ORLANDO – If there was a theme on Saturday when a large rally was held at Lake Eola Park, it was that there’s an enemy out there, posing great risks to America’s future, and prosperity, and ability to move forward as a nation.
And that enemy, it was often repeated, is easy to identify: the government.
“Think for a moment of where we are today,” said Craig Miller, the Republican candidate for the United States Senate seat in Florida. “We are less safe. We are trillions of dollars in debt. Democrats and Republicans both share in that blame.”
“We’ve got to save the country for us,” said Slade O’Brien, director of the local chapter of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a national conservative grassroots organization. “We are broke, ladies and gentlemen. You can’t continue to borrow money from the Chinese and Arabs and still have a free society.”
On Saturday, conservatives gathered in force at the Disney Amphitheatre at Lake Eola Park to rally the public behind a call to downsize government, cut federal spending, and allow more personal freedom.
Organizations like Americans for Prosperity and the Fair Tax Organization sent representatives to distribute literature about their cause, while candidates for state and local office showed up to find votes.
One thing they all continued to repeat, though, is that the government had failed in its mission to improve the economy, make America safe, eliminate budget deficits, and give Americans more free choices – and therefore, on election day, it needed to be brought down, and fast.
“We believe in three things, O’Brien said. “Limited government as defined by the Constitution, fiscal restraint, and free markets. We have over two million activists around the country.”
If that sounds like a decently sized army of conservative activists, O’Brien said, then they were happy to bring on more, assuming they could educate the public on how outraged they should be with the direction the government had led them in the past few years.
“Next Tuesday is the 1,000th day that the United States Senate has failed to come forward and pass a budget,” O’Brien said. “That’s deplorable.”
Much of the blame was directed at the Obama administration for the expansion of government during President Obama’s first term, and the high budget deficits under his watch.
“I’m going to tell you two phrases – ‘Change you can believe in’ and ‘Yes we can,’ “ O’Brien said. “You heard a lot of that three years ago. Well, what was that change, and can you believe in it? This administration is starting us back down a road to European socialism. We’re at a critical crossroads, and if we don’t get it right, I fear for our future.”
Tico Perez, the moderator of the event that lasted for several hours, urged people in the crowd to check out the group’s literature.
“If you want to see some interesting materials, go over to that Americans for Prosperity table,” he said.
Miller, who is running for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat now held by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, took aim at incumbents in both parties, and said it was time for real change in Washington. The former CEO of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, said voters should be looking for someone with a strong background in business development, rather than more career politicians.
“I am interviewing – interviewing – to be your next United States senator,” he said. “I say interviewing because we need someone with the right experience.”
Comments like that prompted Perez to note there were so many GOP candidates for state and federal office at the rally that “This is almost a Republican primary forum here.”
Another Republican candidate, radio talk show host Todd Long, said he would run for Congress this year in an effort to help make the GOP what it should be: a truly conservative party.
“I really appreciate being here with my fellow conservatives,” Long said. “The conservatives have made a comeback, working with us. We flushed out the Arlen Specters and the Charlie Crists and put in a Marco Rubio.”
Arlen Specter is a moderate Republican senator who served Pennsylvania from 1980 until 2010, when he switched parties and became a Democrat, and was defeated in the Democratic primary. Crist is Florida’s former moderate Republican governor, who decided in 2010 to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent, and lost to Rubio, the Republican candidate.
“We’re voting for people who keep bankrupting our nation,” Long said. But if enough genuinely conservative candidates win, he said, then things will change.
“President Obama has no power,” Long said. “Nancy Pelosi (the House Democratic leader) has no power. (Former Congressman) Alan Grayson really has no power, thanks to all of you.”
Grayson was elected to Congress representing Florida’s 8th Congressional District in 2008, but lost in 2010. Long also ran in both years, losing the GOP primaries each time.
Now Grayson is planning to run for Congress again, and Long said he would challenge him in November.
“We will never see Alan Grayson represent us again in Congress, I can promise you that,” Long said.
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