Vice President Mike Pence speaks in support of then-gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp at the Dalton Convention Center on Nov. 1, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Political whiplash: Pence arrives in Atlanta as democratic socialists gather 

Atlanta will play host on Friday for the leaders of two vastly different political movements. 

Vice President Mike Pence is the headline speaker at a conference at a Buckhead hotel organized by conservative pundit Erick Erickson that will also draw Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Sen. David Perdue. 

A few miles down the road, about 1,000 delegates will gather for the Democratic Socialists of America convention in downtown Atlanta to discuss the group’s future and chart out plans to support U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 bid.

The dueling events set up a day of clashing contrasts. The s-word — socialist — has rocketed to become the most popular Republican attack line ahead of next year’s elections, and a term that even some of the most liberal Democrats abhor. 

<<<More: A democratic socialists event arrives in Atlanta at key moment

But democratic socialists are also enjoying a growing movement, buoyed by last year’s midterm elections and a leftward tilt among some top White House hopefuls who embrace liberal issues that would have seemed unthinkable not long ago. 

Pence will chat with Erickson shortly before noon at his Resurgent Gathering about President Donald Trump’s re-election plan. 

Expect Pence and other speakers to lace their remarks at the Grand Hyatt event with attacks on socialism; Perdue’s campaign wrote an op-ed for attendees this week warning of an “ideological war for the future of our Republic.” 

Erickson has for years organized events for grassroots conservatives, but perhaps his most notable came in 2015. That was when the RedState Gathering attracted several presidential candidates – and dozens of headlines after Erickson banned Trump from attending

That’s in the rear-view mirror: Erickson, a blogger and WSB radio host, has long since abandoned the “Dump Trump” mantra and he recently endorsed the president’s 2020 bid

Later Friday, Pence is also expected to headline a fireside chat with his former top aide, Georgia operative Nick Ayers, at the annual Teneo retreat.

Teneo’s mission is to recruit and promote young conservatives, and Ayers’ conversation with Pence will focus on how the vice president became a conservative, the ideas that shaped his worldview and foreign policy issues.

On the other end of Peachtree, DSA delegates will meet through Sunday at the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel to try to map out a future for the organization and capitalize on newfound interest. 

Membership soared after Trump’s victory, and organizers say they now count 56,000 members nationally. But there are internal divisions over the group’s future, including whether the organization should build a bigger political apparatus.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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