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CPAC – The Conference of Conservatives from Another Planet

CPAC – The Conference of Conservatives from Another Planet
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By Don Portolese

“68 square miles surrounded by reality” is what Governor Scott Walker called our nation’s capital during CPAC this last weekend.  While his comments about government were quite accurate, one has to wonder what planet the GOP lives on after this conservative pep rally took place over the last weekend.  In the Republican scrum for conservative hearts and minds, much of what was said seemed like something from a parallel universe where inside-out policies and ideas pass for truth.

Rather than try to communicate their own beliefs and policies about the way America should be run, vitriol and misguided ideas ran like molten lava out of their volcanic mouths taking the form of their skewed political landscape. Their inaccurate and disingenuous assessments of Obama’s “failed” economic policies and gloom and doom rhetoric about the political path we are currently on sounded like something completely devoid from reality.

During their speeches, these courageous patriots of conservatism, with one foot in their mouths and the other inside the beltway, made attempts to distance themselves from other career politicians and Washington insiders. At one point Jeb Bush made the ludicrous assertion that he was not an expert on Washington. With a father who headed the CIA and was president and a brother who held two terms in the oval office, how could he be anything but a Washington insider?  Yet Mr. Bush tried to create the illusion that he was somehow his own man. That is a bit of a stretch considering his political connections and the fact that he is calling on many in the same circle of neocon vultures who hijacked his brother’s presidency for help in his presidential run.

How can these people claim they are not career politicians when many of them have served multiple terms in the highest offices of state government? Rick Perry, Bobby Jindhal, Scott Walker and Chris Christie are (or have been) governors of their respective states for more than one mandate. They have done a great job of slashing taxes. However, while they touted this at CPAC, they came up short on how these tax cuts would actually help their states’ economies in the long run, especially as they come up short on money to invest in infrastructure and education.

During the conference, these courageous conservatives addressed, in Ted Cruz’s words, “a room full of patriots” gathered together to fight for freedom.  Senator Cruz said that we needed to gather fiscal, social and border-security conservatives to take back the White House. He referred to this trio as the three legs. Judging from his performance at the conference and so many of his ridiculous one-man battles with “big government,” one can safely assume he is the third leg.

Rand Paul came out on top for the third straight year in a row in the CPAC straw poll. In his lecture on fear and forgetfulness, if not plagiarized, he summed up precisely what spurs the GOP forward. For conservatives of today capitalize on fear and forgetfulness to galvanize their factually-challenged base. How else could they make so many baseless claims or ascribe so much of the blame for our country’s woes on President Obama?

Marco Rubio waxed on passionately about American exceptionalism and his own immigrant story as he and his conservative colleagues condemned President Obama’s more nuanced vision of the world beyond our borders. They further demonstrated their misguided notions of foreign policy by fueling xenophobia in our country rather than telling us how they would actively tackle the threat of ISIS or reform our immigration system. Governor Scott Walker tried to take his lack of foreign policy credentials even further by claiming his showdown with 100,000 hardworking terrorists (I mean taxpayers) over collective bargaining rights was proof of his ability to take on ISIS. Whether he misspoke or not, by listening to the people speak at this year’s CPAC, it was more than evident that Mr. Walker and his fellow conservatives consider political dissent by liberals as a form of terrorism against their misguided perceptions of this country.

Every speaker or would-be candidate ruthlessly attacked Obama’s bloated government and railed against his economic policies. Policies which have helped us to finally emerge from the economic quagmire the GOP created during the Bush years. Other candidates nervously backpedaled on their support for immigrant amnesty and other policies that were not considered conservative enough for this rube beauty pageant. During the conference it seemed that each of the speakers had to try to out-conservative the other, regardless if the policies they espoused or opposed were a reflection of what we truly need to move this country forward.

At one of the first CPAC gatherings, Ronald Reagan, that Great God of the Conservative cause, said, “The path to victory was not painted in pale pastels but in bold colors.” Unfortunately, the only bold colors that conservatives understand are black and white. In their chiaroscuro world concepts like liberty and affordable healthcare or immigration reform and the rule of law are somehow mutually exclusive.  In their haste to paint the world in those two bold colors, they gloss over the important nuances of any real debate. They also demonize people and policies that are truly designed to help hardworking Americans.

This was no more apparent than in their continued attacks on the Affordable Care Act during the conference. While all attacked Obamacare, none proposed a policy alternative that would help Americans obtain affordable health insurance. They also railed against recent victories garnered by President Obama and Internet activists. The battle for net-neutrality should not be construed as the gnarled hand of government reaching into our lives. It was the hand of government swatting away the ever-encroaching hand of big business. Net neutrality is a protection of the freedoms of the hardworking taxpayers conservatives claim to defend. When huge media companies were on the verge of regulating the Internet on their terms, squeezing out the little guy and controlling our broadband speed, the little guys stood up to them and won. How could any respectable candidate for our nation’s highest office paint this battle otherwise?

This is but one of many indications that conservatives simply do not see the world as it really is. They have vilified progressive attempts to protect hardworking taxpayers from the companies that have rigged the game in their favor.  All spoke of taking the power out of Washington and giving it back to the American people. Which American people are they talking about? The ones that already have it? The ones who want to solidify their stranglehold on how this country operates? The little guy they defend is not the middle class taxpayer, but big business looking to pay little in taxes.

In addition to an outlet for selling their tired old policies, CPAC was also a showroom where conservative crackpots could sell their wares. Donald Trump and Sarah Palin had their literary achievements on sale. Nostalgic memorabilia of conservative icons like Ronald Reagan was on sale as well.  Newt Gingrich’s wife took advantage of the conference to sell her children’s book series with the protagonist, Ellis the Elephant. (Hmmm, I wonder why she chose an elephant?)

However, the worst thing to be hocked during CPAC was the conservative movement itself. As conservatives move further out into right field, they are shedding any semblance of true conservatism and supplanting it with populist ideologies that are no longer rooted in reality. After Citizens United, politicians can now expect to receive more money than ever during their political campaigns. This has done little to help the conservative cause. It has only served the agendas of big donors like the Koch brothers as they hold these people hostage with campaign dollars. By putting themselves on auction to the highest bidder, these heroes of the conservative cause have lost any sense of what true conservatives believe in. They have also lost touch with what is happening on planet Earth.




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