An army of modern-day American revolutionaries descended upon Washington over the weekend, armed not with muskets and bayonets, but with Ted Cruz campaign buttons and pocketbook Constitutions.
The mission: Keep the Supreme Court out of enemy hands.
FreedomWorks hosted nearly 60 grass-roots leaders from around the country at its Activist Boot Camp, where strategy sessions focused on how to use social media and market the conservative message ahead of the fight over the successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Jason Pye, director of communications at FreedomWorks, estimated that 60 percent of the attendees were older than 40 but said he wasn’t surprised at the baby boomers’ adroit social media skills.
“Most of them may have been a little older, middle-aged and up, but most of them have more followers on their Facebook pages than their local Republican parties,” Mr. Pye said.
Although strategies have changed since the 18th-century American Revolution, the principles have not. Teri Pace, who is affiliated with the Virginia chapter of Eagle Forum, said she is fighting for a return to the principles outlined during the nation’s founding.
“That’s what’s made America so great — that we are free people,” Ms. Pace said. “If we would just follow our Constitution. We have a great one that protects everyone and offers opportunity for everyone, but we’re not following it.”
Michael Bostic, a businessman and tea party leader from Mississippi, said his firsthand experience with ruinous effects of overregulation propelled him into the political arena.
His solution: “I just want us to get back to the Constitution. My old man used to tell me, ‘Every problem we’ve got is because we don’t follow the Constitution.’ And there’s a lot of wisdom in that. We need some anchors. I believe in sticking to your principles.”
Given the emphasis on the Constitution, it’s no surprise that Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is the group’s overwhelming favorite in the Republican presidential race.
Jeff Blackstone, a FreedomWorks organizer, said he was split between Donald Trump and Mr. Cruz at the outset of the nominating contest but became clear-eyed after Scalia’s death left a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
“Of the guys left in the primary, there’s only one I trust to give me conservative justices, because he understands the Constitution,” Mr. Blackstone said. “He’s known it since he was 12 years old.”
“I’ll be honest with you: There’s a piece of me that wants Ted Cruz to stay in the Senate to work with Mike Lee and Rand Paul, but once he made up his mind that he was going to run, he was always my first choice,” Mr. Bostic said.
The modern-day Republican Party may be mired in infighting, but the FreedomWorks Activist Boot Camp serves as a reminder that the disparate wings of the Republican Party still find common cause in the spirit of 1776.