CPAC featured a gut churning mix of superficial solutions, spiteful accusations, and silly bromides. It was like Twitter, but in person!
Conservatives are nothing if not cheerful in their defeat and the conference bounded gleefully along from topic to topic. The young people panel waxed eloquent about how the Democrats passed the Civil Rights Act (they didn’t–they actually filibustered it). The consultant panel got the truth hammer from Democrat Pat Caddell, disgusted with everybody.
For me, I felt like a passenger in a deranged CPAC Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang car feeling every jolt and bump and never getting off the ground.
I use CPAC every year as a kind of touchstone. Nearly all ideological camps attend (or are banned and manage to have their voices heard anyway) so it’s a fair representation of the conservative right. Last year was energized by the conservatives who were out of power. The establishment types who had won their respective nominations couldn’t rally the troops and that had me worried–and rightly so, it turns out.
This year, the facility was great, the numbers were great, the panels were well-attended, the attendees were all dressed smartly and professional, and everyone was spared a Ron Paul group meltdown from the audience. So, major kudos to the ACU for putting on a great conference. The venue has the potential to facilitate networking in a way that past venues have not.
Yet for all the shininess, the substance of the conference disturbed me. Here are just some random perspectives:
1. Ignorance about what it means to be conservative.
If we have folks getting up on stage and not even understanding that the GOP is the party of Lincoln, Douglas and civil rights, we have work to do on our own side before we can credibly reach out to middle America and convince them of the rightness of our ideas. If our own party thinks that conservative ideas are evil and frame issues in leftist terms, we’ve already lost the arguments.
2. Lack of seriousness.
Pardon me, but why are we kvetching over social issues when the nation is staggering under it’s own indebted weight? It would be one thing if there seemed to be a reasoned, respectful, fact-based argument around some of these divisive issues, but no. Instead, the right is being treated to the same sort of shrieking emotionalism that one is used to getting from the left. The misinformation and loping strawmen arguments have been embarrassing to watch. Why are average Americans, trying pay their bills and scraping by, supposed to take the Right seriously? The Right certainly isn’t acting like they care about how the average person is faring. For more on this read Ben Domenech’s excellent piece on which issues should animate the Right.
Side note: I’m going to be accused, again, of being a curmudgeon. Oh well. Topics like immigration, changing the definition of marriage, etc. have considerable, profound, historical and cultural implications. The topics deserve more than bitter, derisive snark. The current generation in America won’t be the last and it certainly isn’t the first. Sometimes it seems like that there’s zero historical or visionary thought when it comes to these monumental decisions.
3. The Stank of Desperation.
Fear. The city is rank with it. And amongst the center-right ranks, fear seemed to be the electricity that fueled the conference.
Fear of losing donor money.
Fear of being booted for poor performance.
Fear of holding obsolete ideas.
Fear that America, as we know it, is over.
Fear that the party will never change.
Fear that it will.
Mostly, fear for livelihoods potentially slipping away in the wake of abject failure.
Worst, not nearly enough fear that we’ll be a second-class party and a doomed Republic if Republicans continue on their failed path.
Side note: The RNC study paper coming out the day after CPAC was the height of cowardice. Why not release it beforehand and then allow a panel discussion to cover the findings? It was a perfect opportunity. But no. We still have a political elite on the right who want to have the last word.
And the last dollar.
The GOP has factions intent on hoarding information and money. There are gross duplications of resources and vast voids where resources and information and action, and most of all, elbow grease could make a real difference. Too few seem to be concerned about building for the future.
Too many seem consumed with making sure rival organizations or people fail. Too many seem desirous of revenge and retribution while the true enemy strengthens itself, rests, and prepares for the next battle.
So rock on, conservatives! Here’s to making our side as divided, petty, and venal as the left. Here’s to pretending that screeching about problems is the same as caring about a real solution. Here’s to being ahistorical and blind to the future.
Stay in the now.
Be consumed by fear.
Be right. Be dead right.
Follow Melissa Clouthier @MelissaTweets.