As a college republican there is nothing as exciting as CPAC. College Republicans from all over the country converge on Washington D.C. for a celebration of everything that is conservative. Young people, especially college students, are normally surrounded by liberalism. This is one opportunity for many students to be surrounded by like-minded peers. It’s also an opportunity for many of these students to see their favorite politicians or pundits in person. For many of the attendees, it is their first trip to D.C. and when you add the parties with the vacation feel of the trip it certainly is a good time had by all.
CPAC despite its friendly crowd is not without drama. Over the last 6 or 7 years, there has been an inner battle between allowing space for gay conservative groups. Boycotts have been threatened on both sides of this issue. Last year there was a debate about whether Trump was conservative enough to warrant a speaking position. He had spoken before at previous CPAC’s, but as the front-runner for the GOP nomination, some wondered if CPAC should facilitate a less than conservative candidate. Ultimately Trump was given a speaking position but he then later canceled at the last minute angering many.
That was then, this is now. As Trump won primaries and eventually the nomination more and more GOPers got on board. Including the chairman of the ACU (who puts on CPAC) Matt Schlapp. Schlapp has not only been supportive of Trump he has been an official surrogate. This could explain the recent decision to allow to outspoken members of the alt-right community to speak and keynote CPAC this year,
Milo Yiannopoulos is about to go mainstream Republican, sort of, grabbing himself a keynote address at the Conservative Political Action Conference next week.
The Washington gathering, known as CPAC, is the premiere event for established conservatives. This year’s speakers include Vice President Mike Pence, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, as well as media personalities like Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Mark Levin and actor Robert Davi.
CPAC has gone from debating the involvement of the alt-right to giving them the keynote speech. This is not good for CPAC. Contrary to many of the arguments out there this is not about free speech. If we were talking about a panel or a regular speaking position, maybe that would be the case. However, in this instance, we are talking about the keynote speech. The keynote speech is supposed to be a representation of the conservative movement as a whole. The alt-right clearly is a growing movement. It, however, is the furthest thing from conservatism. From their nationalist foreign policy ideas to their protectionist trade policies the alt-right stands for very few of the main issues that conservatives have been espousing for decades. I understand that the GOP is not the conservative party, but CPAC literally is. This is why the corruption of CPAC is so devastating.
There is little doubt that the election of Donald Trump not only as President but also as the GOP nominee worried many conservatives. The conservative ideology for decades has been quite prevalent in the GOP and with the popularity decline of President Obama’s policies, many conservatives saw this as the second coming of Reagan. Instead, we got a moderate less than smooth talking big government favoring billionaire. This was not the end of the world, though. Conservatives knew that Trump could be persuaded to embrace our policies as he already had with issues like abortion, tax cuts, and regulatory reform. However, to do this we need to make sure conservative voices are clear and voluminous. Intermingling the alt-right’s big government stances with conservatives limited government fixes helps no one. It definitely doesn’t help conservatives. CPAC should have known this and it worries me they didn’t.