The GOP just won its biggest victory in half a century, we've had the highest attendance ever at CPAC and yet the faces are so long, you'd think we were in a roomful of John Kerry imitators. How can so many people be so upset about CPAC when things are finally going in the right direction? Here's what you have to realize, folks. Most of the issues CPAC had this year are "high quality" problems, especially compared to the ones we had back in 2008. Let's take a look at some of the complaints we've heard about CPAC this year and it'll start to become a little clearer.
1) Donald Trump was allowed to speak? How ridiculous! So, we have a rich, famous, exciting celebrity businessman who's toying with the idea of running for President and he feels compelled to do a speech in front of 11,000 conservatives at CPAC to test the water? This is supposed to be a bad thing? Conservatives didn't call up Donald Trump and say, "We'll abandon all our beliefs if you just please come and speak to us." Instead, he came to OUR CONVENTION and he talked about issues that he hoped would APPEAL TO US. When you consider that the audience seemed to really enjoy Trump's talk and the fact that it increased the buzz around the convention, allowing Trump to have one of the many, many speaking slots that were available seems like a no-brainer.
2) How did CPAC go so gay? So GOProud, a group that's generally conservative on everything except gay marriage, is making a lot of waves. We've heard that they can't be gay and conservative, that they're infiltrators, that they're closet liberals, that they're trying to subvert conservatism, and that this is part of some secret plot to make us all like Elton John and dance theater. That's all just horseflop.
Once you understand that they're conservative and gay, it shouldn't shock anyone that they're pro-gay marriage. Guess what? If for some reason, there were tens of thousands of conservative illegal immigrants in the United States, mysteriously, you'd find that a large percentage of them support amnesty. If conservative think tanks started to get most of their funding from the government, guess what? Suspiciously, you'd start to notice that they'd become much friendlier to government spending. The truth is that a lot of people vote their interests and then figure out how to justify it later. So, if gay Americans think gay marriage is in their interest, they're probably going to support it even if they're conservative in every other area. It doesn't require a plot. It's just human nature.
So, if GOProud doesn't mind that most of the rest of their compatriots in the conservative movement disagree with them on gay marriage and probably always will, why should we insist that they have to agree with us on gay marriage before we'll allow them to support the conservative movement? As Christians, we're supposed to hate the sin, not the sinner and as conservatives, we should be looking for converts, not heretics.
3) CPAC loves radical Islam; CPAC loves it not. One of the great difficulties in dealing with radical Islam is that not only do radical Islamists feel justified in lying about their faith, but also a lot of moderate Muslims either stay quiet or lash out at the people who are trying to stop the crazies. So, there ends up being a lot of debate over who's REALLY a supporter of radical Islam, who's not, who's going over the top in fighting them, who's not -- it can all get very muddled, very fast, even when people have good intentions.
With that in mind, CPAC absolutely should have speakers and events that are anti-radical Islam -- and at least from my perspective, they seem to be adding more of them. For example, my friend Pamela Geller put on a powerful, very well attended event at CPAC that gave the family members of 9/11 victims a chance to speak out.
On the other hand, as Pamela has told me before, we need to "fight for the moderates," too. Moderate Muslims still tend to be culturally conservative and if they love freedom, free enterprise, the Constitution, and their country, they should be welcome at CPAC. Because of the nature of the fight against radical jihad, that can be a tough line to walk sometimes, but we just have to plod on and do the best we can.
4) Those darn Libertarian Paulnuts! They're everywhere! Conservatives have spent years telling Libertarians that the Libertarian Party is a waste of time and that they should join the GOP so they'll have a chance to actually make an impact. Now, the Libertarians are actually trying to change things from the inside and we're getting upset because it means Ron Paul is probably going to win the CPAC straw poll every year.
We should want ALL Libertarians in the GOP even if it occasionally means some brain-dead goof yells out "war criminal" when Donald Rumsfeld speaks (Fun Fact: When it was announced that Ron Paul won the straw poll, one of the people on bloggers’ row loudly yelled out "war criminal" across the main ballroom, which was both totally inappropriate and yet hilarious at the same time.)
This comes down to a confidence question: Who's changing whom? Are we going to change the Libertarians or are they going to change us? I'm betting on conservatism winning that battle of hearts and minds over the long haul. Let's engage, work together to defeat the socialists, and find out.
5) We gotta get rid of those darn social conservatives! Whether it's Libertarians, squishes, or Mitch Daniels, we're always hearing about how we've gotta get rid of those darn social conservatives. Nobody ever explains how that would even be possible, since the overwhelming majority of fiscal conservatives are also social conservatives and vice-versa, but there's always someone pushing that message.
The great thing about CPAC is that despite all the hype to the contrary, you get to see that "Get lost Christiancon" message rejected by big name conservative after conservative. Whether it's Ann Coulter,
"Liberals want religion destroyed and family destroyed because then you have loyalty directly to the state."
”Ladies and Gentlemen, we, as a nation, must move towards God, not away from Him.”
”My first year as Governor my pro-life agenda was adopted by our Democrat- majority legislature, and Americans United for Life named Mississippi the safest state in America for an unborn child.”
or even the closing speaker, Allen West,
"We must hold sacred the privilege of the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman to promote the promulgation of our society because we cannot allow the destruction of the American family."
...what you find is that the most important names in the conservative movement are still standing up for God, life, and marriage.
At the end of the day, what it all comes down to is that growing an ideological movement is a messy business. There are personality conflicts, disagreements about goals, infighting and debate. That's not as bad as people think, especially when the alternative is the same old people who agree on everything, showing up every year in slightly smaller numbers and marching in lockstep to the same beat. The CPAC controversies we've seen this year are a result of a growing movement and that's good news for conservatism.