CPAC: Gathering Place for Coalition Conservatives?

Is the Conservative Political Action Conference still the top networking opportunity for all three legs of the conservative movement?

I have written nearly 100 columns here at REDSTATE from the perspective of what is popularly called the “social wing” of the conservative movement for the past several years but I have also never made any secret of the fact that personally, I am more of a “coalition conservative” whose views are in keeping with all three “legs” of our cause.  During the Reagan campaigns for President he united all three of those groups, campaigning for the GOP nomination with the active support of defense conservative, economics conservatives and the so-called “social” issue conservatives.”

(This is a guest column originally appearing at the top online resource for conservatives, REDSTATE.com, reprinted with permission.  CPAC serves similar purposes to the Freedom Leadership Conference, whose founders have been co-sponsors, speakers, attendees and enthusiasts of CPAC from its very origins)  

Unlike many GOP politicians of the past several decades, Ronald Reagan never said you should campaign to the right to grab the GOP nomination, then swing to the center to appeal to the “center-right” voters after you had secured the nomination.  What usually goes unsaid by advocates of that old Nixon-Dole-McCain-Romney strategy, is that once you get elected of course, you swing even more “to the center” so that you can “effectively govern.”

Lets call it what it is, despite the fact that it will make moderate-establishment GOP friends howl.  When you run “to the right” and then you “swing to the center” it means this.  You persuaded all those GOP primary voters that you were on their side on the issues of interest and concern to them.  Now that they know you are in their corner, you then focus on winning by GOING TO THE LEFT.  How else if you are on the right and you want to go to the center can you do it, unless you GO LEFT?  And then when you win the election (which doesn’t happen as often as centrist/moderate GOP advocates claim) you go FURTHER to the center – which means you GO LEFT.

Ronald Reagan has in common with the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, that he was never an advocate of this GO LEFT as you get closer to winning philosophy.  From the very start of CPAC until the end of his Presidency Reagan spoke at the CPAC’s and like those in attendance, he did not “swing left” as he got closer to election day.  Reagan ran briefly for and lost the GOP nomination in 1968, more vigorously in 1976 and then ran and won the nomination and the Presidency in 1980, never moving left through 20 years of Presidential campaigns.  While he knew how to compromise with opponents and strike bargains and deals to get his agenda enacted, he never advocated for liberal-left positions, and never failed to excite conservatives, especially CPAC conservatives.

So as a RedState, Human Events, CPAC conservative and fan of Ronald Reagan, I am pleased and happy to see that CPAC continues year after year.  In recent years there has been some criticism that the conferences are more focused on making money from very large checks handed to them by their biggest sponsors.

Last year one of the CPAC attendees who was there at the very start of CPAC some 50 years ago, complained to me that he was shocked for his $2,000 fee paid (for the couple) there was only one single banquet, and the event was closed down and deserted by late afternoon on Thursday and Friday.  In the past the banquets those evenings were the highlight of the conference and instead of closed Exhibit Halls they were totally packed with people and exhibitors of most of the major (and many minor) conservative cause organizations, publications and vendors.

In fact, this source – a member of the informal Young Americans for Freedom alumni group on google groups, told me that many of the other YAF alumni he usually ran into in that Exhibit Hall, could only be met by attending their off-site lunch three blocks away from CPAC and that he used to get a far better deal for 25% of the price in years past.  This is one source of many I have who go back over 20, 30 and even 40 and more years attending and even organizing and leading CPAC as exhibitors, sponsors and attendees.

There is a major case to be made that the old CPAC-Human Events conservatives might be a lot better off and have to spend a lot less money, if they simply attended the annual gathering of another of the many competing annual conferences aimed to appeal to them – such as the gathering of REDSTATE, clearly the top online resource for coalition, movement conservatives.  One of my sources told me he actually spoke to REDSTATE honcho Erick Erickson at CPAC last year so of course if you could only attend ONE conference in a year, I’m sure he’d suggest you get more bang for your buck at the REDSTATE event.  But for the largest crowd and the largest number of speakers, albeit for a much, much higher price, CPAC still appears to be a “must attend” event for serious conservatives.

In writing about CPAC in the near future – it takes place in Washington DC area on Feb. 25-28 this year – I will be focused especially on those speakers and organizations participating from what I prefer to call the “right vs wrong” segment of the conservative movement, seeking out leaders and activists from that group to share their views of what they see and hear there.

I will also be making some effort to look into and report further on the “coalition conservative” aspect of CPAC – from personal observation and from speaking to my sources (not all of whom wish to be named) because it has for so many years been the number one best place to network with and be inspired by the conservative movement, its leaders, its best activists, its finest organizations.  Is it still?

(For more information about the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 25-28 follow the link)

(the monthly Freedom Leadership Conference which was conducted during 2013-2014, is being planned to begin again in March, 2014 after CPAC.  Organizations who wish to be Co-sponsors are invited to inquire at EventCoordinator@FreedomLeadershipConference.org.  The co-sponsor proves the main speaker at each monthly, weeknite conference, while other speakers are allocated a small segment of the remaining time)

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(reprinted with permission.  The following was requested to be placed with the article, originally appearing at REDSTATE)

LETS BE FRIENDS… HanoverHenry of RED STATE is Pat Henry on Facebook, and I’m on the lookout for new friends there.  While I have taken a sabbatical from my previous 5x a week, weekdays writing schedule at RED STATE, I continue to write here and on Facebook periodically.

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