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Politicial Activist David Horowitz Talks Candidly at Tea Party Event

The guest speaker doesn't mince words, mostly about the left, during a talk-show-style interview in front of a capacity crowd

Things got political Thursday night at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort as the Santa Barbara Tea Party presented guest speaker and conservative political activist David Horowitz. In a talk-show-style format mediated by SBCC philosophy professor Mark McIntire, Horowitz opined about America’s past, present and future from a conservative standpoint and discussed his own atonement for being a “reformed leftist.”

A capacity audience of more than 400 attendees turned out to hear Horowitz speak, and the room was buzzing with anticipation before the start of the evening’s event.

After the national anthem sung by Deborah Bertling and a brief welcome by Chris Mitchum, emcee Ward Connerly took the stage for a few opening remarks.

“David and I are fellow revolutionaries, if you will,” said Connerly, founder and president of the American Civil Rights Institute and a longtime friend and colleague of Horowitz.

“And I have always been grateful to David for giving me some comfort in my moment of great personal anguish. You don’t know what it’s like to be standing out there by yourself fighting for what you believe in, and even your friends start challenging you and calling you names — at least you thought they were your friends. And for someone to come along and say, ‘You know, you’re doing the right thing,’ it means an awful lot.”

Horowitz himself knows quite a bit about standing out. The author and commentator, who has spoken at more than 300 colleges and universities, has been repeatedly accused of racism and prejudice for his public opposition to affirmative-action policies, as well as reparations for slavery. He has also been ostracized in many academic circles for publicly accusing colleges of political bias and liberal indoctrination. In 1988, Horowitz created the Center for the Study of Popular Culture — renamed by its board of directors the David Horowitz Freedom Center in 2006 — to institutionalize his campaigns against the left.

When Connerly introduced him to the stage, Horowitz received a standing ovation from the crowd of Tea Party activists.

McIntire began by asking Horowitz to share his thoughts on the Tea Party movement’s chances of success as a vehicle for grassroots conservative change.

“Let me say that I am probably the happiest conservative this year,” Horowitz began, “because I spent 20 years trying to tell conservatives, ‘These people are not liberals. They’re socialists, they’re leftists, and they hate you and they hate this country, and they are very dangerous.’

“But I’m a happy camper, because for the first time in 20 years, this year people are waking up on the right,” he said to ubiquitous applause from the crowd.

Horowitz went on to describe his feelings about fundamental differences between conservatives and leftists. Throughout his discourse, he was deliberate in his distinction between liberals and leftists, whom he regards as two autonomous groups.

“For leftists, politics is war — it’s war conducted by other means,” Horowitz said. “Finally, conservatives are starting to understand that they must become an army if they are going to fight the army of the left.”

Horowitz also spoke at length about what he thought the Tea Party needed to do to galvanize and move forward as a political force.

“The Tea Party movement is ordinary citizens taking the initiative in their own hands, but now we have to build a national movement that understands the first principles of this country and carry them forward,” Horowitz said. “I think we have to keep it really simple. The country is being bankrupted by unbelievable deficits — that’s No. 1 — and second is the war on terror.”

While Horowitz is known as a staunch conservative these days, that wasn’t always the case. He was born into a Communist family and was a founding member of the New Left in the 1960s. Throughout the 1970s, however, he began to make a gradual shift to the right and eventually found himself on the opposite side of the political spectrum from where he began.

“The second half of my life is atonement for the first half,” Horowitz said to laughs from the crowd.

Despite the moment of levity, the majority of the discussion was no laughing matter for Horowitz, who continually made clear his belief that the left is a dangerous, anti-American segment of society. In his book Unholy Alliance, Horowitz claims that the left shares a view of America as the “Great Satan” with its radical Islamic enemies. He said the left views politics not as civil discourse, but as a religious war.

“They see themselves as the Army of the Saints,” Horowitz said. “If I can bring one thing home to you, it’s that this is the Armageddon that we’re facing. These people are very serious, and they mean business.”

When the conversation steered toward President Barack Obama, Horowitz was equally unflattering.

“How did we elect a guy who was brought up Communist, he spent 20 years going to a church with a racist, anti-Semitic, anti-American kook as his spiritual adviser, Jeremiah Wright, whose chief political ally as a community organizer was an unrepentant terrorist named Billy Ayers? How did this guy get to be president?” Horowitz asked the crowd, eliciting a score of hisses.

“Well, I don’t want to take away everything. He has certain talents. Lying is one of them.”

But Democrats were by no means the only ones to feel the lash of Horowitz’s tongue. He called former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “an absolute disgrace” for referring to known terrorists as “civil rights workers.”

A question-and-answer session moderated by McIntire followed the hourlong interview, and featured issues ranging from indoctrination in schools to taxes and medical marijuana. Horowitz stressed several times his belief that conservatives have the numbers to compel change both locally and nationally, yet are lacking the solidarity he sees on the left.

Afterward, Horowitz made a few closing statements in which he reiterated his warnings of a political war being waged in America.

“If you look at our European counterparts, like what’s happening in Holland, you can see how fragile this experiment of democracy is — it’s only a few hundred years old. So that puts a great obligation on all of us, it’s a calling that we have to defend this country and to carry it on to next generations,” he said.

“The battle is joined, and the future is in your hands.”

— Kevin McFadden is a Noozhawk contributor.

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