"Rack" and Ruin: Rightbloggers Have a Messy CPAC
Last week the 39th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) met at National Harbor in Maryland near DC. If you heard anything about it, you probably heard about a CPAC forum called "Are You Sick and Tired of Being Called a Racist and You Know You're Not One?" that was every bit the disaster its name presaged.
For rightbloggers, CPAC is Old Home Week, but the dawn of the second Age of Obama found them conflicted and demoralized, so they focused on the good times -- like Sarah Palin making a joke about her tits.
In the run-up to the shindig, all the talk had been about who wouldn't be at CPAC.
CPAC organizers reportedly said New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wasn't welcome because of his "'limited future' in the national Republican party." Considering Christie is currently polling 74% approval in Jersey, and is reliably orthodox on the rightwing issues that count (i.e. persecution of unions and opposition to gay marriage), this seems a strange reading.
But at RedState, Some Guy said he didn't mind that Christie was not invited, as Some Guy considered the Governor "a loud mouth overrated political ballerina." But "what I object to," he added, "is the fact that Jeb Bush was invited to speak but not Chris Christie... Jeb Bush is a nerdy, slimmer and more tan version of Chris Christie." Can we fit that on a bumper sticker?
Some Guy further explained his position: "Nowadays any Republican can be labeled 'conservative' without actually being a conservative just by saying they are one," he said. "It's like when bi-racial people say they're black just because one of their parents is black. It's like, the meanings are twisted and formed according to whoever chooses to twist and contort the word and its meaning. In short, I like my black people black and my conservatives true conservatives. Now, let's see how many object to what I just said." They were probably outnumbered by those who quietly backed out of the room.
GOProud, a prominent gay Republican group, was also denied an invitation to CPAC, which got a mixed reaction from rightbloggers.
Jeffrey Lord of The American Spectator speculated that National Review founder William F. Buckley would also have barred Christie and GOProud from CPAC, the former for fatal "bipartisanship," the latter because they're mean to the people who consider them second-class citizens. Also, said Lord, this diversity stuff is all hypocritical anyway -- "Indeed," he added, "how many members of those opposed to gay rights are invited on the board of GOP Proud?"
Dan Riehl agreed: "the Gay lobby isn't going to suddenly embrace conservatives as heroic, or their champions," he wrote. "And they'll continue to undermine seriously conservative Republicans at the national level just as they do now." So what purpose could welcoming a gay group serve, other than winning future elections? Besides, gays were still welcome at CPAC -- at least, wrote Riehl, "I doubt there will be anyone at the door at CPAC asking attendees about their sexual preferences." Yeah, that's what Craigslist is for.
GOProud had some defenders. Daniel Foster of National Review explained the group was "playing the long game of acclimating gays to conservatism and conservatism to gays, and a large piece of that, frankly, is just sitting around quietly and behaving themselves." Now who could object to that? It's not like they're disrupting Mass at St. Patrick's. And Foster held out hope that backing the quiet gays would win votes to the GOP, because "while it's difficult to be secretly Latino, it's fairly common to be secretly gay. (Living in New York City, I know both conservatives who are closeted gays and gays who are closeted conservatives -- indeed, would anyone be surprised if Romney carried the closet vote?) Bringing GOProud into the conservative fold is the sort of symbolic action that could contribute to breaking up this two-way shame." Next step: a Will Portman "It Gets Better" video.
Bryan Preston of the PJ Tatler said, "I'm not verklempt about the dust-up over GOProud. CPAC owns its brand and can do what it wants. A robust movement welcomes different points of view, though, so I don't stand with S. E. Cupp for boycotting CPAC, nor do I stand with CPAC itself on this." Now there's a unity position.
The CPAC folk took further steps to make sure nothing embarrassing went down at their event: They suggested attendees dress neatly and modestly, eschewing low-cut tops and mini-skirts. They also did not invite Pamela Geller, who had accused top conservatives like Grover Norquist of supporting Islamic radicals. Geller reacted by accusing CPAC of "enforcing the Shariah."
These intra-wingnut conflicts were papered over. Geller got into the event via a Breitbart.com "Uninvited" forum, where she dissed Orly Taitz, the prominent Obama birther. (As Geller has suggested Obama is the son of Malcolm X, this may be characterized as a collegial dispute.) Also a non-GOProud "Rainbow on the Right" panel was permitted and some of the uninvited group's members and supporters attended. The sponsoring Competitive Enterprise Institute reported that "panelists discussed the difference between top-down enforced 'tolerance' and organic social progress rooted in market and other incentives."
Other conflicts festered. When Donald Trump got a prime spot at CPAC, he was subjected to torrents of abuse from, among others, Michelle Malkin, who was enraged that Trump had spoken kindly of Ashley Judd ("CPAC gave clown Trump a longer speaking slot. Will he use platform to plug lib starlet Ashley Judd's Senate campaign?"). Trump had previously called Malkin a "dummy." A cage match made in heaven!
Even immigration proved a ground to tread lightly, as Great Brown Hope Marco Rubio avoided the topic in his big speech. But how could he not? You can see how contentious the issue was in Mickey Kaus' column at The Daily Caller: "It looks like the attempt to turn CPAC into a pro-immigration-amnesty rally has been somewhat less than a rousing success," he wrote. Despite the presence of "a panel rigged to push legalization-no dissenting voices allowed!" anti-immigration voices prevailed, proving that "when the conservatives don't work for (amnesty supporter) Rupert Murdoch, they are a tougher sell... Prediction: Rubio's chicken-out won't stop the MSM from portraying him as a profile in courage on the issue."
Plus, "Ann Coulter at CPAC gave the immigration patriot speech we've been waiting for so many years," wrote Peter Brimelow at the openly racist VDare. "Note especially her repeated assertion that she is now 'a single-issue voter' against Amnesty--and also her informed critique of the 1965 Immigration Act, the root of all evil." Well, after the Civil Rights Act, are we right, blood-brother?
Speaking of race, there were a number of black speakers at CPAC -- there usually are; at 2011's event, we recall, Rev. Michel Faulkner told a "Traditional Marriage and Society" panel that "our liberties, which have made us great, are now destroying us."
This year Allen West, who lost his 2012 Congressional race but retains his place in conservative hearts, addressed a crowd, comparing Obama to the Depression and the Third Reich. Also speaking: Dr. Ben Carson, who gave Obama a hard time at a prayer breakfast, for which Breitbart.com's Ken Klukowski called him "a new potential contender for the presidential race for 2016" with "a message that wows the GOP base while intriguing swing voters," presumably reflected by Carson's description of abortion and gay marriage as a "war on God."
But despite this positive output, it was the forum on countering charges of racism that got all the attention. Damned liberal media!
The "Are You Sick and Tired of Being Called a Racist and You Know You're Not One?" panel featured black conservative K. Carl Smith, but was mostly attended by white people in apparent pursuit of a Republican ghetto pass. These folks became hostile when a black attendee asked some pointed questions, and desired she be ejected. Things got weirder and worse when one Scott Terry, attending with his buddy the "Founder and Commander" of the Towson White Student Union, took the mike to say he didn't see why Frederick Douglass had to be so ungrateful for his slavery, when he had been provided "food" and "shelter" by his masters, and lamented that the panel was "reaching out to voters at the expense of young white Southern males."
Though we are accustomed to rightbloggers defending anything -- and we mean anything -- to which conservatism is affixed, in this case they maintained an almost uniform silence on the event; why, it's almost as if they were embarrassed... Oh wait, there's always Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit: "BUSTED: Supposed 'Racist Event' at CPAC 2013 a Big Media Lie - Here's the Truth," Hoft wrote. It seems after the session, K. Carl Smith said, "Scott Terry shared with me that he supported a type of Booker T. Washington Republican... and then he bought our book and I shook his hand and said thank you." See, he shook a black guy's hand and bought his book! Eventually they'll get that pro-slavery thing worked out, and conservative black outreach will really take off.
National Review's Jillian Kay Melchior provided perhaps unintentional commentary with "Putting the Shine on CPAC," a post about black shoeshine man Dino Wright at the event. "Wright began shining shoes after the airline he once worked for defaulted on its pension obligations," wrote Melchior, "driving him to find a source of income in retirement." But Wright's made this market-force misfortune a positive. "He noticed that fewer people were entering the shoe-shining profession," wrote Melchior, "and 'I saw that as an entrepreneurial opportunity' - an ethic that sits well with the CPAC crowd." We bet it did!
The New York Post got with it in an editorial on the opportunities the GOP offered black folks. For example: "Resisting government-set wages (like the one Albany is about to hike) and letting employers pay what they can afford would make it easier for them to hire young black workers starting up the career ladder." Dino Wright must be excited about that. Also, said the Post, "there's a reason why, despite controversial policies like stop-and-frisk, ties between cops and blacks have improved, with but a few isolated exceptions" -- like this, we imagine -- "From Day One, [NYPD Commissioner Ray] Kelly has made it a point to visit black churches personally, and he kept at it every week."
While these imbroglios broiled, National Review posted regular dispatches from unobjectionable speakers, such as "Santorum: Obama Wants a 'Godless' Society." And hearts were full and losing denied as Sarah Palin, a former GOP Vice-Presidential candidate, regaled the crowd; we cannot improve on the description of her address by Lauri Bohanan at Conservative Daily News:
She described a gun rack he bought her to attach to the couple's four wheeler and the gun she bought him to put on it, saying, "I got the rack, he got the rifle." For probably the tenth time during her speech, the crowd erupted in laughter and applause.
In perhaps the funniest moment of her 25-minute long speech, however, Palin reached down beneath the podium and returned with a Big Gulp filled with "pop," from which she took a rather large swig ...and again, the crowd went wild.
While not all rightbloggers were pleased ("I do not believe," sniffed Yid With Lid, "that the country is ready for a president -- or senator for that matter -- who tells 'boob jokes'"), most of the brethren loved it "Just yesterday the dimwits at Politico were writing her off in their usual demeaning terms," cried an energized William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. Maggie's Notebook compared Palin holding her Big Gulp aloft to the Statue of Liberty.
The biggest winner at the event was Rand Paul, who made headlines recently by filibustering against domestic drone strikes (but not any other kind). Campus Reform reported that hundreds in the CPAC audience stood during Paul's performance "in a sign of solidarity for the historic 13-hour filibuster he held on the floor of the U.S. Senate last week," or because the people in front of them were standing and they couldn't see.
Of course, Paul's libertarian father Ron won the CPAC poll in 2010 (and in 2011), and rightbloggers weren't too happy about it then. They didn't all roll over for the Paulites this time, either. Bretbart.com's Joel B. Pollak insisted that while "the Rand Paul surge seemed to move defense issues lower down on the agenda," it didn't tell the whole story -- "even the CPAC straw poll was biased against hawks," he said, and "national-defense conservatives fought back in several panel discussions and in the Breitbart News session for 'the Uninvited.'" Presumably Pam Geller wouldn't mind droning a Muslim-American no matter where his cafe was.
Might Paul fils yet succeed where Paul pere failed, and lead conservatives in a new, libertarian (albeit anti-abortion) future? Why not? As long as he doesn't give too much ground to blacks, Latinos, and gays, it probably doesn't matter what an ambitious young conservative says these days. Others might wonder what the rest of America, which hasn't been voting with the brethren much lately, would think of that. But in a way the whole of American politics has become for them a form of CPAC: As long as they have comfortable rooms and all the Big Gulps they want, why should they care?
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.
- The Man Behind 'Modern Seinfeld,' Focuses on His Own Neuroses in New Book
- NYU Student Employees Say the University Hasn't Paid Them in Months
- Here Are the Early Frontrunners for Worst Halloween Costumes for Sale in New York