If day one of CPAC had a theme, it could be summed up by conservative icon Richard Viguerie, who paraphrased the Blues Brothers movie: “We’re putting the band back together,” and “We’re on a mission from God.”
Viguerie, a long-time movement conservative, who was part of the first panel discussion on Thursday morning, drew great applause with lines like: “Just because the Republican Party has a death wish, doesn’t mean conservatives have to go along with it."
He also suggested that conservatives should withhold support from Republican committees, and find challengers to primary liberal Republicans in Congress. He noted this was the first CPAC in recent memory that did not include a Republican Chairman.
Viguerie also recommends withholding support from the top-tier GOP presidential candidates (McCain, Romney, and Giuliani), because they all fail "the Goldwater test" (they fail to criticize establishment Republicans, unlike Goldwater who criticized Eisenhower), and they all fail "the Reagan test" (unlike Reagan, who had friends and operatives like Lyn Nofziger, etc., the current frontrunners fail to associate with conservative movement leaders. The assumption is that a candidate who doesn’t surround himself with conservatives will definitely be a president who doesn’t surround himself with conservatives).
His biggest applause lines came when he quoted movies. Republicans, Viguerie said, should follow the advice of Field of Dreams, meaning: “If you build it, they will come.” His point was that the conservative movement must start building the infrastructure today, so that we can support a future Ronald Reagan.
Grover Norquist (who spoke on a later panel) was also pessimistic about our immediate future, at least, as it relates to getting things accomplished in this Congress: “Nothing good happens in the next two years, nothing." His advice for the next two years: “Get married, develop a hobby, learn to belly dance, learn to golf."
U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) also had some stirring words. He quoted Ronald Reagan, who at the 1975 CPAC said:
"Since our last meeting, we have been through a disastrous election. It is easy for us to be discouraged as pundits hail that election as a repudiation of our philosophy and even as a mandate of some kind ... Few, if any, Democrat Party candidates in the last election ran as liberals ... Still, we must not forget that they molded their campaigning to fit what even they recognized was the mood of the majority."
He acknowledged the GOPs past problems, as well:
"In my time in Congress, I have seen the Republican Party, and many times our conservative movement, working in the wrong box top. We became fixated on building a "lasting majority," when we should have been building a better America. We were too focused on the little pieces of legislation that we hoped would buy new voters while we abandoned our cause."
He also noted that many people call themselves conservative, who don't fit the bill:
"Even my predecessor Fritz Hollings, one of the biggest spenders in Washington, called himself a conservative. I can still hear him back in South Carolina saying, 'those boys in Washington are busting the budget.' Talking conservative is fashionable, but walking the walk is not.
Well, there you have it: Day 1.
Two minor notes: