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July 14 2019

Cory Gardner, the women’s vote and religion: Western Conservative Summit takeaways

The Denver Post
featuring Patrice Lee Onwuka

The 2019 edition of the Western Conservative Summit showed both some of the themes and some of the disagreements among conservatives as they gear up for the 2020 re-election campaigns of President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

Speakers Donald Trump Jr. and Gardner painted Democrats as radicals, while some summit participants welcomed the appearance of Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.

Workshops discussed Christians’ rights, while the summit’s founder said the United States is in a “war to the death” against Islam.

The Western Conservative Summit, hosted by Centennial Institute and Colorado Christian University, brought more than 2,000 conservatives from across the country to Denver on Friday and Saturday.

Here are five takeaways:

Cory Gardner can read a crowd

There are, generally speaking, two ways to appeal to a staunchly pro-Trump crowd: Praise the president, or bash Democrats. U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner chose the second Friday night, and it earned him standing ovations.

Gardner mentioned the president, who is unpopular in Colorado, only once and spoke in broad strokes about the work of Senate Republicans. He didn’t mention Colorado’s Democratic governor or his 2020 opponents. Instead, he talked about Bernie Sanders.

“While the left will cry out that Republicans are fear-mongering and using socialism as a scare tactic, that actually couldn’t be further from the truth,” Gardner said, preemptively criticizing criticisms of him.

“Just look at the policies their party now stands for. Socialized medicine, the Green New Deal, eliminating the Electoral College, dictating what job you can and can’t have, packing the courts, massive tax increases, open borders and the list goes on and on and on,” Gardner told the conservative crowd.

Conservatives are working on their pitch to women

Suburban women are a critical voting bloc for anyone hoping to win statewide office in Colorado, and one of the breakout sessions at the summit focused on how to “fight the left’s wooing of women.”

“Generally, they are trying to paint this narrative that life is not fair for women,” said Patrice Onwuka, a senior policy analyst for the Independent Women’s Forum.

And the solution offered by the left, she said, is a top-down, one-size-fits-all government program.

Onwuka’s solution for conservatives is to flip the narrative. When Democrats push for paid family leave laws, Republicans should reframe the issue by offering a variety of smaller bills that would let families choose the options that work for them.

“One thing about the left is they like to make things real simple,” Onwuka said. “We as conservatives say there is a marketplace of ideas.”

The role of libertarianism may be shifting

Colorado and other Western conservatives have long upheld the values of libertarianism: more individual freedoms and less government.

Yet questions about just what libertarianism is and who gets to claim the label have been hotly debated in Colorado political circles.

Flipping the script Saturday, a leader in the conservative movement suggested conservatives should abandon the idea of libertarianism altogether. David Azerrad, director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics, said libertarianism taken to its fullest extent would mean open borders and lawlessness.

“It is completely unsustainable,” he said, adding later: “I’m a conservative — and not a libertarian — because I believe that order doesn’t just appear spontaneously if people are left free to indulge in whatever their hearts may desire.”

The theme was religious freedom, but …

John Andrews, founder of the Western Conservative Summit and a former Colorado Senate president, was honored Friday night as “a Johnny Appleseed of the conservative movement” with a video featuring praise of Andrews from Gardner and former Gov. Bill Owens.

Andrews then gave his own remarks, which will not soon be forgotten. After saying he meant “no animosity or disrespect to any individual,” and while standing beneath a banner on the importance of religious liberty, Andrews spoke for about nine minutes about Islam.

“The simplistic approach of simply granting unconditional ‘freedom of religion’ to a religion that doesn’t believe in freedom – and never doubt me, Islam does not – that approach is civilizational suicide, friends,” Andrews said.

Muslims, he said, are waging jihad to take down America “from within,” capitalizing on America’s own good-hearted nature and sense of fairness. Persecution isn’t the answer, Andrews said, but neither is the status quo.

“Some speakers this weekend will disagree with me,” he said. “They may tell you a good and faithful Muslim can also be a good and faithful American. I’m sorry, I just don’t see how. Not when one holds sharia law supreme – the Koran, the command they think they’ve received from above to dominate the globe — and the other holds the constitution supreme. Something has to give. America is in a war to the death, and I don’t think it’s going very well.”

As Andrews predicted, not all conservatives endorsed his views.

Tyler Sandberg, a Republican strategist, said politicians at the summit should condemn Andrews’ remarks about Muslims. Lynn Bartels, a columnist and former spokesperson for Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams, said no one should attend the summit in the future.

TABOR is the priority for Colorado Republicans

Colorado Republicans are fighting battles on several fronts, including efforts to recall state Democratic lawmakers and repeal a state law that aligns the state’s Electoral College votes with the national popular vote.

But anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist said Saturday that the most important fight going forward is protecting the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which he said is under attack from “parasites” on the left.

Norquist was referring to Proposition CC, that if voters approve in November would allow the state to keep all the tax dollars it collects instead of having to refund money that exceeds the so-called TABOR cap.

“There’s not enough money to keep the left happy,” Norquist said. “That’s why they’re back for more.”

 

 

 


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Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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