Posted: Oct. 24, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Delaware Republicans came in droves. Actually, they came in conveyances like the Escalade, Lincoln and BMW. All with one thought in mind.

Occupy Vicmead.

This is what happens when people are feeling frustrated and powerless. They put up a tent city, someplace where they think they can be secure. They set up food stations. They make rules so nobody gets unruly.

The Republicans, about 200 of them, massed last Thursday evening beneath the requisite tent. In their case, it was a huge white party tent. Picture it as something suitable for the wedding of a sheik.

It was pitched where the Republicans would not be bothered -- not with all the cops around in their cruisers with the lights flashing to assist considerately with the traffic and the parking -- at the Vicmead Hunt Club in Chateau Country. They were safe there, blending in nicely in the natural habitat of the top donors at the state party's biggest fund-raiser of the year.

They had their food stations. Feby's Fishery raw bar, mmmmm!

The rules were no-nonsense. The bar gets closed during the program. People pretend that Christine O'Donnell is not really there.

Occupy Vicmead had many grievances to air, too many for a single coherent message.

Greg Lavelle, the House minority leader, was for bringing back the good old Republican days. "The economic prosperity we have now gotten away from . . . . After too many Democrat governors, you see what happens!"

Laird Stabler, the national committeeman, wanted everyone to fall into step behind Reince Priebus, the Republican national chairman. "His focus is to make sure that our current president is a one-term president!"

John Sigler, the party chair, favored going after the Delaware Democrats. "It's time to return Delaware to more than a one-party state!"

Occupy Vicmead had its sympathizers. So what if there was no sign of Al Sharpton, the surest indicator of a real live protest? They had Nikki Haley, the 38-year-old governor of South Carolina.

Haley spoke their language. Not class warfare. Government warfare.

"The one thing I noticed from our family business is how hard it was to make a dollar and how easy it was for the government to take it," she said.

"Government was intended to ensure the rights and freedom of the people. It was not intended to be all things to all people."

Her biggest applause line of the evening? Probably her characterization of the work environment in South Carolina, when she said, "We are one of the lowest union-participation states in the country."

What an impression Haley made. Pete du Pont, the former governor, said, "That's the best speaker we've ever had."

Haley would be leaving for South Carolina, however, and Occupy Vicmead was left to come to terms with what it is. A leaderless resistance movement. The Republicans have nobody to run for governor next year.

If only it was as easy to acquire as the canapes being passed around on little silver trays. Candidates, anyone?