The Republicans’ fading colours – The Spectator Magazine

Link to the original article:

http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/all/7648068/web-exclusive-the-republicans-fading-colours.thtml

 

Web exclusive: The Republicans’ fading colours

11 February 2012

CPAC Review essay by White House 2012 writer David Cowan published on The Spectator magazine website

 

Growing up in the 1960s, my primary school in Cambridge had an outdoor roofless boy’s toilets, and we happily enjoyed urinating up the wall. It was a sign we were getting further up the school when one day we were able to urinate over the wall itself — much to the annoyance of people on the other side. This memory came to mind this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington DC over the weekend, the annual gathering of some ten thousand political activists. This year CPAC was a pissing contest to see who was the most conservative.

The three Republican frontrunners, Santorum, Romney and Gingrich, in that order, sought to reach the base and convince activists about their conservative qualities. The themes they all offered were: what’s wrong with the Obama administration; a shopping list of what conservative policies would work better; an appeal to American exceptionalism; and a return to the founding principles of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

The three candidates are looking for the right to fight an Obama administration seen as somewhat Carteresque, from failed election promises through to the ideological infighting. Obama, though personally liked (Ann Coulter joked he would make a nice neighbour, unless you’re Chinese, then he’d keep borrowing stuff), is seen as ineffective and evasive.

To reenergise America, the candidates laid claim to the mantle of Ronald Reagan, frequently invoking his name and sunny disposition. Yet herein lies the rub. Reagan defeated Carter with ideas for the economy and foreign policy, successfully combining a conservative vision and charm to appeal to swing voters. At CPAC 1974, Reagan gave his famous ‘bold colours, not pale pastels’ speech, asserting conservative principles. This weekend showed that some of the colours have long since faded.

Things were certainly off-colour last time I was here, back in 2009, as defeated activists sought to pick themselves up after Obama’s coronation. The biggest cheers then were for Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, as they offered succour. Newt entered to his incongruous theme tune ‘Eye of the Tiger’, but instead of entering stage right he walked in through the crowd, parting them Moses-like, shaking hands and hugging supporters.

The danger three years on is, of course, an election that will see CPAC 2013 take place after a second Obama inauguration. Expect then a sinking sense of what might have been. For many American conservatives a Republican failure this year will exacerbate what they fear most: n irreversible dependency culture and Europeanisation. Daniel Hannan flew into DC to warn on just this point, expressing his amazement to rapt delegates that while Europe is driving off the cliff they can see America in their rear-view mirror, overtaking them.

Back in 2009 something else happened at CPAC. Sarah Palin was slated to speak, but failed to appear either in person or via a hastily announced satellite link. This was the signal that Sarah was taking the celebrity high road, rather than the political low road. This year, however, she did appear as closing speaker to offer the benediction — but not the one most people expected. She did not endorse Gingrich, as he himself alluded to in his own speech by quoting her husband Todd. She called for unity, but convoluted as ever, Palin said ‘whoever our nominee is we must work together to get him over the finishing line, and then next year we will have a true conservative in the Oval office’ — only to go on Fox news on Sunday afternoon to say she is still to be convinced Romney that is indeed a conservative.

Despite this, and despite the Santorum surge, Romney will see this conference as mission accomplished — reinforced by the CPAC Straw Poll narrowly backing his candidature. Out of the three candidates it looks seemed that Romney pissed the highest this weekend. And, while still divided, all the delegates would agree about who should be standing on the other side of the wall, on the receiving end.

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CPAC’s Conservative Message

Despite Romney’s strawpoll win, the anti-establishment message of CPAC came through loud and clear from various speakers.  Alan West, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and even at times the Presidential candidates: the only way we can truly be free is by reclaiming the role of the church and community from the Federal Government.

For several years now the conservative movement has allowed private charity to flirt with and even get in bed with the Federal Government under the understanding that private organizations can use federal dollars much more efficiently than government bureaucracies.  Then along came Barack Obama.  It makes me think of Star Wars and Darth Vader’s line “Pray I don’t alter the deal any further”.

The problem is that conservatives abandoned their principles.  Trusting a pro-family, pro-conservative President in George W. Bush, we signed on to faith based initiatives.  Perhaps we never expected a President who would leverage those relationships to gain control over Christianity and use Christian institutions to spread liberalism.  We never expected a President who in three short years would be to the point of forcing Christian institutions to provide abortion pills or suffer the consequences.

The Government cannot protect our sacred institutions.  The government is using our tax dollars to control our sacred institutions.

The problem is that only one candidate in this has talked about the sort of shrinking of government necessary to get the government out of the charity and faith business altogether.  While he has appeared impotent when pressed, Ron Paul is the only candidate who will actually say that the government doesn’t belong in the insurance business or the charity business.  Mitt Romney would bring us back to the George W. Bush days when faith based initiatives allowed faiths to still manage themselves.  Newt and Santorum would certainly respect religious freedom, but would also strengthen the ties between government and faith based organizations with the same deadly good intentions W had.

This is not an endorsement for Ron Paul, but it is an acknowledgement that when it comes to the responsibility of Christians and community, Paul is more in line with the 2010 freshmen, and older wise sages like Huckabee, who must rise to the top if conservatism and freedom of religion is to survive in our country.  Perhaps Newt, Mitt and Rick will be persuaded by Paul on this like they were on the Fed.

Romney Wins CPAC Straw Poll But Who Do You Think Made the Best Case?

Bookmark and Share  CPAC’s 39th annual conference concluded with a bang as keynote speaker Sarah Palin, fired up the forces with a speech that tore apart the Obama Administration with accurate characterizations of his actions, policies, and thinking, in a series of sharp and memorable one liners.  Her speech, which you can see here, did not only focus on the president though.  Palin offered some strong words of advice to Republicans and even sent a few warning shots over the bow of the Republican establishment as she reminded them why they were elected in 201o and indicated that in the future, we expect some new conservative faces being appointed to leadership position, not kept open the back benches.

But Palin also reminded the audience that beating the President is the most important first step that Americans must take in their attempt to take government back from the political class.  However, she did make the point that whoever we replace with him, must be a true conservative, one whose every instincts stem from the conservative ideology and our belief in limited government.

After Palin brought down the house, the climax of the event, the announcement of he CPAC Straw Poll results was made.  It was done in a presentation that broke down conservative opinions on a wide range of issues and dissected the demographics behind the opinions.  This year CPAC did something different.  They took both a national online poll of self described conservatives and their traditional straw poll of registered guest at the CPAC conference.

The national survey gave Mitt Romney the win in what was essentially a close race that stood at;

  1. Mitt Romney          – 27%
  2. Rick Santorum       – 25%
  3. Newt Gingrich        – 20%
  4. Ron Paul                   –  8%
  5. Others/Undecided – 20%

But the actual CPAC Straw Poll which gauged the opinion of the over three thousand registered CPAC voters in attendance at this year’s conference, painted a similar picture but in much bolder colors.  The candidates finished in the same order but by much different margins

  1. Mitt Romney          – 38%
  2. Rick Santorum       – 31%
  3. Newt Gingrich        – 15%
  4. Ron Paul                   – 12%
  5. Others/Undecided –   4%

It’s important to note the level of intensity that was demonstrated in these two polls.  The difference between the national poll and the straw poll is that the straw poll reflects the opinion of the activists within the conservative base.  They are the opinions of the people who work hard at shaping opinions and who are part of the get out the vote efforts that can put a candidate over the top in an election.  As for the national poll, while it still reflects conservative opinions, it it more representative of the less active conservative base, those who would not necessarily drop everything and rearrange their lives to go to Washington, D.C. to be inspired by names like Jay Sekulow, Daniel Hannan, and other names that many Americans are less familiar with.  In these polls it would seem that less dedicated or to be honest, the less radical conservatives in the country, give Mitt Romney a little more approval than they do to his rivals, but with 2% separating first and second place and 5% seperating third placce from second place, you can gather that most conservatives are pretty divided on who the nominee should be.

However, the Straw Poll of CPAC conference goers would seem to indicate that conservative activists are far less divided and while it is still close between first and second place, even there Romney receives a majority that beats Santrorum by one point more than he did in the national poll.

But I am not quite sure these polls really offer an accurate sentiment of conservative opinions this year.  Straw Polls are easily influenced by the creativity of each candidates campaign and there ability to get a ballot in the hands of conference goers. Romney has typically had a great straw poll organization at CPAC, hence several previous wins there.  Last year it was Ron Paul who won though.  This year, Ron Paul did not attend CPAC and did not have any effort that coordinated his straw poll operation.  Which accounts for his last place showing this year.

So although Romney won, I still can’t help but get a sense from the greater body of conservatives that the closeness of the race that reflected in the CPAC national online poll is more accurate and maybe even closer than that.

It was clear to me that at CPAC, Mitt Romney was among a significant number of conservatives who are still apprehensive about him and I suspect that there will be some future primaries and caucuses that prove that assessment to be true and that will even produce results that do not always find Romeny in  first place.

Only time tell.

But in the meantime, tell us this. Of the three candidates who attended CPAC this year, who made the best case for why they are the best conservative to lead us and did so most convincingly. Below you will find videos of their CPAC speeches. If you haven;t seen them yet, take a listen to them and then vote in our White House 2012 Poll:



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See Sarah Palin’s Entire CPAC Keynote Address: “You Gotta Hope Things Change”

FROM CPAC: Palin Closes Out CPAC Slamming Obama Economics: “His plan isn’t winning the future, it’s losing the country.” (See the video below this post)

Bookmark and Share Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin unloaded on President Barack Obama and the Washington D.C. establishment during an address that closed out the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Before a jam-packed crowd, with hundreds more watching on monitors in the convention center hallways and overflow rooms, Palin attacked the Obama economic agenda from many angles.

She identified the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a key culprit in destruction of jobs in America. Instead of developing America’s own homegrown resources, the EPA has put the country in a position where it must rely upon dubious foreign sources, she said. And the EPA makes it difficult for businesses trying to expand although, Palin noted wryly, the EPA never seems to block the construction of new government buildings in Washington D.C.

“Instead of calling Washington D.C. a swamp, call it a wetland,” she said. That would be one way to slow the march of government, she suggested.

Palin also took aim at “crony capitalism,” which she said, was growing the size of government at the expense of average Americans.

“The politicians arrive as men and women (in Washington D.C.) and they become plutocrats. And they spread the wealth around to their pals.”

Palin also reminded audience members that CPAC was initiated by conservative activists who were out to remake the Republican Party. Reagan called for “bold colors, not pale pastels,” she said.

There is a certain paradox at work in the current political cycle, Palin said. “The conservative movement has never been stronger or brighter, yet the federal government has never cast a bigger shadow.”

The Tea Party has momentum because “the American people have woken up” to the dangers of big government, she said.

If the country continues on a path where policy makers attempt to tax and spend their way into prosperity, the future of America will look more like the old world rather than the new world.

“That’s the dream of the far Left, not the American dream,” she said.

Never before in American history has there ever been such a division between how the president views the “state of the union” and how average Americans view the “state of the union,” she said.

In history of our republic between how our own president sees Americans see state of union and Americans he’s elected to serve see state of the union, Palin told audience members.

Unlike President Obama, Republicans are looking to free markets and to long-standing constitutional principles, she said.

“His plan isn’t winning the future, it’s losing the country.”

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Video from TheRightScoop.com

CPAC and Sarah Palin mark a turn to unity

 

A vintage fiery performance: Palin told delegates we'll keep our guns, God and Constitution, and Obama can keep the change.

The most remarkable event of today’s CPAC was Sarah Palin endorsing unity. Instead of showing her support for any one candidate, she called for unity, saying that whoever the nominee is the GOP must defeat Obama. Whoever the nominee is conservatives must work together, she told an ecstatic audience, and the nation will have a true conservative in the White House.

The unity message, great!

It followed the announcement that Mitt Romney had narrowly won the CPAC Straw Poll, following his mission to the conference to prove his conservative credentials. It seems it may be mission accomplished. Certainly Romney will be feeling a lot better about his appeal to the conservative base after today.

The other remarkable performance came from the ever-popular Daniel Hannan, British Member for the European Parliament. Warning America not to go down the European road, he was amazed that while Europe is driving off the cliff they can see America in their rear-view mirror and overtaking them!

After his talk, I had a good conversation with him, as we walked through the hotel, including a detour through the kitchens! I asked him if he endorsed any candidates? He, just a little coyly, suggested it was difficult to choose, but stressed it was important for the party to unite behind a candidate and get Obama, who earlier in the day John Bolton called the “first post-American President”, out of the White House.

Daniel Hannan warns America not to follow Europe down a path and off a cliff

Hannan also urged me to write that the GOP must stop having so many debates, as it is only serving to divide the party. He also said Republicans need to focus on the budget, not all the side issues that divide conservatives. With that he headed for the airport, though many didn’t want him to leave and asked if he could be made an honorary American instead.

This has been an important few days for conservatives, and may finally signal the road to unity. Romney should start to pull firmly into the lead, and though Santorum and Gingrich will no doubt continue, they will see their numbers dwindle.

The New York Times carried a report ahead of Sarah Palin’s speech that she didn’t think a brokered RNC would be a problem. This is just a liberal wet dream. The reality is, Sarah Palin has signalled this important moment, and shown that there is less stomach for infighting.

I picked up my media credentials on Thursday at CPAC fearful of a divided party that would succeed only in rolling out the red carpet for President Obama. After three days, I happily left making my way through the handful of sorry-looking OWS protesters feeling that I can see November from here.

Newt Gingrich is Yesterday’s Man

 

Will the Dream Team be Benched?

Newt Gingrich was introduced at CPAC by Calista, who generously thanked the many kind Americans they have met on the campaign trail. When he came on stage to an excited crowd, it was clearly no 2009, when he had entered through the crowd to his signature “Eye of the Tiger.” Maybe it’s the effect of copyright denying him playing his tune, but it seemed to take Newt a while to get going.

His focus was on the economy, though if he’s going to present an economic plan to America he will have to find a better way than invoking the name of Reagan every two minutes. He recalled Reagan’s bold colors speech at CPAC, and recalled what he achieved, which liberals thought then was “unrealistic” but turned out so successful.

It was almost halfway through the 10 minute slot that he finally got the crowd going, when he sent Prime Minister Harper a message that Canada won’t need China in a Gingrich White House.

He joked that we can track Fedex parcels, but the government can’t track 11 million illegal immigrants. Newt offered his own innovative solution, to send 11 million parcels to immigrants and track them to find them.

Newt promised he intends to change Washington, not accommodate it, prompting this observer to ponder when he decided to stop accommodating DC, given his ultimate insider status. Really, his attacks on the Washington, Republican or political “establishment” rings hollow for this consummate DC schmoozer.

His schmoozing has led him to form his own “conservative dream team” to challenge his supposed bête noire establishment, and you can count how many failed presidential nominee candidates are in the line-up for yourself.

The speech in truth hit the two problems: the GOP will not win by trumpeting Reagan in favour of substance, and Gingrich will not convince many beyond his base that he is anything but an establishment man. In both cases, he simply comes across as yesterday’s man.

Who will bring us a bright tomorrow?

Mitt Flashes His Credentials with a Smile: See His CPAC Speech in its Entirety Here

Will Romney show his conservative rivals the door?

Bookmark and Share  A smiling Mitt Romney came to CPAC today with one thing on his mind, the need to prove his conservative credentials to the base of conservative activists. Telling the audience that he knew many of them came to conservatism via Hayek or Edmund Burke, Romney said his path to conservatism was paved by family, faith and his work.

Romney said he believes “we are poised for victory in November”, but beating Obama is only the first step to saving America, which has suffered from weak leadership and a bankrupt ideology. Obama has created so much unnecessary pain for Americans, he told the audience.

Romney reminded listeners that America is made exceptional by the people, before making the obligatory attack on Washington. He said Obama is the poster child for arrogant government.

It has always been clear that Romney’s kind of conservatism is fiscal, and he argued “if you are not fiscally conservative, you are bankrupt”. He told a cheering audience that he will finally get rid of the deficit, and “as the first step I will eliminate Obamacare.”

Referring to his competitors for the nomination, Romney said GOP nominees are not different in opposition to Obama or conservatism, but by experience and judgement. He also distinguished himself by saying “I have never worked a day in Washington.” He then joked “I served in government but didn’t inhale.” He said he wants to take his experience to Washington, ending his speech by declaring “I will come to Washington, I will change Washington, then I will go home to the family I love.”

After his speech, Romney joined the crowd, no doubt to judge just how much this crowd has embraced him as a conservative.

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