Finally! My RightOnline 2011 post. As I said a while back, I had the opportunity to attend this year's RightOnline conference in Minneapolis, back in mind-June. I'll attempt to give a brief recap of this fantastic event.
For starters, the RightOnline staff has posted videos of each of the conference speakers, which you can view here. They have also linked to articles by bloggers and other news sites here.
The conference had the largest turnout they've ever had - over 1,500 conservative activists attended. The interesting thing about RightOnline is that every year, it is done in the same city and at the same time as NetRoots Nation, the Left's online activist conference. Throughout the weekend, people from both conferences would drop in the opposing event to chat or just look around (sometimes they'd be well received, sometimes they wouldn't). Generally, both sides were very cordial to each other.
The agenda included six breakout session tracks focused on a variety of issues (from Online Activism 101 to Public Policy Issues), split by several general sessions with featured speakers like Andrew Breitbart, Erick Erickson, Ed Morrissey, Michelle Malkin, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, Congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, presidential candidate and former Governor Tim Pawlenty, and presidential candidate Herman Cain.
I sat in on some informative breakouts discussing Freedom of Information, citizen journalism and state/local blogging, a very interesting talk by James O'Keefe (the man behind the ACORN and Planned Parenthood sting videos). In addition, RightOnline attendees had the opportunity to screen the new (and well done) Sarah Palin documentary The Undefeated (Jim Geraghty has a good review here).
I was impressed with all three of the presidential candidates who spoke at the conference. Tim Pawlenty carries with him a reputation of being a dull and boring speaker, but he did much to avoid that at RightOnline (such as somewhat more casual dress, the use of a wireless microphone which enabled him to roam the stage, rather than standing stationary behind the podium).
Michele Bachmann blew the roof off the building with her speech. She showed her solid grasp of a wide variety of issues, from health care to fiscal policy and jobs. At several points in her speech, she received sustained standing ovations. Bachmann really connected with the attendees, and set a very high bar for the remaining speakers.
As enthusiastically as Bachmann was received, I think Herman Cain got even higher ratings from the convention attendees. As with Bachmann, Cain has been criticized by the media and Republican establishment as being a lightweight with a poor grasp of the issues, but again, he showed a good handle on the policy side of things.
Bachmann and Cain are candidates that should not be underestimated. They may not be establishment picks, they may not have the background of a more "traditional" GOP nominees, and they may not as well thought of in the Beltway, but these are the candidates that will energize the conservative Republican base and the Tea Party. They are both forces to be reckoned with.
Outside of the politicians and candidates, the speakers who got the highest marks were probably Ann McElhinney (an Irish transplant who railed against "CINOs" - Conservatives In Name Only) and the ever-witty Andrew Breitbart, who rambled on for about thirty minutes in a very entertaining manner (and could have gone twice as long without any complaints from any attendees).
In short, I had a great time at the conference, as did the rest of the Oklahoma "gang" who attended. If you get the chance, you'll definitely want to try to make RightOnline 2012. Ironically, the NetRoots folks apparently have gotten tired of RightOnline following them around, so it seems they are trying to book up Providence, RI, with non-compete clauses for 2012, to prevent RightOnline from being able to hold their conference in that city!
Again, if you wish to watch videos from the conference, they have been posted on the RightOnline website. Other blog posts and news articles are here.