NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., March 5, 2016 — The first two days of CPAC 2016 were relatively calm, but Friday saw Texas Senator Ted Cruz and columnist Michelle Malkin light fires and set off conservative fireworks. The fireworks continued Saturday, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio fanning the flames and radio host Glenn Beck spreading a conservative conflagration.
Despite battling the flu, Rubio gave an impassioned speech in defense of conservative principles. There had been speculation that Rubio would skip CPAC, knowing the conservative crowd would never support him because of his immigration reform efforts with the Gang of Eight.
As usual, the conventional liberal media wisdom was anything but wise. It was businessman Donald Trump who canceled his CPAC speech for fear of a hostile reception.
Rubio largely avoided discussing Trump in his remarks, but the first question he was asked was why he thought Trump skipped CPAC. Rubio hit a grand slam, pointing out that CPAC is a conservative conference and Trump is not a conservative. The crowd roared in applause.
Rubio’s voice was raspy, but his message was crystal clear. He is a proud lifelong conservative. The crowd enthusiastically agreed.
Across the street from the Gaylord Convention Center where Rubio spoke, the Young Jewish Conservatives hosted a special Shabbos lunch speaker of their own. Glenn Beck is one of many devout Christians who has a warm relationship with the Jewish community. Unlike many politicians, Beck refuses to pander. Politicians who speak to Jewish groups frequently spend their entire time talking about Israel. The Young Jewish Conservatives love Israel, but they also deeply believe in politically conservative ideas in the U.S. Beck understands this.
After wishing the room a “Good Shabbos,” Beck said that he was not going to stick to Jewish issues. Beck has a couple of influential religious Jewish advisors who have educated him on the Hebrew faith. Beck made it clear that he knew he was in front of a conservative group and would give a conservative speech. The room was appreciative.
Beck spoke about one key distinction important to defining who we are as individuals and as a society. We should not act in the “national interest” because interests change. We should stick to our core “national principles” because principles never change. If we stop acting out of our interests and hew to our principles, we can save America.
Beck was calm in his remarks. The use of a microphone is prohibited on the Sabbath, so the room stayed quiet as Beck spoke serenely. But later, when it was time for his closing keynote address to several thousand rabid CPAC supporters, Beck dialed the volume up past the point of known decibels.
The results of the CPAC straw poll were announced before Beck’s speech. Like most straw polls, this one is normally a useless exercise that does nothing to predict the eventual nominee. In recent years, libertarians have come out in droves to support a near-octogenarian and his ophthalmologist son. This year the straw poll seemed to belong to actual conservatives. Cruz won with 40 percent, with Rubio a strong second at 30 percent. Trump was a distant third with 15 percent. Ohio Governor John Kasich was his typical non-factor at 8 percent. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who dropped out of the presidential race on Friday, garnered 2 percent.
Beck frequently says the world is on fire. On CPAC Saturday, it was Beck who was on fire.
He praised the addition of Dr. Zuhdi Jasser to the American Conservative Union board, which would help remove “Islamist moles” from the board.
“What a pack of liars all of us have been,” he said of politics. At CPAC, he saw a far better hope for the world. He launched into several minutes of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and how it relates to conservatism; our golden ticket is the United States Constitution.
He brought the crowd to its feet in sustained applause as he thundered out constitutional principles. The right to keep and bear arms, the right to be free to practice our religion, and the right to be free from warrantless searches and seizures are what we stand for.
“What unites us as conservatives? Not a party, but principles!”
Lower taxes and smaller government are an effect, but not the cause. The cause is following principles that come from our creator God.
“The American revolution was not a war against England. It was a war for an idea.” The idea was that men could rule themselves. Each man had God-given rights. Our government exists to protect the rights of man. Conservatives support these principles because we are rational. We understand what is self-evident. “If you don’t understand why the Constitution matters, then you are the one who is confused, not us.”
“You as an individual are the most power being ever created by God himself.”
The most powerful commodity is not gold, oil or bullets. It is the individual’s right to self-determination. Progressives seek to seize that right in their quest for power. “We cannot change the other party, but we must change ourselves.”
The greatest killer of people over the last few decades has not been starvation or malnutrition. It has been governments killing in the name of progress and the greater good. Progressives gave the world death camps and gas chambers. Meanwhile, free Americans were curing polio and creating the Internet, including encryption.
The government is allowed to do one thing in the Constitution, and that is get the hell out of the way of the American people.” Let us be free.
“Parties don’t matter. Core principles matter.”
We cannot allow ourselves “to be taken over by a charming Slugworth with pockets full of cash.”
Beck brought the crowd to its feet for more sustained applause as he implored the crowd to take back their individual rights and “never surrender our way of life.”
“Have faith in our principles … Have faith in the God who gave them to you.”
After Beck’s fiery speech, the entire room needed to cool down. CPAC was over, and it was time for the afterparties. Gene Berardelli is a Republican leader in Brooklyn, New York. He held his annual “unsustainable bar tab party.” In downtown D.C., the 12th annual Reaganpalooza nightclub party is taking place.
The levity will not last long. Saturday night will see the polls close in five more primary and caucus states. Republican caucuses took place in Maine and Kentucky. Democrats held a caucus in Nebraska. Both parties held a Louisiana primary and a Kansas Caucus. Sunday features a Maine Caucus for Democrats and the Puerto Rico primary for Republicans. Tuesday brings Republican caucuses in Hawaii and Idaho and the Michigan and Mississippi primaries for both major parties. Sunday also brings another Democratic debate.
CPAC 2016 is in the books, but the presidential race is just getting started.