Frank Gaffney

Meanwhile, among those who declined to participate in CPAC 2011 were: the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, Concerned Women of America and the Media Research Center. These organizations are committed not only to reducing the deficit and keeping taxes low. They also favor preservation of the family rooted in marriage between one man and one woman as the key building block of a healthy, democratic society. And they are committed to a strong national defense, one that ensures that our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to protect our country.

The good news is that a number of CPAC speakers explicitly endorsed the need to build on the approach favored by these absent organizations and, at least implicitly, rejected that of the proponents of inclusiveness. That was the case with most, but not all, of the would-be presidential candidates. It was particularly true of the opening and closing keynote addresses delivered by two of the stars of the conference - Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Rep. Allen West of Florida, respectively. These two darlings of the Tea Partyers made clear that anyone who tries to portray their grass-roots movement as exclusively concerned with balancing the budget (important as that is) does not understand the conviction they and their cohorts share about a Constitution grounded in Judeo-Christian values and the obligation to provide for the common defense.

The choice before conservatives was perhaps put most starkly by David Horowitz. Mr. Horowitz is an iconic figure in the movement, whose personal trajectory - from the child of avow-ed communists and a young adulthood spent as a top revolutionary leftist to his transformation into a leading conservative thinker and champion of freedom - earned him a standing ovation at the outset of his remarks from the thousands assembled to hear him in CPAC’s main ballroom. Importantly, Mr. Horowitz got another one after he forcefully decried the role being played in dividing and undermining the movement by organizations that have lately conjured up a conservative movement leadership role for the “Inclusion Coalition.”

For conservatives it is, indeed, a time to choose: Will they embrace the contention that the elections of 2010 prove that economic issues alone will earn our movement a mandate to control the White House and Senate, as well as the House of Representatives, 22 months from now? Or will they recognize the necessity of appealing to Republicans, independents and Reagan Democrats with a platform of fiscal discipline, yes, but one that rests firmly, as Allen West put it Saturday, on two other “pillars”: a robust national security stance and a clear commitment to traditional conservative social values?

Much rides on the answer. Indeed, the stakes are nothing less than the future of America, whose best hope is that a new, stronger and more dynamic Reagan conservative coalition will emerge from the divisions papered over at CPAC 2011.

Frank Gaffney

Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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