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Legislators, protesters discuss viability of CPAC messaging in Missouri

KIRKSVILLE, Mo. — Less than a full month after veto session ended, conservative organizations nationwide came to St. Charles this past weekend to discuss tax cuts, labor issues, the Second Amendment and more.

Many more issues were discussed, of course, during the Conservative Political Action Conference, but those three, for example, have not made it across the finish line in Missouri (two-thirds failing in veto session alone).

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaking during CPAC. (Click through for a full photo gallery from the morning events.)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaking during CPAC. (Click through for a full photo gallery from the morning events.)

In light of that, how constructive was the national Conservative messaging in Missouri this past weekend?

Shy of a dozen state legislature members and statewide elected officials attended the event, several speaking about the more localized front of the main issues.

“I think any time you’re talking about ideas, it can be a positive,” Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, says. “We’ve gotten so close on issues like the tax cut that having other like-minded people around talking about it and raising awareness about it can only help.”

Schmitt says the momentum behind this past year’s effort — House Bill 253 — brought more momentum from its Conservative supporters than ever before, and because of that, the CPAC messaging is probably more constructive in Missouri.

In a way, Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, agrees.

“Having these success stories come from other states and having them speak in Missouri, it certainly let’s us know where we need to go,” Burlison says.

Many of the main stage speakers, such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry or Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, are from states that have implemented efforts Missouri Conservatives strive toward, like cutting (or eliminating) state income taxes, or have implemented the so-called “Right to work” laws that deal with labor laws.

Burlison says Missouri is trying to “get up to speed” with what these other states have done, while those states move on to whatever the next agenda item is.

He agrees that national groups coming to Missouri, speaking to legislators and a few hundred audience members, can be useful in the sense of being motivational, but he also says there is a detriment.

“We like to have meetings a lot,” Burlison says. “We like to have these conferences, and bring in well-informed, expert speakers and we talk about facts. But, it doesn’t necessarily get turned into action, and that’s kind of what we need right now.”

Referencing Aristotle, Burlison says a lot of these Conservative messages appeal to the ethos and logos — or credibility and logical appeals — but lag when it comes to pathos, emotional appeal.

“Most Conservatives are all about ‘why we need to do this’ and ‘why it’s logical,'” he says. “We are not making the personal story or anecdotal appeal anymore and the notion is that conservatives don’t care about people. We look at the data and know it impacts people’s lives, but neglect to communicate it in a way that appeals to people emotionally.”

Organizations protest outside of the CPAC event in St. Charles last weekend.
Organizations protest outside of the CPAC event in St. Charles last weekend.

Outside of the CPAC event Saturday, union members gathered to speak out against the messaging inside, calling it a detriment to Missouri with various signs saying things like “Rick Perry is cray cray,” “Rick Perry – take Tim Jones back to Texas with you” and several other anti-“Right to work” signs.

“I found it really ironic that those who were inside the building are the group of politicos that are pushing back on federal regulations and rules while promoting this national agenda of their own,” Judith Parker, a Missouri consultant with the Alliance for Retired Americans, says. “We can see that here in Missouri.”

Parker says efforts to cut corporate taxes, push “Right to work” (an effort that some argue drives down wages) and push back on Medicaid expansion are all examples of messaging that the protesting group thinks of as damaging.

“The economic agenda being pushed inside CPAC has been devastating to working people. It is all about making it easier for multinational corporations to outsource jobs,” Lew Moye, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, said during the protest event. “Instead of finding ways to help CEOs ship jobs away from our country, it is time to close unfair tax loopholes and hold corporations accountable to ensure good jobs for our community.”

Members from Young Activists United St. Louis and the American Federation for State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME 72).