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CPAC the Next Battleground in the Right’s Civil War

The annual conservative confab will give no respite to the warring parties. (Don't miss Next Generation's members-only coverage of CPAC 2013 — featuring former Congressman Allen West and Michelle Fields. Click here to learn more.) 

by
Rick Moran

Bio

March 13, 2013 - 12:08 am
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This week, conservatives will descend on the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, for the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference. The confab will take place against the backdrop of what some political observers are calling a “civil war” on the right — the bitter dregs left over from the election of 2012 .

Forget the finger pointing, the accusations of apostasy, extremism, and craziness. What the fight is really about is who gets to define the public face of conservatism and, more prosaically, what conservatism means.

Is conservatism one set of principles upon which everyone on the right can agree? Is it a loose set of issues around which a broad coalition can form? Is it an ideology? A personal philosophy?

In truth, the biggest political disadvantage from which the right suffers at the moment is incoherence. This has left the door wide open for Democrats and the left to define conservatism any way they choose — and they choose to put the absolute worst possible spin on the individual faux pas and idiocies coming mostly from fringe elements on the right in an effort to tar all conservatives as extremists, racists, misogynists, and dangerous fanatics.

Lacking a recognized leader, conservatives have been unable to formulate a strategy to counter these charges, which are advanced by every leading Democrat from the president on down. Not only has the right been unable to organize a defense against these slanders, but their lack of leadership has also meant that precious little has been done to explain even the most basic elements of conservative governance — constitutional limits on government, a well-ordered free market, and adherence to the rule of law — giving the president and his redistributionist policies a virtual free ride in the marketplace of ideas.

Can anything be done? Not as long as there is a chasm between the factions that self-identify as “conservative.” If it were simply a matter of the “establishment” versus “the base,” differences could be papered over and a cautious unity could be achieved — at least until after the next election.

Unfortunately, the divide is more profound than that, and subsuming the very real differences between factions is no longer acceptable — not after two election losses in what should have been winnable contests. The base is angry at the establishment for watering down what they see as the purity of true conservativism, while the establishment seems genuinely concerned about what they feel is extremism and just plain kookiness from some in the base. In reality, it is the ideological fervor of the base vs. the more pragmatic, philosophical beliefs of most of the establishment that is at issue.

If conservatism means believing in and following a set of recognized principles, both sides would probably surprise themselves by realizing they agree on most of them. Does anyone on the right seriously disagree with Russell Kirk’s “Ten Conservative Principles” or Michael Oakeshott’s “On Being Conservative”? There is more to conservatism than what those two esteemed intellectuals believed, but their writing and thinking encompass a good deal of what modern conservatism means to its adherents.

If not a big divide over principles, what then? The schism is between those who are consumed by conservative ideology to the point that winning elections is secondary to — or at least as important as — maintaining a consistent support for issues and those who might sacrifice an issue to the larger cause of governance.

The split between ideologues and pragmatists is nothing new, but this time much of it appears driven by opposition to certain personalities. CPAC raised some eyebrows by not inviting Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey to speak, saying the popular blue-state governor has a “limited future” in the national party. It might have had more to do with Christie’s embrace of President Obama for his help following Hurricane Sandy and the governor’s subsequent dressing down of Republican lawmakers for holding up federal storm aid to his state.

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Top Rated Comments   
"Forget the finger pointing, the accusations of apostasy, extremism, and craziness. What the fight is really about is who gets to define the public face of conservatism and, more prosaically, what conservatism means"

No, let's NOT play "Good Democrat" and sweep the failure of 2012 into the "Memory Hole". Let's air the dirty laundry and demand mea culpas from the GOP establishment that told us that Mitt Romney was "the electable one" in the primaries.

Let us demand answers of why John McCain is still such a visible figure in the GOP and has not self-exiled himself from in friont of the TV cameras.

And let's hear from those people who have taken the opportunity to tell Conservatives that a "Path to Citizenship",(I STILL call it "Amnesty"!), for illegal immigrants, as well as recognition of "Gay" marriage is "inevitable".

Even in the Soviet Union, the Party Congress was an opportunity for those apparatchiks that had performed poorly to publicly castigate and pledge to rehabilitate themselves by endorsing the very initiatives they had supported that had failed.

And why in the world is CPAC spending its funds meeting in Maryland? MARYLAND! A classic example of rewarding your enemies while punishing your friends. There are any number of reliably Conservative cities and states that could benefit from the convention trade, but CPAC chooses THE most dysfunctional bastion of knee-jerk Liberalism south of Massachusetts.

I will not be attending, since my Second Amendment rights are infringed in that benighted state.


1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The loss of the last two "winnable: elections had nothing to do with an ideological schism, but everything to do with pathetic candidates who tanked the debate ( McCain suspending his campaign when the economy crashed and Romney acting like a "me too" ventriloquists ' dummy in the foreign policy debate.)
The GOP establishment instead of allowing a firebrand like Allen West to speak at the convention chose nice Mia Love who got thrashed in Utah by a Democrat. (How does a Democrat win in Utah?)
Rove and the rest of these unprincipled political hacks are not "pragmatic" or "realistic". They're shills for corporate interests and dumber than dirt on top of it.
I fear the only way another party than the statists in power today will arise is after they drive the car off the cliff and ruin the economy and our national prestige for years to come. Maybe then the young voters won't listen to morons like Lena Dunham and the rest of the Hollywood foolocracy.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
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"...the more pragmatic, philosophical beliefs of most of the establishment..."

If by "pragmatic & philosophical" you mean 'gutless sell-outs'... then I guess you're right.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The platform and messaging is what got defeated in the 2012 general election. A majority rejected it! So long as the social reformists continue to try and define to the GOP and conservatism, the platform and messaging will continue to be defeated. The majority of the nation wants no part of it in these times nor most likely, anytime in the future.

Religious zelots and hate mongers will find little success in America.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What are we supposed to do when the rhetoric uses words like fiscal cliff, disaster, clamity, armaggedon right up until the vote when the words change to compromise, keep government working, we can't, Obama won?
We get all fired up to fever putch right up to the moment Republicans are up to bat when they whiff three easy ones.
The party has little beyond words to prove its fealty to conservatism.
Example: Obama says he will veto a house budget item. Does the House exert its constitutional prerogative of setting the budget? No, the vote a CR. Why not budget one agency at a time. When Obama or the Senate balk, let it close. Leave it and go to the next agency. Do it again.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
does the Constitution-following, limited govt conservative still exist? If so, he/she is vastly outnumbered by the neocon foreign interventionists, the social conservatives who love govt control almost as much as liberals do, and the conflicted wanna-be fiscal conservative who thinks giving people slightly less free stuff than the Dems is winning strategy.

The party's biggest problem is its own establishment. Other than skin hue, there is little functional or substantive difference between Boehner and Pelosi. He and the rest of the GOP presided over a govt-expanding extravaganza that liberals would have loved had their man been behind it. Medicare Part-D, No Child, Homeland Security, and the hideous TSA are the antithesis of conservatism. Yet, it was a GOP POTUS aided and abeted by a GOP Congress that put all into place.

Perhaps conservatives need to figure out who they are and what they believe in before trying to convince others to join them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The people you're talking about as conservatives, just aren't. They're Democrat Lite. We despise them.

YOU hate the base but the base is what has won in the past. The low-tax/fiscal-conservative/deregulation people provide the bulk of the votes. The deregulation is vitally important and is why Reagan won! The pro-life people provide the most reliable and greatest number of volunteers. They will work hard to get out the vote. The Second Amendment people generally have some money and property and will be your most reliable contributors. Please them all and you win. Lose them and you lose.

Besides - no organization gets to say who's conservative and who's not. PJM is pretty weak when it comes to conservatism. And CPAC is infested with Muslim Brotherhood moles.

http://1389blog.com/2013/03/08/contention-at-cpac-2013-the-counterjihad-vs-grover-norquist-brett-kimberlin-et-al/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
" In reality, it is the ideological fervor of the base vs. the more pragmatic, philosophical beliefs of most of the establishment that is at issue."

Sort of like the 25% that believed in independence from tyranny enough to fight for it and the 50% that would take independence if it was given to them, but were not willing to make waves! I guess the Founding Fathers weren't pragmatic and philosophical enough to know when they were too "extreme"!

Moran can't distinguish between devil's advocate and devil's acolyte, or he can and has made his choice!

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sorry Rick, but you missed the boat on this one. The so-called "pragmatists" are anything but pragmatic. The "purists" as you refer to them are far more pragmatic than what you call "pragmatists".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Right will never prevail until it stops attempting to control a highly diverse nation with respect to "social issues." Sticking to fiscal conservatism is recommended by this Independent voter. I made a case for dropping the obvious desire for theocracy here: http://clarespark.com/2013/03/11/do-paleoconservatives-want-a-theocracy/.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The Anti-Clinton" George W. was a "paleoconservative"?

"It's MY Turn!" John McCain was a "paleoconservative"?

"Electable" Mitt Romney was a "paleoconservative"?

Lady, you wouldn't know a "paleoconservative" if one sat upon your head.

We NEED what you term a "paleoconservative" to run as the GOP nominee.
We've gone down in flames with "moderates", so why not see if a true Conservative couldn't do better?

Methinks there are people like you who are deathly afraid that a true Conservative would actually WIN.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Two words:
Pamela Geller.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Taking federal money today gives then flexibility today. What happens in their states tomorrow when the federal Medicaid expansion money starts to taper off as planned? That money isn't going to stay at that level forever. It's planned to taper off to a muhc smaller amount. The budget crisis they're forestalling today is only going to come knocking again tomorrow when that money stops rolling in from Big Daddy Fed, and then where do they come up with the dough to cover?

All those governors did was kick the can down the road at the expense of all the rest of us. They kicked the can down the road to get re-elected and maintain their power. Is there even any guarantee that they'll be able to put their states on any realistic, long-term budget plan? No. You just laud their "tough, pragmatism" today and tomorrow you'll be off excusing the tax hikes or borrowing they'll inevitably have to make, assuming, of course, we all haven't fallen off into fiscal armageddon by then.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The states, all of whom like to decry their 10th amendment soveriengty, have been the nations greatest welfare recipients. And no, I'm not talking about social welfare programs. I'm talking about economic and infrastructures welfare programs. A machine that has systemically grown in to a monster national government liablity. If thefederal government pulled all its states welfare handouts away at noon tomorrow, the states would be in bankruptcy by sundown. Talk about incompetent governance!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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