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CPAC Sadness

After seeing the blistering reactions to Rush Limbaugh at CPAC, I decided to take a look at the CPAC agenda to see what went on at the nation’s most prestigious gathering of conservative power-thinkers.

I have to say it–I don’t get the anger, because most of these sessions are just plain hilarious:

“Al Franken and ACORN: How Liberals are Destroying the American Election System”(Ambassador Ballroom)

“Sarah Palin Unplugged on the Media Video Interview”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: she would indeed have done better were the machines unplugged);

“Youth for Western Civilization Inaugural Reception” (Palladian Ballroom);

I don’t care who you are, this stuff is funny.

And then there is the old Hard-Core Conservative Oxymoronica. You know, impossible phrases like “Microsoft Works”, or “British Cuisine”):

Honorable Rick Santorum
Regency Ballroom
(Introduction: Tim Goeglein, Focus on the Family)

Honorable. Right.

Also present are some unusually strong entries in the “Unintentional Dumb Irony” category:

“Woman of the Year Luncheon”
Palladian Ballroom
Speaker: TBA

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Think about this. They either had difficulty finding a conservative woman of the year, or finding a speaker willing to say something positive about women…)

How Many Crimes Did You Commit Today?
Regency Ballroom

(EDITOR’S NOTE: no doubt a ‘how-to’ workshop, perhaps given by former DOJ political appointees)

Breakfast with Phyllis Schlafly: “Doing the Impossible”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: have to agree that holding breakfast down with Schlafly in the same room would indeed be difficult)

And finally, comes the GOP drumbeat of the boringly predictable:

Will Congress Take Your Guns?
Regency Ballroom
Rep. Connie Mack (FL)

A more general impression of the agenda was its upside-down arrangement of speakers. Usually, a conference builds up and gathers steam towards a final address or event, with progressively “heavier hitters” as the conference moves towards its conclusion. Salted into the earlier stages of the sequence might be minor politicians, media stars, entertainers, comedians, celebrities, and the like.

But this year’s CPAC affair turned this time-honored practice completely on its head. Bizarrely, CPAC placed the few remaining major conservative political figures (those not dead or voted out of office in the last two elections) up front, in the warm-up act. They then enshrined the lightweight entertainers (in the form of Rush Limbaugh) in the all-important keynote position. The ultimate event, the final act of the convention and the thing everyone stayed to see was:

Presentation of Defender of the Constitution Award
Presenter: Brad O’Leary, PM-Direct Marketing
Recipient: Rush Limbaugh

One could go on about the strange nature of this years CPAC offering, including the absence (at least in the agenda) of the immediate past president of the United States. Word has it he was a conservative. Was he too busy chopping cedar brush? Also missing was the conservative nominee for president during the GOP disaster just concluded only months ago. Where was he? Somehow, seems like the two leading conservatives in the country should have been written in there somewhere on the agenda.

But for all the unintended comic buffoonery, supreme irony, and boring boilerplate fear-mongering the CPAC offered up this year, my most basic and lasting personal response to all the above was sadness.

Why? I guess my reaction stems from the belief that, if we must have parties, they should formulate and apply serious political concepts. Being currently in the minority, conservatives could have used CPAC to build real, substantive political ideas in opposition to the majority. These, employed in the current political arena, might actually move not just their movement forward, but would be good for the country too.

I mention this because I emphatically believe that this country needs at least two strong political parties with clear and substantive philosophical differences (more than two would be even better–but that’s another discussion).

But this CPAC convention didn’t do anything like building a substantive and productive opposition. Based on its agenda alone, it produces laughter and head-shaking puzzlement. And while the entertainment is appreciated, I think most liberal Americans would actually prefer to see something actually serious come out of CPAC. It would be welcome, it would certainly improve their party, and principled opposition would no doubt improve the Democratic Party as well. Heck, a substantive, serious opposition might even have a chance of improving the country.

And an improved country is something we all can support.

Ain’t that right, CPAC?

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