California Tea Partiers met in Fresno on Friday and Saturday in hopes of activating their supporters on behalf of President Trump's agenda. “The Real Resistance Conference” brought together diehard anti-establishment conservatives and disillusioned Republicans to talk strategy.
The group slammed any Republicans that cooperate with Democrats. Singled out for criticism were the eight GOP legislators in Sacramento -- including Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes -- who recently voted for cap-and-trade legislation supported by Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders.
Among the names hurled at them by Tea Party leaders: "The Swamp 8." They say compromise is not an option. The 140 or so people in the crowd nodded and shouted their agreement.
In his keynote address, California Rep. Tom McClintock put the stakes in stark terms. “We’re going to be looking back on this era as the days that either saved or lost the American Republic,” he said, “and perhaps even Western civilization itself.”
Later McClintock told the crowd that 2016 was the most important election in his lifetime, but added a warning: “2018 will decide whether 2016 was indeed the turning point that made America great again or whether it was merely a speed bump on America’s road to ruin.”
After McClintock got a standing ovation, Jan Soule of San Jose made her way over to the registration table to become a member the Tea Party California Caucus.
"I’m desperate!” she said. “I came here because I’m hoping to connect with other conservatives who are hoping to change California. There’s got to be an alternative to the California Republican Party."
While some described themselves as the conscience of the Republican Party and said they hope to influence leaders in office, others declared the party dead, calling for more radical action.
"We don’t have a Republican Party anymore," former California Assemblyman and onetime gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly told the crowd. He offered two options. “We can either take it back completely or we can abandon it and move on. We're not gonna help the GOP anymore. We're gonna help hard-core American patriots."
The chief complaints at the conference were government overreach, too much immigration and allegations of voter fraud. Although Trump claimed there was voter fraud in the presidential election, there has been no credible documentation of that.
While Tea Party members blamed liberal policies for these problems, they focused their anger on California Republicans who they say don’t stand up for conservative principles.
“We have a lot of [swamp Republicans] in Sacramento right now,” said Randall Jordan, who heads up the California Tea Party Caucus. He reserved special disdain for Republican lawmakers who voted to extend cap and trade.
"That’s what this conference is about,” Jordan said. “That’s what we’re trying to do is get people activated in their local communities to try to get those people out of here who only care about power and money.”
He said change has to start at the local level. “That’s where you groom people that will be your future assemblymen, your future Congress people.”
For all the vitriol trained on the Republican Party, President Trump managed to escape criticism. Conference goers almost unanimously expressed their support for the president.
“I don’t know who in this room was as emotional the night Donald Trump got elected,” Jordan told the crowd, to applause. “My wife and I cried. We both cried and I still get choked up.”