The most anticipated speaker at the 2010 Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. was newly chosen Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell, who was added to the line-up on Thursday. Her speech touched on all the talking points of the Tea Party that launched her to fame -- the importance of staying true to the Constitution, pushing conservative values, government intrusion and even references to Newt Gingrich.
A large portion of her speech looked to the past. She spoke about nostalgia for her childhood, America's founding days and Ronald Reagan. Indeed, one of her best received lines was, "Some have accused us of being just an aging crowd of former Reagan staffers and homeschoolers. They're trying to marginalize us and put us in a box. They're trying to say we're trying to take over this party or that campaign. They don't get it. We're not trying to take back our country. We are our country."
O'Donnell immediately started off by railing against the government's misplaced priorities, many of which were right-wing social bogeymen, such as making the American public "pay for overseas abortions" and a stimulus bill "that spent millions of Keynesian fantasy." She then depicted a conservative movement that is fighting back after being told to "curl up in a fetal position":
O'DONNELL: The conservative movement was told to curl up a fetal position and just stay there for the next eight years, thank you very much. Well, how things have changed. During those dark days when common sense patriotic Americans were looking for some silver lining, they stumbled upon the Constitution.
You see, a funny thing happened along the way to our assigned seats on the sideline. Those of us who had toiled for years in the values movement suddenly found ourselves surrounded by Americans who had rediscovered the most fundamental value of all: liberty. These Americans were finding answers to our current problem that threatens our future in the wisdom of our once threatened past. Our friends and neighbors began to join us at the rallies, under the Don't Tread on Me flag, they were looking around and saying, as Speaker Gingrich often says, "There are more of us than there are of them."
O'Donnell identified both as a member of the Tea Party and a member of the "values movement," despite the push by many Tea Party organizations to stay away from social issues. She repeatedly referenced her faith, and infused religious rhetoric into her speech:
O'DONNELL: And the Constitution is making a comeback. It's simply unprecedented in my lifetime. I think it's a little like the chosen people of Israel and the Hebrew scriptures, who cycle through periods of blessing and suffering and then return to the divine principles in their darker days. It's almost as if we're in a season of constitutional repentance. When our country's on the wrong track, we search back to our first covenant, our founding documents, and the bold and inspired values on which they were based. Those American values enshrined in the Declaration provide the real answer.
O'Donnell's appearance was considerably smoother and more conventional than many of her past appearances. The only slip-up occurred when she called the Tea Party movement "loud" and "passionate" and "ratty," quickly realizing she meant to say "rowdy."
O'Donnell alluded to the extra scrutiny she has been receiving, saying that such treatment is the price for a "revolution of reason." "Will they attack us? Yes," she said. "Will they smear our backgrounds and distort our records? Undoubtedly. Will they lie about us, harass our families, name call, and try to intimidate us? They will. There's nothing safe about it. But is it worth it? Yes!"
Populist rhetoric was woven through O'Donnell's speech, with statement such as, "We're not trying to take back our country; we are our country." She even co-opted some of the rhetoric from Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, praising the "audacity of liberty" of what happened when people stood up for freedom throughout history, like at Tiananmen Square.
O'Donnell came in and left to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing". Although she received a standing ovation, she didn't get any during her speech, unlike Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.). After she left the stage, Gil Mertz of the Family Research Council requested of the audience, "I would ask you to be much in prayer for Christine O'DOnnell. This woman of faith will be under much attack." Referencing criticisms of her in recent days -- including by the media -- Hertz concluded, "The darkness hates the light."
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