Tea Party backlash unites CPAC 2010
By Rachel Alexander
The few controversial parts of CPAC 2010 were outweighed by the momentum driving the various factions on the right together – opposition to the federal government's spending, bailouts, and attempted takeover of healthcare. Ten thousand turned out for CPAC 2010 this year, 1500 more than last year. With Republicans out of power in Washington and Tea Partiers revolting against the Obama administration's massive spending and bailouts, conservatives are coming together stronger than ever. Although there was a National Tea Party convention earlier this month in Nashville featuring Sarah Palin, attended by 1500, it was clear that Tea Partiers were unified with conservative Republicans at CPAC. Rumors of a Tea Party protest at CPAC never materialized. The wide variety of Republicans and Tea Partiers who spoke at CPAC – from Michelle Bachman to Ron Paul to Mitt Romney – were evidence that the right is united.
CPAC has become the most powerful national annual convention for conservatives. It has finally shaken off its reputation as the convention for stodgy Republicans. It now features a regular bloggers' row, with over 150 bloggers. Bloggers were treated even better than the mainstream press, with a large room located on the balcony overlooking the main auditorium. The mainstream press was limited to a small room on the opposite side of the auditorium facing the audience, not the speakers. Blogger Ed Morrissey from HotAir.com won the blogger of the year award.
RaiseDigital provided an iPhone application dedicated to CPAC. Hip lounges included Stephen Baldwin and Kevin McCullough's XPAC for the younger generation, and Victory Solutions' VoIP technology lounge. Its VoIP technology for phone banking contributed to recent Republican victories like Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts. Both organizations ran two of the most active twitter feeds covering the conference, #xpac and #thevso.
There were a few controversial incidents, but no major divisions at the conference. GOProud, a gay Republican group, had a booth in the exhibition area and one of their representatives participated on a panel. The John Birch society was finally permitted to have a booth, perhaps because William F. Buckley, Jr., who originally kicked them out of mainstream conservative circles, passed away in 2008. The immigration speakers and panels featured mostly pro-illegal immigration viewpoints. Linda Chavez, who was forced to withdraw in 2001 from her nomination by Bush for Labor Secretary due to hiring an illegal immigrant nanny, devoted her entire to speech to criticizing the conservative base's view that opposes illegal immigration.
Andrew Breitbart, a leader on the right in new media, confronted liberal journalist Max Blumenthal when he showed up at the convention. Blumenthal, who writes for Salon.com, had accused James O'Keefe, the videojournalist who exposed ACORN and who is working with Breitbart, of racism. Salon.com was forced afterwards to issue a partial retraction. Code Pink protester Medea Benjamin attended the conference, but was surrounded by loud booing wherever she walked.
There was a strong Ron Paul presence at CPAC; many of his supporters were featured as speakers. Most CPAC attendees I spoke with agreed with with Paul on every issue except foreign policy. As expected, his disciplined, organized supporters made sure he won the straw poll. Mitt Romney came in second place, followed by Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Pence, Newt Gingrich, and Mike Huckabee.
JD Hayworth, who is running against McCain for Senate, felt quite comfortable at CPAC, whereas McCain was nowhere to be seen, he was back in Arizona trying to explain to Tea Partiers why he voted for several of the TARP bailouts.
The biggest speakers at CPAC provided a hint as to who will be the hottest conservative leaders over the next couple years. They were Marco Rubio, Glenn Beck, Mike Pence, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ann Coulter. Dick Cheney made a surprise showing to thunderous applause.
Some major conservative leaders were noticeably missing. Sarah Palin chose to make a statement by speaking at the Tea Party convention earlier this month instead. Mike Huckabee boycotted the convention, saying it had become too libertarian. He apparently based this perception on the pervasive Ron Paul presence, and the lack of speakers or sessions addressing social issues. Rush Limbaugh was absent, probably because he was the keynote speaker at CPAC last year.
Overall, the conference was a tremendous success, bringing various factions on the right together due to a common aversion towards the current federal government bailouts, spending, and takeover of healthcare.
Rachel Alexander and her brother Andrew are co-Editors of Intellectual Conservative. Rachel practices law and social media political consulting in Phoenix, Arizona. She has been published in the American Spectator, Townhall.com, Fox News, NewsMax, Accuracy in Media, The Americano, ParcBench, and other publications.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!