Media coverage of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference focused more on who didn’t appear than who did. This suggests that CPAC, as well as the conservative movement it supposedly represents, is having trouble defining itself.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was not invited to speak, and GOProud“an organization devoted to promoting gay rights within the Republican Party”has been barred. These facts were covered so extensively, one had to dig deep to find out who will actually wind up speaking at the event.
It is difficult to understand how or why CPAC is so important. The forum typically features orators who fine-tune their rhetoric for the grassroots, as well as a presidential straw poll that rarely foretells a winner.
What has CPAC accomplished in the past? Is it honestly going to bring any new issues to the forefront? Most importantly, does the CPAC gathering accurately represent the conservative movement’s demographics?
Soon after Obama was first elected, Rush Limbaugh went onstage and delivered a speech that gave hope to many dispirited activists. Fast-forward roughly three years, and Limbaugh was all but toxic as a result of his comments about Sandra Fluke. A thirteen-year-old named Jonathan Krohn spoke at the same CPAC. His speech was essentially a rehash of media-approved center-right talking points. These days, Krohn is a progressive who chalks his conservatism up to immaturity.
Many CPACtivists once considered him a serious voice for their movement. He hadn’t even graduated high school at the time. Are modern conservatives really that desperate for a leader?
As the Obama era moved along, Ron Paul’s revolutionaries stormed CPAC and won him the straw poll. Even the mainstream media started to give Paul fleeting attention as a legitimate presidential contender. His campaign would eventually fizzle out, as it appealed mostly to hardline libertarians or peaceniks or whatever.
GOProud’s exclusion seems to indicate a rift within the conservative movement. Only a few years back, issues such as abortion and gun control divided right-leaning crowds. Today, gay rights is driving a schism.