically.
- 'Get out of bed' -
Seated to Espenscheid's left in a conference room of a cavernous Maryland hotel, colleague Carly Tomaine points to a slide projected on the screen.
"Never get mad, except on purpose," Tomaine tells rapt listeners. "Don't talk in statistics," she goes down the list, because "the single mom from the second row in Ohio doesn't care about that."
Instead, "talk in stories."
"You have to move quickly," Espenscheid interjects. The most important thing is "get out of bed, and get out of your house" to take concrete action, rather than merely posting on social media.
The goal for these dedicated activists is to take advantage of every possible opportunity for training, she adds: online, at CPAC, or at home at 2:00 a.m. "while you're breastfeeding your baby because there's nothing else to do."
The participants, many wearing American flag caps and pins, nod knowingly while taking notes.
When the session ends, each is given a small bag with a copy of the US Constitution, a pamphlet entitled "How To Win," and a mint.
The questions keep flowing. "What do you do in a blue state?" asks one. "How do we grassroots against" Biden's health policy?" wonders another. "What can we do to stop abortion pills" being sold in Washington pharmacies?
- Trump? -
The activists have descended on a political conclave featuring the far-right's luminaries, including former president Donald Trump and his Brazilian populist-nationalist brother in arms, ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, both of whom are due to speak on Saturday.
At the front of the conference room, a redheaded woman suddenly calls out: "What about all the stolen elections?" parroting Trump's accusations -- unfounded -- that he lost to Biden in 2020 due to fraud by Democrats.
There are murmurs, and finger-pointing. The woman is asked to sit down.
In a reflection of the divisions coursing through the Republican Party over the future of Trump, a strange unease permeates the room.
It's not lost on conservative Ryan Halasz, 19, who pauses outside the training session to stress: "Not everybody likes Trump, you know what I mean?"