The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is a little like the Star Wars cantina scene, except with more panels on municipal service privatization initiatives. Actually, this year it was literally like the Star Wars cantina scene – there were a bunch of conservatives dressed as Star Wars characters for some reason.
You had your imperial storm troopers, Darth Vader and Chewbacca. I didn't see any ewoks, but that’s probably more of a Netroots thing.
The frivolity and alcohol aside – and there were plenty of both – CPAC provided some interesting insights into the future of the movement. There were two key trends in evidence. One is youth – the place was crawling with young people. The media loves to offer the image of conservatives as a bunch of Koch brothers sitting around in top hats lighting their Cuban cigars with hundred dollar bills stolen from orphans. At CPAC, it was more like giddy twenty-somethings drinking Lite beer (which has apparently replaced Pabst as the hipsters’ favorite ironic quaff) and competing for power outlets to recharge their iPhones.
One prominent liberal commentator admitted to me that he always has a lot more fun covering conservative functions. Apparently liberals are just as annoying to each other as they are to us.
The second trend at CPAC was optimism. There was, unsurprisingly, common agreement that the present administration and its henchmen are the worst things in the history of human existence. But there was no pessimism, no defeatism. There’s clearly a long, hard fight ahead to keep America from Thelma and Louiseing off a cliff, but the activists are ready for it. And the conservatives are really, really ready for the mid-terms – though they worry that the GOP will stay true to form and find a way to screw up a sure thing.
And then there are the candidates for president in 2016, none of whom admitted they are going to be candidates but might as well have since it was obvious to everyone.
Ted Cruz is clearly running, and the CPAC attendees must have missed the Establishment memo about him being to blame for their track record of failure because he was mobbed like a rock star. This was especially impressive because CPAC stuck him in an early-morning slot when a lot of people were still in bed nursing pre-convention party hangovers. He's like the conservative equivalent of Adam Levine, except Cruz’s music is less terrible.