Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending yet another Conservative Political Action Conference, organized by the American Conservative Union and held in Washington, D.C. Though Ron Paul’s annoyingly dedicated supporters chanting, “End the Fed” were able to secure his victory in the conference’s famous straw poll for the second year in a row, the New York Times (of all publications) cautioned readers against extrapolating this data beyond the conference. They correctly noted that only a third of all of CPAC’s 10,000 attendees voted in the poll, and that this straw poll “underscored the fluidity of the field”. Yet, the most telling result of the straw poll was omitted by the Times. Voters were asked to identify what their primary concern was for the future of the county. USA Today had the guts to publish, “the No. 1 issue for conservatives, according to the poll results, is the size and role of government”. Granted, this was coming from a conservative audience, but when taken in conjunction with November’s election results, it’s pretty clear that there are changes afoot that don’t sit well with Americans.
Not surprising, healthcare was a topic of frequent consideration from speakers and panelists. Though I was only able to attend the Saturday portion of the conference, the message was clear – the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a top priority for congressmen, economists, pundits, and governors. In fact, an entire panel of voices called for repeal in a segment entitled, Repealing Obamacare: In The States, In Courts, and In Congress. Freshman Representative Joe Walsh (R-Illinois) vowed to repeal healthcare, even if it destroys his chances for re-election. In a larger sense, he was a visible reminder of how energized and dedicated this new Republican freshman class is. Clearly, CPAC attendees aren’t the only ones afraid of the massive growth of federal power.
Egypt, and the Middle East in general, was also of great concern to many speakers, in particular, former ambassador to the UN John Bolton. He spent nearly all of his allotted time, using his vast scope of international relations experience, explaining what he deems are Obama’s errors in regards to Egypt. Chief among these are his naïveté concerning the Muslim Brotherhood and the president’s statements against the U.S. In particular, I believe that he was alluding to Obama’s comments dismissing American exceptionalism. Bolton laid out a careful point-by-point strategy for addressing Egypt, START, and China. I’d take his foreign policy experience any day.
That’s not to say that the whole day was doom, gloom, and anti-Obama rhetoric. There were some amusing moments, from Andrew Breitbart’s recounting of hilarious encounters with the infamous ACORN, to actor Pat Boone’s reception of the Lifetime Achievement Award, to Rich Lowry’s stand-in speech for Jonah Goldberg, to Ann Coulter’s usual sharp-as-a-tack comments. I particularly admire Coulter for her pitch-perfect response to a question from the audience regarding the controversy involving GOPride. She trod a fine line between accepting homosexual individuals for who they are, while simultaneously not supporting gay marriage.
The evening ended with a captivating speech by Rep. Allen West of Florida. He covered a plethora of topics during his talk, most notably his defense of the unborn (saying, “I do not believe having a baby is punishment”) and his observation of the Republican Party receiving “hostile attacks from the liberal left, such as being called racist.” He continued, saying, “Perhaps they should see who is standing up here as your keynote speaker.” Another freshman congressman, West’s enthusiasm was palpable.
As the Republicans gear up for 2012, the party needs to find a candidate. From Donald Trump to Sarah Palin to Mitt Romney, no one seems particularly fit for the job… at this moment. But, a lot can change between now and then. Let’s not forget President Obama’s dizzying rise to fame. While we don’t have a candidate to rally behind as of yet, I am optimistic that all of the different factions of the GOP, and the American people in general, can stand boldly behind the same convictions – smaller government and strong foreign policy.