CPAC 2013: A Failure To Promote Conservatism

Raise your hand if you are simultaneously sick of CPAC coverage and 2016 speculation?  Well, if you agree with both of them then this is likely not going to be an enjoyable article for you.


Nonetheless, as mentioned earlier, the jockeying for 2016 has already began even if we are still about less than two years away from anything resembling relevancy kicks off.  Yet there is clearly one thing that’s emerging from the wilderness right now.  Conservatism, as always, is looking for a fresh new voice to lead the movement and eventually the Republican Party.

This is one of the continuous story lines on the right ever since the emergence of various Tea Party organizations.  How do you market conservatism to an ever-changing voting bloc?  Every month a new face emerges to push the same messages that have failed.  There are clearly right ways to market the Republican Party but the packaging has been nothing short of horrific since Barack Obama took office.

The Tea Party movement was a legitimate wave.  Problem is though, that powerful waves do not keep crashing onto shore.  Names like Sarah Palin seem dated and politicians such as Todd Akin have tainted the image of a once-legitimate movement.

Though it’s not just politicians that can be blamed for the lack of heroes among the conservative right.  The focus on all the “-isms” involving Barack Obama’s birth and/or if he is a socialist or not have proven the Tea Party to mostly be a conspiracy-laden movement whose disconnect with reality and the political spectrum is alarming.  The overt use of the word Patriot to describe an anti-tax zealot has sickened the public.

Yet there is still hope on the far-right to find that perfect candidate to balance a firm grasp of Ayn Rand objectivism and appeal to moderates.  Sarah Palin became too toxic, Paul Ryan wasn’t particularly appealing outside of budget issues and Marco Rubio has so came across as comically amateur.

But CPAC is perfect for the likes of Ryan, Rubio, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz.  It’s the perfect way to score cheap applause, remap their rhetoric and also gain some free publicity.  As long as their message remains sufficiently conservative then their future prospects are likely to shine a bit brighter than they did the day before.

A look at their quotes ring loudly when it comes to the exactly what message they want to convey to the general public. #PaulRyanRevealed

Ryan, continued to mark himself as a man who is all about numbers and slashing the budget and the deficit.  While he didn’t mention the specifics of his oft-proposed but never passed “Path to Prosperity”, Ryan did offer this to say:

Our debt is a threat to this country. We have to tackle this problem before it tackles us. So today, I want to make the case for balance. That case, in a nutshell, is that a balanced budget will promote a healthier economy.

While Ryan is a one-trick pony, he might actually offer the best shot at attempting to appeal to moderate voters.  While his cuts are Draconian and he has all the charisma of the guy who thinks he knew more than the textbook in your Econ class; he does not talk too much about social issues.

Remember though for those who are wondering, Paul Ryan claimed that gay marriage wasn’t an “American value”.

Rubio on the other hand made an appeal to the social conservative community because let’s face it, he doesn’t have a pet issue that has brought him political relevance.  Rubio, of course was high on rhetoric but low on resolutions as can be seen in these quotes.

Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot,” he said, his words drowned out by cheers from the crowd as he talked about his belief in the protection of human life “at every stage of its development.

The people who are actually closed-minded in American politics are the people who love to preach about the certainty of science with regards to our climate but ignore the absolute fact that science has proven that life begins at conception.

Then later on….

As soon as I’m done speaking, I’ll tell you what the criticism on the left is going to be. Number one, he drank too much water. Number two: that he didn’t offer any new ideas.

And there’s the fallacy of it. We don’t need a new idea. There is an idea: the idea is called America, and it still works.

The science that Rubio is railing on is rather interesting.  To blatantly dismiss climate change, something that is driven far more in fact than opinion (unlike when life begins) and focus on social issues is unsurprising.

Rubio making the slight jab at himself is to be expected, since he’s done that a few times since his infamous “sip” but I do find the irony in him not offering any new ideas. The whole “idea is called America” schtick has been used by every single Republican politician since Ronald Reagan and even that isn’t new.

There is one of the overall weaknesses of conservatism.  Cutting popular programs is not a politically safe decision but if you disguise it as “protecting America” or by saying “you don’t need those programs, because you are still American” it gains a bit of traction.  The jingoism of CPAC was on full display there and that ideal might help him among older, social conservatives but it remains to be seen if that will help him amongst the youth vote.

But Rand Paul, winner of the CPAC Straw Poll, offered a slightly different plea to the so-called “Facebook generation”.

The president at one time respected civil liberties, but then he signed a law on indefinite detention.

Ask the Facebook generation whether we should put a kid in jail for the nonviolent crime of drug use and you’ll hear a resounding ‘no’.

Ask the Facebook generation if they want to bail out too-big-to-fail banks with their tax dollars and you’ll hear a ‘hell, no.

The standard libertarian talk is basically an extension off the comments his father was famous for.  But they are at least ideas even if they are relatively predictable.  Paul’s stature within the Republican Party seems to be a lot larger than his father’s, who once ran as the Libertarian Party candidate for President in 1988, so maybe there is a bit more power behind him than previously thought.

Then there is Bobby Jindal who in the aftermath of the November 2012 elections catapulted as a party leader after saying that the GOP needed to evolve.  Then again, rhetoric is far different from actual issues.  Jindal’s speech sounded nearly exact to his speech at the Republican “Winter Meetings” in January, only with lousy jokes beforehand.

Ted Cruz ended CPAC with praise for Rand Paul, who he has seemingly idolized ever since his 13-hour filibuster against John Brennan.  Cruz, had this to say when talking about his fellow Senator.

To my grave I will owe Rand Paul a debt of gratitude that the first time I spoke up in the Senate I had the opportunity to read [William Barret] Travis’ letter from the Alamo.

After that chummy intro, Cruz continued to harbor the same talking points that included the repeal of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act.

We saw every single Republican in the Senate vote unanimously to defund Obamacare. Every Democrat voted together to maintain Obamacare funding, even if it pushes us into a recession.

We’re winning right now.

Actually given how the legislation is now the law of the land and how the Democrats overall won the 2012 election, I guess you could say that you have lost the battle over healthcare numerous times.  But let’s let Cruz have his moment in the sun.

The echo chamber of CPAC is not unsurprising, in fact, it’s what should be expected.  But the different packaging of the same issues will not guarantee political success for the Republican Party.  You have a failure to produce any positive ideas for America in Marco Rubio, a budget-slasher whose ideas have been rejected on a national ticket before in Ryan and then a libertarian like Paul.

Sure they have different backgrounds and different ways to say things but isn’t almost all the same?  Shouldn’t we just substitute Rand with Ron, Jindal with Gingrich, Ryan with Romney and Rubio with Pawlenty and get the same exact results?

CPAC has proven that 2016 has begun in some capacity but the battle to be the party leader is as vague as it was in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Joe Dyas blogs at PolliticsToday.


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