Town Hall with Michael Steele
Chairman Michael Steele joined with Governor Gary Herbert and Utah GOP chair, Dave Hansen to hold a town hall meeting. Chairman Steele’s said that his hope was that it would be the first of many for him.
Chairman Steele started by welcoming the 200 or so attendees and congratulated them for being involved. He said that tea parties and town halls sure have shown that “Freedom still reigns“, that we are “here to learn from our mistakes and our missteps” and that as a party, “We are returning from the wilderness – a lot of it of our own making.” The Republican party IS the party for limited government, personal freedoms and accountability.
He spoke energetically about the current national debate – it’s not just about health care, but about the core things we have taken for granted – what it means to be free, what it means to be self-empowered, and freedom to direct our lives. He also said that we live in challenging times – we have hard work ahead of us and hard decisions and we need to pull together.
Governor Gary Herbert said that he wants to send a clear message to Washington: Pay attention to Utah – we’re doing it right. We govern by correct principles – that is what has positioned us as the best-managed state in the Union, the one best positioned to come out of the recession and on the top of the list for places to live.
Governor Herbert pointed out that “free market” is based in freedom. That also means the freedom to fail. Having a no-fail policy is NOT freedom.
He re-emphasized that we must stick to correct principles and stated again that the last bastion of freedom, the line in the sand is states’ rights. States created the federal government, not the other way around. We have 50 places to incubate ideas – the states need to take the lead.
The meeting was then opened up for questions – the first one was “what will the healthcare bill look like after it leaves Harry Reid’s hands and the conferencing process?”
Chairman Steele’s answer: Do you know the story of Frankenstein’s monster? This will look worse.
He went on to say that he thinks that right now there is at least a 50/50 chance of no bill at all – they are running into opposition within their own ranks, not to mention opposition from the Republicans and much of the public at large. We don’t need a 1000 page bill. For example, here’s how you address portability: “Insurance companies shall compete across state lines.”
The next question: What is the direction of the Republican party? If it were McCain or Palin – who will you follow? Chairman Steele’s answer: Lincoln.
He elaborated by saying all other differences will work themselves out. The Republican party embodies these principles:
*value of family, community, God and country
*principles and values
The leaders who emerge are those who can embody those principles.
A mom from Vernal, Joanie Crane, spoke emotionally. She said there is no more “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”. There is too much trading of votes for favors and that starts on day one with lobbying for the best office space. She said she is actively involved in the GOP, but has been embarrassed to even call herself a Republican lately. She asked “How do we get OUR message out? How to we get OUR Mr Smith to Washington who will stay strong and keep to his principles?”
Chairman Steele said that a “lot of times we elect and acquiese, elect and forget“. He said that “we the people” need to hold our elected officials accountable – if they start by trading votes for office space, we’ve chosen the wrong person and will need to rectify that on the next election cycle. He also explained that he believes the reason we have seen the failure to stick to those principles is an attitude of “I got here on my own, I owe no one“. When they get off track, there is no one to held them accountable – they acknowledge no one. They do not feel beholden to the county party, the state party or grassroots (with a few notable exceptions). He also said the first problem with elected officials is that they think they are the top of the totem pole. He reminded them, “you are the BOTTOM of the totem pole – not the top. You are beholden to the PEOPLE.”
Governor Herbert then spoke. “I would say it is a pyramid”, he said “but the people – the grassroots – are the strong base for that pyramid.” He pointed out that we have a strong grassroots organization – if we elect someone who is fighting for the corner office instead of representing the people, vote the bums out. He looked around the room and said that while it was great that there were a couple hundred people there, it should be packed – standing room only. “We have got to get engaged”, he said, “we have got to get involved”. He encouraged people to get talking to their neighbors and to help get others involved. “We must participate”, he said. He also pointed out that it is incumbent upon elected officials to be involved in Utah. He said “you can NOT represent Utah if you’re not involved with Utah”.
Final question – and the one that made the mainstream media – was about Jim Matheson and wondering how to get that seat back. Chairman Steele’s answer: Get me a good candidate.
In closing comments, Chairman Steele said it is a “Renaissance moment” for Republicans. “We need to be anchored in principle. Let’s talk about it. Let’s be clear where we stand”, he said. “The future is too important to waste in the hands of people who don’t give a damn.”
Governor Herbert finished by saying that we need to do some “missionary work”. As a people, we are right of center philosophically, but we vote left of center. We need to talk to neighbors, we need to vote on principle.
The meeting concluded to a standing ovation.