The Democrats, and the decidedly liberal protesters who followed them, turned Charlotte into a rather blue city last week. Drive a few miles up I-485 however, and the tone was vastly different.
Conservative group Rock the Red threw a rally/concert last Wednesday featuring a variety of country acts, conservative speakers and most notably controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Surprisingly the event had less the feel of a protest and more of that of a church picnic. Parents and their children sat on hay bales as Nashville acts played their sets, though the lyrics had a decidedly political slant, usually discussing “protecting liberty” and in one case singing about the benefits of “guns and religion."
Tents from groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council lined the side of the event, in between ones offering face painting and oddly enough electronic cigarettes. Barbeque was served as well as the option of a NObama personal pizza to fit the theme for the day.
Video by Evan Purchell
Jim Martin, the founder of the interest group 60 Plus, was there to discuss his group’s work as an alternative to the AARP. One of the main topics at Rock the Red was the Obama administration's passing of the Affordable Care Act. Martin feels that it’s simply not economically feasible to open entitlements to a larger portion of society.
“Obviously we oppose the implication of the so called 'Affordable Care Act', seniors were vehemently opposed to it two years ago, of course they still are.”
Martin continued on to say that the new system will take away from the established Medicare order.
“They’re taking 716 billion out of medicare to finance an entire new program which I’m calling Obamacare. When you’re adding 30 million new customers to a system and 10,000 of our baby boomers (a day)…the numbers don’t add up.”
Also present were Genevieve Wood of the Heritage Foundation and Connie Mackey of the Family Research Council, the two groups have combined for a multi-state tour of conservative events similar to the one Wednesday. While the Heritage Foundation is focused more on economics and the FRC on social issues, both feel that they reach the same voting bloc.
“The Family Research Council is a Christian organization that is particularly concerned about the family and keeping marriages between one man and one woman, we’re concerned about the…sanctity of life, respect for life.”
Mackey went on to describe how the FRC also falls in line with economic conservatism.
“We believe in a free capitalist society, where regulations are few and big government is off our backs. In that sense the Heritage foundation shares those values and so we teamed up together and we’re out to increase the vote of those like-minded across the country.”
Wood feels that the current administration isn’t doing enough to stop the U.S. from going into dire straits economically and that her organization makes Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan “look like a moderate” in terms of how they feel the national debt should be tackled. Wood feels that this is the most “unified” she’s ever seen the conservative movement in an election.
“Where the country is headed has focused our base…more singularly, if you will, than they ever have been on the need to limit the size of government. I see no infighting between social conservatives, national defense conservatives (and economic conservatives).”
Despite the rather heated rhetoric, including dire warnings about the road the United States is on and the usual usage of that familiar buzzword “socialism”, the environment had a rather laid back feel to it. The audience seemed to be equal parts there for the music and the politics.
Most interestingly, stand-up comedian Jimmy Labriola offered his New York “Borscht-belt” style comedy, which as could be expected didn’t exactly kill at a North Carolina farm.
The star of the night was far and away Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio. The sheriff has been a controversial figure in politics over the last few years especially in the immigration debate. Arpaio is notorious for both his zeal for finding and arresting illegal immigrants, a group that he feels is the most pressing threat to the security of the United States.
“My office in the last five years has investigated, arrested on the streets…over 51,000 illegal aliens. I think someone from this state should thank me because a lot of times we stop these guys coming through Maricopa County..and they’re heading up here. Your governor outta say thank you sheriff for stopping these guys before they get here to take the jobs that you should have.”
The crowd was especially enthusiastic for the sheriff’s statements and steadfast opinion that his methods work, with random shouts of “We love you Joe!” and other words of encouragement. Arapio joked that he wished he could be sheriff “out here” and that he seemed a lot more popular everywhere but Arizona. Self-deprecating humor aside, Arpaio was critical of how border security was being handled currently, even calling for American troops to be deployed south of the border.
“I’m saying if we send our military over to work with their military over there, that’s a lot of good firepower and we’ll clean up the mess. We do it in other countries don’t we? So why not help our neighbor?"
Creative Loafing was able to talk to the sheriff after his address about a variety of topics. The methods used in his justice system are seen by many as over the top, ranging from forcing inmates to wear pink underwear to sleeping in army tents in the desert. Arpaio went so far as to invite us out to one of his prison camps outside of Phoenix to see how good they have it.
In keeping with the conservative theme of the night, Arpaio was critical of the current administration. There was no love lost between the sheriff and his stance on President Obama, who he feels has unjustly targeted him. Deporting all illegal residents of the U.S. is obviously still his main focus and was rather critical of the idea of amnesty.
“I’m very optimistic, we’re a great country. When they say you can’t deport ten million people, well just in Arizona we’ve deported I guess over 400,000. If every state did what we do it could be done.”
“You’re not going to take em’ all on a bus in one day, but little by little," he continued. "But don’t have amnesty, right now we’re going to have more people coming in because the president has almost made it look like amnesty. They won’t pick em’ up and you catch em’, what do you call that? You give em’ a pass, they’re back on the street to, me that’s amnesty. You can call it anything you want, that’s what he’s (President Obama) done.”
One of Arpaio’s more controversial stances has been his support of the “Birther movement”. The sheriff was quick to avoid the topic when a rather excitable attendee waved a “where’s the birth certificate” shirt, saying he “didn’t have twenty hours to discuss that”, but insinuated he’s still looking into it.
When asked if he minded the media scrutiny he’s received due to his record, Arpaio responded rather flippantly to CL, saying he talks to everyone.
“The media? Love/hate relationship. I’m talking to you. Why would I waste my time talking to you? I talk to everybody.”