Conservatives Congregate in Reno — CLC Report

-By Warner Todd Huston

What is it you see in your mind when you think of liberal activists? Is it large groups gathered together to complain or protest? Perhaps. On the other hand, what is it that comes to mind when you hear about conservative activists? Is it a large group of folks coming together to advocate for change? Or do you more often think of a lone guy trying to stand in the way of change? I’d wager it is the later. By the very nature of conservatism, of course, there is a lot of truth to the idea that conservatives are often found standing in the way of change, but it is also quite true that conservatives don’t do “gathering together” very well. Not as well as liberals do, in any case. But, gathering together to affect conservative change was the chief objective of the first annual Conservative Leadership Conference (CLC) held in Reno, Nevada this past week.

Of course, the bulk of the 500 pre-registered attendees were from the nearby western states surrounding Nevada, but folks came from as far away as New York, Chicago, Memphis, and South Carolina to attend this gathering of conservative activists, thinkers, bloggers and planners. And the order of the day was to congregate in fellowship to further the agenda and keep the faith of conservatism in these dark days when conservatives often feel themselves to be stranded out in the wilderness, ignored by the very party that they had a large hand in bringing to power.

There were Libertarians, economic conservatives, those chiefly concerned with immigration issues, and many members of the new media, including Ed Morrissey of the famed Captain’s Quarters Blog. There were fringeish Ron Paul supporters, members of the Nevada Women’s GOP organization sporting Mitt Romney stickers, Signs for Duncan Hunter, writers for the Wall Street Journal, NRA operatives, members of the Heritage Foundation and other think tankers, your average Republicans were also wandering about… just about every representative of the conservative movement was in evidence.

And presidential candidates came to address those gathered, too. Mitt Romney appeared on Friday. Duncan Hunter spoke on Saturday. Alan Keyes also gave a powerful address after Friday night’s diner. Libertarian presidential candidate, Wayne Allyn Root, also spoke. Romney and Hunter gave townhall meetings, as well.

But, to be sure, this was a conservative conference. This was not a place where just any Republican would find himself entirely welcome, at least not if you are a country club Republican or a big government, so-called “compassionate conservative.” President Bush, for instance, would have found himself a tad uncomfortable with the rhetoric here.

The consensus of those gathered is that we are at a crossroads in America today. Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, recipient of the CLC’s first Barry Goldwater Award for conservative excellence echoed that theme in his warm and uplifting address during the awards banquet on Saturday night. Sanford spoke to the state of the conservative union and felt it wasn’t good because we’ve lost our brand as conservative Republicans. But, he said, it is far from too late for conservatives to retake the GOP and lead America back to its most fundamental first principles.

Gov. Sanford saw cause for optimism with those in attendance at the CLC. He mentioned that too often in his own state when a group of conservatives gathered, they couldn’t stand any more than 15 minutes of discussion before they were ready to move on. He was amazed, he said, with the “hardcore” attitude of those at the CLC because we had stayed for three days of panels, speeches and discussion, a far cry form a mere 15 minutes of lose talk.

But, as I mentioned earlier, conservatives are notorious for being loners and that propensity does not lend itself well to outreach, something liberals do quite well. That is what the CLC was determined to change and hopes to continue to change with annual gatherings from this point forward (CLC 2008 will likely be in Las Vegas, but no firm plans are ready to be announced as of now.)

As CPAC has done with the east, the CLC wants to do for the west, and this effort is not nearly as stale as CPAC.

The CLC was a place to press flesh, speak about ideas, hear messages of how to become active, even have a drink with friends old and new. And, since it isn’t sponsored by any particular political party, the CLC was under no obligation to toe any particular line. This conference was beholden to no one. This allowed a wide breadth of conservative discussion to take place and made it ideal for activism.

The Conference was sponsored by Citizen’s Outreach with front man Chuck Muth in the lead doing a fantastic job planning, organizing, and emceeing the conference. The old trope that anything that can go wrong will go wrong was destined to be demolished by the smooth operations of this wide-ranging conference. So, Kudos to Chuck for all his hard work.

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform also had a large hand in the ground work and support for the week’s activities and the conference could not have occurred without him.

The list of speakers was deep and interesting with some very big names in today’s conservative movement and the new media in attendance and discussion panels ranged throughout the three-day conference.

This was an important gathering of the best and brightest of the conservative movement and it can do nothing but improve for next year. If you want to advance the conservative cause, CLC 2008 better be on your list of things to do.

List of Speakers (in order of appearance):
Geno Martini, Mayor of Sparks, Nevada
Mike Collins, GOPAC
Mark Soohoo, GOPAC
Adam Graham
Joe Giordano, TCB Consulting
Jim Bieber, Bieber Communications
Ken Marrero, Blue Colar Muse blog
Glen Caroline, National Rifle Association
Charles Bell, Republican National Lawyers Association
Warner Todd Huston, Publius’ Forum blog
Jerry Dorchuck, Global Telesystems
Former Congressman and GOP majority leader Dick Armey, Freedom Works
Richard Viguerie
Steven Greenhut, Orange County Register
Mitt Romney, former Gov. of Mass and GOP candidate for president
Rick Berman, Center for Union Facts
Adrian Cronauer, DOD (of “Good Morning Vietnam” fame)
Ambassador Alan Keyes, GOP candidate for president
Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform
Representative Duncan Hunter of California, GOP candidate for president
Wayne Allyn Root, Libertarian candidate for president
Representative John Shadegg of Arizona
Bill Redpath, National Chairman of the Libertarian Party
Bob Barr, Libertarian Party
J. D. Hayworth, Citizens United
David Keene, American Conservatives Unions
Former Senator Paul Laxalt (via video)
Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina

Panels included:
The Rise of Blogs and Blog Talk Radio
Criminalizing Citizen Activism
Affirmative Action/Minority Outreach
Conservatives and the New Media
Fixing Education in America
Government and the Internet
Handicapping the 2008 Race for the White House
The Unfairness of the Fairness Doctrine
Issues ’08: What Wins and What Loses
Politics and Immigration Reform
Warner Todd Huston’s thoughtful commentary, sometimes irreverent often historically based, is featured on many websites such as,, men’ and among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a guest on several radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events. He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book “Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture” which can be purchased on He is also the owner and operator of Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions : EMAIL Warner Todd Huston

Copyright Publius Forum 2001