CPAC: Consciously Providing Ammo to Critics

The writers of The Daily Show, Colbert Report, and Saturday Night Live (although I’m not convinced they’ve even had writers lately) can have February 18-20, 2010, off. The hosts can handle it themselves. On those dates, the jokes will practically write themselves as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) takes place -- co-sponsored by the John Birch Society. Every liberal commentator needs to send a thank-you note to CPAC’s organizers for that monumentally stupid decision.

By having the John Birch Society sponsor it, CPAC can guarantee that 90% of the coverage regarding the conference will relate to JBS’ oh-my-god-look-a-conspiracy attitude rather than the heavy-hitters and rising stars of conservatism and libertarianism that speak there. Instead of focusing on politics, reporters will ask attendees for their response to the JBS controversy and will ask organizers whether they are in such financial distress that they had to embrace a fringe group for support.

Here’s a little history on JBS for those of you that may not understand why this issue is going to overshadow any agenda pursued at the conference. The organization was founded in 1958 by Robert Welch, a businessman concerned about communist infiltration of the U.S. It is understandable why people would initially be drawn into his fold, given advances internationally by hostile communist powers and their intense espionage efforts in the West. However, Welch, apparently believing in the supreme competence of government, could not fathom that the U.S. government failed to halt such advances unless it secretly sympathized with the enemy’s success. A conspiracy theory that the European and American governments were secretly pursuing a socialist one-world government to merge our societies with that of the communists was born.

William F. Buckley Jr. was one of the most prominent critics of JBS, aware that its paranoia undermined efforts by the political right to give more attention to the menacing threat posed by the communists. Buckley wrote that Welch “said Dwight D. Eisenhower was a ‘dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy,’ and that the government of the United States was ‘under operational control of the Communist Party.’ It was, he said in the summer of 1961, ‘50-70 percent’ communist-controlled.”

Today, many decent people are still part of JBS, some of whom don’t fully accept its theories. They are anti-globalist, favor a U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations, are socially conservative, and want to dramatically reduce spending and the size of government. With the Republican Party viewed by many conservatives as having betrayed its principles, it’s not a surprise that a group would be embraced as long as it is upholding conservative ideals, even if it has some wacky theories.