They say that hindsight is 20/20. Of course, when looking at things in a mirror, the reflection you see is reversed. So, is CPAC in the rear view mirror a progressive gathering? Not hardly.
I posted several reports of the daily events and a couple of opinion pieces of what I experienced. Now that the event is over and I’ve had a few hours to reflect, I’d like to share my thoughts on what I saw and heard. Find all my previous CPAC articles here: http://madisonscpc.net/384-2/michael-murphy/
First off, if you have never been to our nation’s capital, you should go. The monuments, museums, and history and government buildings are well worth the visit. A trip here for CPAC could easily be combined with a few days for sightseeing. I have been here more times than I could count, so my trip was strictly for the conservative event. And as I reported before, I was not here as a participant, but as an observer.
The Gaylord is an impressive property and well suited for an event of this size. For a country boy like me, dealing with the traffic and adapting to the public transportation getting from the airport to the hotel and back is a pain, but not impossible. The event planners did a good job of setting up a very efficient check in process. We had a spot reserved on “media row” for our radio guys while there was a nice area in the back of the ballroom for media with tables, plugins, and wifi.
There were people of all ages, and I was impressed with how many young people there were. I am used to typical conservative meetings and events being filled with people mostly aged 50 and above. The event employed a large number of conservative college kids from around the country. A number of the side events were geared to the younger generation which is vital if we are to have any success spreading the message of constitutional conservatism.
There was excitement in the air the first morning. There was, of course, news of the rise and fall of “Milo,” and whether or not he is good for the conservative cause. I mean that apart from his personal controversy, but his style in general.
It had been fairly recent that President Trump had confirmed his attendance, so that was much buzz in the air over his appearance on day two. People were also anxious to hear what to expect from conservatives in the days to come. Would there be a message of unity or would there be divisions placing people in contention?
To me, CAPC seems to have some defined objectives, and they would likely vary depending on the election cycle. Regardless of the year, education and motivation are key. There are “activist training” events, as well as detailed data reports to help those who use such information to develop strategies. What makes the news, of course, are the speeches in the main ballroom. The main themes running throughout most of the speeches was unification behind Donald Trump, immigration, “the wall,” healthcare, and tax and regulatory reform. There was quite a bit of mention of Trump’s “Forgotten Man” policy.
There were a couple of “shots over the bow” directed at Speaker Paul Ryan. However, I did not hear anything directed towards Majority Leader McConnell. “Drain the swamp” was repeated numerous times by many speakers. There was an encouragement to the listeners to pressure Congress to support the president.
When Vice President Pence spoke, he hit all the high points of the Trump agenda, and he actually gave a pretty good speech. President Trump’s speech was theater. He clearly is good at working the crowd.
I am a person who is not impressed with star power. I appreciate much of what the president has promised, and thus far, am pleased with what he has done, and whom he has appointed. My Secretary of State, Kris Kobach told me he is very impressed with whom Mr. Trump has surrounded himself. While I prefer a more measured tone, I understand the frustration of many conservatives and their susceptibility to the “get’em” rhetoric.
My concern is his history of holding grudges and his history of getting even or payback. I also worry that many who are frustrated with the way things have been in DC will accept excesses from a president who does what they like, even if it is beyond the limits of the Constitution - after all, “Obama did it and if Trump has to do it to fix things so be it.”
During his speech, Mr. Trump called out the “Clinton News Network” calling them "fake news." Now there were two stories recently the network had to pull because of errors, but after returning to the White House, CNN, and other reporters were denied access to a press briefing. To me, this is chilling. Obama did similar things when he did not like things Fox News said. I heard many conservatives making excuses for Trump and cheering him on. That is part of what gives me pause for the future.
It was interesting to me that most of the big guns were fired on day one and after the president had spoken on day two, there was a steady decline in intensity. The closing speech by Sheriff Clarke was a great one. It was passionate, delivered with a very patriotic tone, and lesson. It was a great reminder of what brought us here, and to me, that was something that was conspicuously missing in all, but a few deliveries.
Not the “Rah, Rah, USA, USA” chants. No, I’m speaking of drawing on the idea of America. What makes America exceptional is not our military, our flag, or even our people. It is the idea that was put forth in the Declaration of Independence. The idea we are free, equal in opportunity, self-reliant, personally responsible, and self-governing. No other nation has our history-- none. It’s why many other nations and people do not understand it. Because our educational systems are so lacking, it is also why many of our own people have no idea.
The Carly Fiorina interview with David Brooks, the speech by Mark Walker of North Carolina touched on it, as did the final speech by Sheriff Clarke. The articles I wrote during the event mentioned these, and there are links to all three, and I encourage you to listen to them.
In the end, is CPAC a good thing? Yes, it is. Should you go? If you can get there and can afford it, yes. Will it have any impact on saving the republic? I don’t know.
Unity is a good thing as long as it does not abandon principles. Unity charging a hill behind a warrior leader is a good thing. Running off a cliff as a group of lemmings or sheep to slaughter, not so much.
There is nothing that replaces your personal research and search for truth. Truth has no agenda. The danger I see ahead is that in the current climate anyone who criticizes the president is thrown into a pit with the “nevertrumpers.” Just as it was wrong for Democrats to throw in with the progressives, it is wrong for us to throw in with “conservatives” who are getting even.
Steve Bannon has called himself a “Leninist” in that he wants to burn the system down. What does that mean? He espouses “Economic Nationalism.” What does that mean? Populism and Nationalism are unsettling terms for this constitutional conservative. Time will tell.
You well know I have no love lost for the current Republican leadership. They need their tea cart tipped over, and that is why I am such an ardent supporter of the Convention of States Project to propose amendments to restrict and limit all branches of government. We cannot sit back and say, “We won, let our guy handle it.” It’s not his job.
My call to you is to be educated and alert. Support the President and Congress when they behave constitutionally and be their worst enemy when they don’t. And don’t throw fellow conservatives under the bus when they stand for constitutional principles over party or “winning.”