Are the Big Tent and Bipartisanship the GOP's Problem?

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) began its last day Saturday with an overwhelming call for conservatives to stick to their principles.

There is “too much bipartisanship” where both sides of the aisle are mortgaging our future away, said Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA and emcee for Saturday morning’s lineup of speakers. Those speakers included the likes of co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots Jenny Beth Martin, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), and former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

(See videos of all CPAC speakers on the American Conservative Union’s YouTube channel.)

Where last year’s CPAC convened prior to the presidential election, this week’s speeches were delivered on the heels of the GOP’s loss in favor of a second term for President Obama. Speakers gave their passionate opinions of how the Republican Party can win the election in 2016.

The “mainstream media’s” idea of rebranding the Republican Party to better cater to minorities was out of the question for some.

Martin chided conservatives for the lack of support for Tea Party candidates, naming Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

“Is this the country you want?” she asked the crowd while comparing the country and Washington, D.C., to the world found in The Hunger Games novel and movie (a nation of Panem that is divided between 12 districts and ruled by a totalitarian Capitol).

“Our vision is distinctly different from today’s reality,” said Martin. She called on the crowd to refuse politicians lining their friends’ pockets on K Street and to “fight boldly on principle.”

“Patriots, stand with us to fight for freedom … life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness … like Tea Party Patriots do around this country every day … together we will have their back.”

Introduced as a person with the confidence to call out members of the Republican Party for being RINOs (“Republican in Name Only”), King carried on that message.

“There are some people who want to rebrand the Republican Party, but they will not succeed in rebranding us conservatives,” he said. Instead, he drew hard lines on “life and marriage and the rule of law.”

While some have asserted that Mitt Romney lost the election because of the party’s stance on social issues, like an immigration policy built on self-deportation, King said he wasn’t “buying it.”

However, an outspoken conservative force, Ann Coulter, spoke later in the evening and warned the crowd of falling for this “canard.”

“If Republicans don’t focus on what is really causing problems, they’re going to fall for the canard that the problem with the Republican Party is its conservative principles,” said Coulter. “Au contraire: Conservatism is about the only thing Republicans have going for them … conservatism is our winning feature.”

Coulter said a scapegoating of a “fake Republican establishment” is allowing the “real GOP establishment” to “plot and scheme undetected” on immigration policy.

“What public policy will harm average Americans, drive up unemployment, change America permanently in negative ways, and on the other hand, is supported by businessmen who will never vote for a Republican anyway?” she asked the crowd. Amnesty for “illegal aliens,” she responded.

Half of elected Republicans support it and as far as she could tell, most conservative talk radio and TV hosts support it, she said.

“You want the Republican establishment, that’s the Republican establishment. ... If amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will ever win another national election,” she said.

Blaine Richardson, a retired Navy captain and candidate for Congress in Maine’s second district, agreed with King. Richardson, sporting a Tea Party Patriot T-shirt, said that he went to the movement’s first rally and has been a participant ever since.

Where King asked pro-reformers within the GOP to join conservatives in “restoring the pillars of American exceptionalism,” Richardson wants to answer that call and sees conservatives winning the votes as a vital part of maintaining the “very essence of human freedom” in America.