Was CPAC an Epic Fail?
This year I had the pleasure to be one of the official bloggers for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which is winding down as I write. But rather than writing an action report with a long "to-do" list for fellow conservatives, I feel like writing an obituary for the conservative movement would be more appropriate.
On the positive side of the ledger, this was a rare opportunity to meet many top conservative bloggers and put faces with the names. Without an exception, these are all wonderful, truly dedicated people. If there is hope for conservatives in the future -- an issue in doubt if CPAC really is representative of the movement -- the spirit that animates the conservative blogger community will be critical to helping emerge from the political wilderness.
That said, however, those of us inhabiting the official bloggers row, sponsored this year by Pajamas Media, are clearly considered the red-headed stepchildren by CPAC's organizers. The best evidence for this was that bloggers row was situated at the back corner of the exhibit hall (which doubles as the first floor of the hotel's parking garage). The organizers could not have positioned us any farther from the events here at CPAC without setting us up outside the building. In contrast to political left, where bloggers and new media have propelled Democrats to stunning victory and are courted by their politicians at the annual Daily Kos convention, the conservative establishment still has no idea what to do with new media.
This year's CPAC was the largest on record. It was encouraging to see the large herds of students moving throughout the hotel. Unfortunately, the constant theme those students heard during this year's CPAC was that the proper role of the conservative movement is as cheerleader for the GOP.
I must strongly dissent. Ever since George H.W. Bush violated his no new taxes pledge and announced the appointment of David Souter to the Supreme Court, the conservative movement has been the victim of nearly two decades of serial gang rape by the Republican Party and its leadership (George H.W. Bush, Trent Lott, Bob Dole, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, Denny Hastert, George W. Bush, et al.).
Tying our fortunes to the Republican Party is the worst mistake that conservatives have made during the past half-century. Our salvation does not reside with the GOP, but by distancing ourselves from it. Many of this year's CPAC speakers are the very architects of our political exile. Rather than coming to us in sackcloth and ashes for their total failure of leadership, they came with red meat one-liners intended to distract the crowd.
The fact of the matter is that before the 2006 elections, just a little over two years ago, Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. It isn't entirely clear that the GOP leadership is even aware that the situation has changed, let alone that they are personally responsible for it.
It is interesting that Ronald Reagan's name was constantly being invoked by CPAC speakers. I'm old enough to remember the 1976 and 1980 elections, and Ronald Reagan was the conservative outsider, not a GOP insider. His strength came from the power of his ideas, which frequently were at odds with the dominant Gerald R. Ford/Nelson Rockefeller wing of the GOP.
That the conservative movement has slid into complete irrelevancy was demonstrated by the absence of any ideas -- nay, any discussion whatsoever -- of several of the most pressing political issues of our day. As fellow blogger Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugged observed, there was not a single panel on the War on Terror, the growing threats to free speech, or the cultural jihad underway in the West.
What should have been one of the most important events of this year's CPAC, the appearance by Dutch parliamentarian and anti-jihad activist Geert Wilders, was relegated to the opposite side of the hotel, divorced from all of the other conference proceedings. There were no official announcements that this event would even be taking place (none that I heard at least), and when trying to locate the room in which it would be held, not a single CPAC staffer could tell me where. And this event only happened because David Horowitz, Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, and Andy Bostom personally shelled out the money to make it happen.
Now CPAC organizers would no doubt respond that they could not fit Wilders into the schedule on such short notice. But I have no doubt that if Bristol Palin had suddenly come available to address CPAC on the virtues of teen pregnancy, David Keene and the American Conservative Union would no doubt have moved heaven and earth to make room in the schedule for her. But they could not accommodate a man who lives under constant death threats by a long list of Islamic terrorist organizations.
Honestly, I don't know much about Geert Wilders' politics. I only met the man briefly, and I heard his stump speech twice on Friday. But anyone who has a stack of fatwas calling for his death because of his willingness to speak out against the global jihad is going to receive my support, regardless of any politically incorrect view he may or may not hold.
From my limited perspective, all Geert Wilders has done is hold a mirror up to reflect back the ugly racism and advocacy of violence that are the staple of the most prominent and authoritative officials in Islam. For that he has earned nothing but enmity from the avowed enemies of the West. But it wasn't enough to earn him a speaking spot on this year's CPAC schedule.
Meanwhile, GOP operative and Karl Rove confidante Grover Norquist, who is single-handedly responsible for opening the doors of political power for convicted al-Qaeda fundraiser Abdurahman Alamoudi and Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian, was given the honor of introducing House Minority Leader John Boehner on Friday morning. The contrast between the cold reception of Wilders and the warm embrace of Norquist by CPAC could not be any starker.
If this year's CPAC is an accurate indicator, conservatives have many lonely years ahead in political exile. Bereft of ideas and locked in an abusive relationship with a political party that has shown nothing but contempt for conservatives, CPAC represents what is wrong with the conservative movement. In terms of representing the way forward for conservatives, CPAC is an epic fail.
But I am of the opinion that the real situation is not quite as dire. There is a growing discontent among the grassroots as seen in the recent Tea Party events popping up around the country. And as President Obama, Senate Leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi impose their massive New Squeal program, that grassroots discontent might lead to the overthrow of the "official" leadership of the conservative movement, including CPAC. In my humble opinion, that change couldn't come quickly enough.