Grassroots Commentary

Why Is There a C in CPAC?

B.P. Terpstra · Jan. 31, 2011

Move over Desperate Housewives. “With leading conservative organizations not participating this year, Senator DeMint will not be attending. He hopes to attend a unified CPAC next year,” DeMint’s spokesman explained.

No surprise there. However, B. Daniel Blatt of Gay Patriot responded with this unpersuasive comeback: “Leading conservative organizations? Well, Heritage isn’t participating. That’s about the only leading conservative organization I can think of that’s passing on the event.”

For those of you who don’t know, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is an annual political event for conservatives, and yet it attracts adults-first libertarians and chardonnay socialist RINOs, for some peculiar reason. As such, no serious observers are surprised to hear that conservative family-focused groups and individuals are withdrawing support.

In stark contrast, sheltered journalists and tribal-sounding gay groups are portraying CPAC’s boycotters as irrelevant social conservatives. They’re the smelly hillbillies from the Deep South without dental plans! But as concerns mount over social issues like same-sex marriage (31 voter-first states out of 31 voter-first states have rejected it) who believes the Hollywood-style talking points?

To begin with, I’m going to disagree with the otherwise thoughtful Mr. Blatt and here’s why: The groups and individuals withdrawing from CPAC are major players, without question.

Take the Media Research Center. “From a $339,000 initial annual budget, the MRC has grown to be the nation’s largest and most sophisticated television and monitoring operation, now employing 60 professional staff with a $10 million annual budget.” To be sure, MRC is one of the strongest conservative groups in the U.S., quoted by major rightwing and leftwing media sources alike. Even their NewsBusters project, a rapid-response blog, has a big internet following.

Take the American Family Association. “The organization has an annual budget of roughly US $14 million and owns 180 American Family Radio stations in 28 states” and the “AFA Journal is a monthly publication with a circulation of 180,000.” Or allow me to put it this way: In 2008, the popular National Review magazine’s circulation was around 169,000 (and not surprisingly 185,000 for its post-election issue).

Take Concerned Women for America. The CWA describes itself as “the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization with a rich 30-year history of helping our members across the country bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.” Or in others words, bigger than brunch with Elton John.

Take the Family Research Council. They’d have to be one of the most innovative and effective policy organizations in modern political history, and so on. Indeed, it’s astonishing how a smart and polite-sounding guy like Blatt misses the obvious. The Heritage Foundation, of course, is the most broadly supported think tank in America, but to dismiss other conservative boycotters and potential boycotters, from DeMint to the Media Research Center is counterproductive.

The arguments against withdrawing often rest on a narrow understanding of conservative history too. For example, campaigning journalists can’t figure out why conservatives would have trouble with some gay marriage and pro-abortion speakers, as if to suggest that George Washington and Jesus Christ were some fringe figures, with no cultural influence across today’s America. It’s an unsustainable myth, however.

Nor are friendship circle arguments sustainable. In fact, statements like, “Oh, but they’re still selling tickets,” should be taken with a grain of salt – and an aspirin. The real consequences will be felt over the long term, but moreover, more will ask: Are pretend-conservatives attending pretend conservative conferences, a sideshow to the real game? And: Where is the conservatism of our Founding Fathers in all of this?

The fact is America’s not-so-conservative CPAC is more made-for-TV Washington D.C. than Middle America. In 2007, Mitt Romney of socialist RomneyCare fame won the Straw Poll for the Republican Nominee for President (with the pro-abortionist Rudy Giuliani coming in a close second). The joke was repeated in 2008 when John McCain of pro-amnesty fame came in second. In 2009, Mr. RomneyCare was once again “the man” only losing to the pro-appeasement Ron Paul in 2010.

Closer to planet earth, however, mainstream Americans tend to reject gruesome partial-birth abortion procedures and soft-on-Islamist strategies to accommodate a pretend big tent ideology. They’re also living with the tax-and-spend consequences of the expressive divorce revolution too, and don’t see the point of creating more government-dependent fatherless family units.

Granted, if individuals plan to attend some conference, that’s their choice, and good luck to them (if they’re there to raise critical-thinking questions). Still, I also see why conservatives are tired of defending conservative principles at a conservative conference.

B. Blatt isn’t dumb, just misdirected, and even an eighties dance party won’t drown out Middle America.

For more perspective: While CPAC is expected to attract an estimated 10,000 attendees, the Second Baptist Church of Houston alone has a weekly attendance of 24,000.

B.P. Terpstra is an Australian writer and blogger. His works can be found on The Daily Caller (Washington D.C.), NewsReal Blog (Los Angeles), Quadrant (Sydney), and On Line Opinion (Brisbane).

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