Sunday, March 17, 2013

Great Time at CPAC!

Rod Williams and Gene Wisdom at CPAC
I just returned from the three-day annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington D. C. and had a wonderful time! For a conservative political junkie activist like myself, the experience of CPAC must be similar to what a hard core country music fan feels when they attend fan fair. CPAC is three days of political rally, workshops, education, training, and networking. It is educational, motivating and exhilarating.

The event was actually in Maryland, across the river from D. C. at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor. I went to the event with my friend Gene Wisdom. We flew up together and shared a room at the Hapton Inn, directly across the street from Gaylord Hotel but a lot less expensive than the Gaylord.

CPAC is sponsored by The American Conservative Union which is America’s oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization founded in 1964. The ACU has hosted CPAC in the Nation’s Capital since 1974. I never did get a confirmed count of the number of people attending but heard numbers of between 8000 and 10,000. There is no liberal equivalent of CPAC.

Senator Marco Rubio
It is hard to summaries the three days, there was so much going on. At any one time there was one big event going on in the big room and from one to four other break-out session going on at the same time. In addition, there was the exhibition hall with several hundred booths where you can talk to the representatives of various organizations promoting their various causes. In the exhibition hall you can learn a lot about what these groups are doing and about issues and how to get involved. You can also get lots of freebies. I came home with nine tee shirts, a ball cap, four books, several tote bags, a poster of Ronald Regan, and numerous ink pens, and label pens and buttons.

At the back of the exhibition hall there is a place where book signings occur. While I did not pursue getting autographed copies of books, for those who do it is a chance to get the autograph, shake hands with and get your picture taken with the big names in the conservative movement. Even though I did not get in line to get a book autographed, I accompanied Gene to get several autographs and it is fun to see the famous politicians and authors up close. In addition to all of this there are movies and documentaries being shown in a theater. Not being able to do it all, I skipped all of the movies but many of them sounded interesting.

Sarah Palin pokes fun at New York Mayor Michael
Bloomberg's call to ban large sodas
While it is great to be in the big hall hearing the leading conservative luminaries of the day making their speeches, the room is so big that you are not close to the speaker. Unless you are in the VIP seating, which is more expensive, you are really seeing them on big screens. While it is a thrill to know you are seeing them live and be in a big hall with maybe eight thousand people joining in the applause and cheering, you are not up close and personal with the speakers. In the break-out sessions, you can be close. Those events are much more intimate and most have a question and answer period following the speech or panel discussions.

There is no way to see it all, so I missed Allen West (who I saw in the hall), Dr. Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry, Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gringrich, Jeb Bush and others. I don't feel any great loss in missing some of them but others I wish I would have seen but could not be two places at once. I did however get to see Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Phyllis Schlafly, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, Ann Coulter and several others. Some of the speakers were only given fifteen minutes so they gave a cheerleading-type stump speech; others had more time. Ted Cruz was the closing speaker and he must have talked for an hour but it never got boring. He was able to more fully developed a thesis.

Gene gets Ann Coulter's autograph
Who did I really like? It is hard to say; I liked so many of them. Surprisingly, I loved Ann Coulter. She has never been one of my favorite conservatives but she was charming and funny and clever with a biting sarcastic wit. Sarah Palin was a delight. She was entertaining and is full of personality and is so darn cute. Rand Paul, fresh from his filibuster was a crowd favorite and had people cheering. I also liked Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, and Ted Cruz. I guess Marco Rubio was the politician who impressed me most.  His speech was less raucous and more inspirational, yet it was close. Rand, Ryan and Cruz were all good.

The break out session covered a broad range of topics. There were sessions on how to win with generation X; the legacy of Andrew Breitbart; tax policy including discussion of the Fair Tax, the Flat Tax, and tax reform; using social media; Conservative journalism; liberty and environmental issues; immigration; fatherless children and the problem of poverty; fracking and energy policy issues; religious freedom (Diane Black was on this panel); fundraising; the social issues of abortion and gay marriage by sociologist and award winning author Charles Murray; "Can we cut defense spending and still defend America;" "How to get a job in Politics;" the status of the pro-life fight forty years after Roe v Wade; Benghazi and Middle East foreign policy, conservatives in Hollywood, and many, many more.

A few of my favorites were those put on by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. One, was "still questing after all the years" and was a discussion of Robert Nesbitt's The Quest for Community. Four distinguished scholars discussed the legacy of this book and the issues of place, community and the problem of alienation in society.

 I guess my favorite of the breakout sessions was, "The Conservative Intellectual Movement: Then and Now." The speaker for this event was George Nash, the author of the influential book, The Conservative Intellectual Movement, first published in 1976. Our book club had read this book recently and it was such a thrill to hear a presentation by the author. He spoke for about 30 minutes and then afterwards he stood in the hall answered questions and engaging in discussion for about another thirty minutes. I felt fortunate to get to have a conversation with this great scholar of the conservative movement.
Gene Wisdom and M. Stanton Evans

Another thrill was getting to chat with M. Stanton Evans, former long-time associate editor of
National Review, managing editor of Human Events, one time head of ACU and author of numerous books.

In addition to all of the official programs, it was fun to just talk to so many other conservative activist from across the country. One thing that pleased me is that there was almost none of the right wing nut fringe featured at this event. There was no John Birch Society or Alex Jones Inforwars booth and very little of the embarrassing elements of the conservative movement.

If you are a conservative activist and have never been, plan to go next year. I hope to return.

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1 comment:

  1. way to go GW. I think I would have wanted to see Ben Carson the most. I think he is going to turn some folks upside down.