NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., March 9, 2014 — From the opening gun to the closing bell, several themes emerged at the CPAC 2014 conference this week. It wasn’t a carefully choreographed event like a party nominating convention, but speakers seemed to hit many of the same themes, and they resonated with the audience.
Rebellion was in the air.
The CPAC audience is not the usual GOP gathering. CPAC is designed for the young, the future generation of conservatives. Forty-six percent are 25 or under; a further 18 percent are under 40.
Intentionally or not, the conference has experienced politicians and pundits speaking to a generally younger audience.
CPAC has sought, particularly this year, to recognize conservative leaders under 40 and to give them a role in the convention. Conference sponsor The Washington Times awarded three paid internships to college students. Looking around the media section of the conference, it was rare to find many of the 2,200 credentialed media who looked over 30.
Carl Cameron from Fox News was the only recognizable person from the mainstream media present. The whole conference had a new, fresh, and bold look to it.
Policy debates drive the political conversation in this country, and those debates are driven by the left. With control of the bully pulpit of the presidency and aided by the left’s domination of the media and academia, what passes for debate on issues is really a carefully-controlled narrative being fed to a largely uncritical public.
The country lurches from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis in order to provide the justification for government action and intervention. These faux debates totally ignore — probably deliberately — a lively and robust debate about more fundamental questions that is occurring in the rest of America. The left’s broad claim that conservatives have no alternative to Obamacare, for example, could not be further from the truth. That lively debate went on unfettered at CPAC, in individual speeches and in breakout panels.
The ACU has posted full-length videos online on many of these.
“Repeal every single word of Obamacare” — Sen. Ted Cruz
Unifying these policy debates were underlying principles, which were mainly the core principles of the Tea Party movement: limited, constitutional government; free markets and fiscal responsibility.
In Milton Friedman’s shorthand, free markets, free people.
While the left tries to tar the Tea Party movement with social conservatism, that has never been a motivating force in the movement. Social conservatives are certainly present, but it is not the driver of what more broadly should be called the Liberty Movement. At CPAC, 78 percent of survey respondents picked limited government and individual liberty as their primary motivator, while only 12 percent picked traditional social issues.
“The love of liberty is interwoven in the soul of man, and can never be totally extinguished” – Sam Adams, October 4, 1790
These are bedrock American values. These values are laid out in the Declaration of Independence and were voted into law as the Constitution. Despite the Marxist left’s desire to use their power to fundamentally transform us — and regardless of Reagan’s statement to the contrary — freedom is built into the American gene. We do pass it on to every generation, and generations more of immigrants have come here to find that promised economic and religious liberty. But we do need to be reminded of it from time to time: Nothing reminds us of our love of liberty more than having it taken away.
Just as the actions of the gun control crowd have spurred record sales of firearms and ammunition, so also the attempts of the left to regulate every aspect of American life encounter increasing resistance.
“It’s time for a little rebellion on the battlefield of ideas.” – Gov. Rick Perry
The mood of the country is rebellious and that rebellious spirit was cause for optimism at CPAC. Young people are not signing up for Obamacare. The U.S. House is considering a bill to reduce the penalty for not signing up to zero, effectively killing the individual mandate. Jobs are a top priority for most Americans, but the administration instead extolls the value of time off.
Rasmussen this week reports that just 28 percent of Americans think the country is moving in the right direction. Among those who think we are moving in the wrong direction are 87 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of independents. Even 39 percent of Democrats think so. These are ominous portends indeed.
CPAC attendees have the same opinion—only more so. According to the straw poll, 98 percent disapprove of the president’s job performance. That might seems obvious but as recently as the 2012 poll, 19 percent approved.
The people are ready for a change. Carly Fiorina boldly said that the end of the Age of Obama is at hand. Increasingly, people are waking up to the fact that the left has brought us here. People may not be happy with the Republican Party either, but Conservatives have a positive message and they’re beginning to formulate it well.