Bakersfield Business Conference makes its triumphant return

American heroes, Olympians and politicians descend on Bakersfield and talk politics

Dylan Bryant, Reporter

The Bakersfield Business Conference was hosted on Oct. 8 at CSUB, bringing a slew of Olympians, heroes, politicians, celebrities and others to the campus for a day. The 6,000 or so attendees, who paid up to $500 for a ticket, arrived early and prepared themselves for the long day ahead. Red, white and blue flags adorned every table and many of the outfits. By the time legendary Notre Dame Football coach Lou Holtz had taken the stage, everyone was settled in.

The Business Conference is known to be a gathering of conservatives from across California.

The conference took place the day after audio surfaced of Donald Trump making lewd comments about sexually assaulting women to Access Hollywood reporter Billy Bush.

While some in attendance might have argued they were only there to see Diane Keaton or Magic Johnson, most there were seemingly united by a belief – that Donald Trump should be President of the United States – and that today was a day to unite around that message, and hear from Trump surrogates making their case.

This became apparent first when Colonel Allen West gave his speech, the first political speaker to appear. West’s message focused on our national history, the importance of our armed forces, and the American dream. He spent a long while criticizing America for having created what he believes to be a “welfare state.” But when it got to speaking about the election, he treated the subject like the elephant in the room, refusing to say the GOP candidate’s name, but urging those in attendance to consider the importance of the decision before them, and implying strongly he is still the better candidate.

Then came the panel of former Governors Bill Richardson, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal, moderated by local congressman Kevin McCarthy. The audience thought McCarthy’s first question was going to dive right into the issue, as he stated that he wanted to get right to the “elephant in the room.” He then proceeded to ask Rick Perry whether it was harder to govern Texas or to “Dance with the Stars.” While the audience laughed, they were also left more curious.

The panel moved on, with each of the former executives speaking on their experiences and expertise. Richardson spoke about his diplomatic travels to North Korea, Perry about bringing businesses to Texas (from California, they joked), and Jindal spoke about his education model and the “failures of Obamacare.”

When they did get to speaking on the election, the three Republicans on stage did not condemn his statements, but did offer advice to the candidate, and remained in his camp. Jindal made the statement that “this election is not about them,” which the audience approved.

Next on the main stage was “The Debate,” featuring James “The Ragin’ Cajun” Carville, and Anne Coulter. The two are known for their outrageous behavior and spar each other often on “The Bill Maher Show,” but today’s exhibition is in good fun, and Stan Statham’s questions promoted predictable, but entertaining responses.

Coulter spent no time shying away from Trump’s comments, presence asking the audience if they were really that surprised, and reiterating her support. Carville was visibly excited to be one of the only Democrats in the room, proudly raising his fists in the air after his rebuttal, basking in a roar of boos. There were other highlights, like Carville calling Trump a “clown and an ignoramus,” Coulter accusing Ted Kennedy of murder.

But this bit of spectacle spoke to a larger point about the election. Yes, most conservatives are upset Trump said those things. But a common refrain throughout the day was, “What he said is nothing compared to what she did.” This crowd saw his comments as bad humor, locker room talk, a regrettable but redeemable quality.

On the other hand, they see nothing but a criminal in Hillary Clinton, some chanting “Lock Her Up” upon mentioning her name. They see her as an existential threat to the nation, whom can only be stopped by their candidate. Coulter ended her performance with the phrase “Vote Trump, it’s your only hope.”

Following speeches from Magic Johnson and Dr. Ben Carson, Fox News Host Laura Ingraham provided rock solid proof that Trump is still as popular as ever here in the Valley. She pulled out her cell phone to record a question she would ask of the audience; “Raise your hand if you would like Trump to step aside.” Silence, without a hand in the air. “Now raise your hand if you’re ready for him to be President,” and the crowd went wild.

Along with a speech by Captain Richard Phillips, whose boat was seized by Somali Pirates in 2009 before being rescued by Navy SEALs, the day concluded with speeches from Medal of Honor Recipient Master Sergeant Leroy Petry and Green Beret Commander Dan Quinn.

Petry received one of two medals of honor given out since Vietnam, after losing a hand on his 7th tour of duty, getting a prosthetic, and going on an 8th tour. Quinn was relieved of duty and narrowly avoided being discharged after beating an Afghan police officer for raping a young Afghan boy. Both were greeted with thousands of American flags being waved, given standing ovations, and it was clear that no candidate could overshadow the patriotism shared in that moment.