Tags: CPAC

CPAC: We Will Never Forget the Passion, the Energy, or the Open Bar


From the first Morning Jolt of the week . . . 

CPAC: We Will Never Forget the Passion, the Energy, or the Open Bar

In case you missed them, here are the interviews I and other NR staffers conducted at CPAC with…

Texas governor Rick Perry

Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey

Representative Tom Price

Ambassador John Bolton

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson

Former senator and actor Fred Thompson

Former RNC chairman and Senate candidate Ed Gillespie

Former presidential candidate and senator Rick Santorum

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Former representative Allen West

European Parliament member Daniel Hannan

Faith and Freedom Coalition chairman Ralph Reed

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and former California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina

Former governor of Maryland Bob Ehrlich

Mackinac Center for Public Policy director of labor policy Vinnie Vernuccio

ISI president Chris Long

Concerned Veterans for America CEO and Army captain Pete Hegseth

Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer

Young Americans for Liberty executive director Jeff Frazee

Concerned Veterans of America policy analyst and activists Amber Barno and Jane Horton

Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist

AEI economic-policy analyst Abby McCloskey

Tennessee Senate candidate Brenda Lenard

Investor’s Business Daily columnist Andrew Malcolm

AEI education research fellow Mike McShane

Former NR publisher Ed Capano

ACU chairman Al Cardenas

In addition, there was constant coverage in the Corner from Andrew Johnson, Eliana Johnson, Patrick Brennan, Betsy Woodruff, Katherine Connell, Tim Cavanaugh, and Kathryn Lopez. As you can imagine, keeping all of these people coming and going at the right times in a crowded convention hall was a bit like being an air-traffic controller at O’Hare or Hartsfield, and our Amy Mitchell managed to avoid any midair collisions, and Brian Jodice turned a tiny convention floor space into a professional video workspace. These people rock. There are many fine institutions out there, and a lot of them offered good coverage of CPAC, but you’ll understand my biased assessment that we covered the conference better than anyone.

(Betsy’s leaving us to join the Washington Examiner, and we wish her well. I wish all of our recent departures from NR well, although I could do without the predictable tone in the coverage of those departures from other publications:

“Man, National Review doesn’t have anybody left in Washington anymore, do they?”


“I mean, the NR cupboard is just bare in terms of talent!”


“A shame, that place was once so good, and now they don’t even have anybody who can string two sentences together!”

“I’m standing right here!”)

Rand Paul won the straw poll, for whatever that’s worth — not quite a shock, and a small feather in his cap, but not one that will have much impact when the 2016 race gets rolling in earnest. (Pop quiz: Who won last year? Turns out . . . it was Rand Paul.) His “Stand With Rand” fans were the most visible and well-organized of the conference, but again, this sample is hardly representative of the GOP presidential-primary electorate as a whole, and most of the other expected or possible contenders — Christie, Rubio, Cruz, Perry, Jindal, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker — didn’t seem to have much of an organized presence working attendees to build up the vote in the straw poll.

This was the scene off-camera when I interviewed Rick Perry — he was like the Pied Piper, leading a small army of staff, security guys, fans, autograph-seekers, groupies, and gawkers:

We know there’s more to Rick Perry than a momentary brain fart upon a debate stage, and I wonder if a significant number of conservatives feel like he deserves a second chance. Texas’s economy continues to rock and roll, and whatever you think of Perry personally, the Texas approach to taxation, regulation, and economic development is more or less what conservatives yearn to see enacted nationally.


Perry Version 2014 seems to be fighting the ghost of Perry Version 2012. He’s much more energetic in this speech than he was in any of the debates. (But of course people tend to be more energetic before friendly crowds.) One can speculate about his reasons for the nerd-cool choice in spectacles.

Another thing he’s doing is projecting optimism, hope, and buoyancy, which is of course the advice given to practically any candidate. He also takes time to praise his fellow Republican governors, including, notably, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, both of whom are considering a run for the nomination themselves. So he gets some Nice Guy/Good Guy points. (Notably absent from his list of successful Republican governors: Chris Christie.)

As most readers know, I jumped on the Perry train big-time in 2012, seeing him — on paper — as not only the best candidate among the crowded (and uninspiring) 2012 field, but just a good candidate in any cycle. His economic portfolio was/is solid — Barack Obama hasn’t presided over the creation of many jobs in America, but Rick Perry can account for nearly half (48%) of those jobs that Obama wishes to take credit for. (Oh, and Perry’s jobs were actually created, not “saved or created or funded” or which “positively impacted” people.)

Plus, you know, he’s pretty enthusiastic about hanging around with a cardboard cutout of William F. Buckley:

Tags: CPAC

Al Cardenas, on Assembling the CPAC All-Star Team


One more interview from CPAC, with the chairman of the ACU and effectively our host for the conference, Al Cardenas, discussing how CPAC and the conservative movement have changed in the past 40 years and how the conference decides who gets invites. He compares the speakers’ list to the Major League Baseball All-Star game — some fans always believe their favorite got robbed by the selectors.

Tags: CPAC

Tea Party Less Dead Than Advertised at CPAC


Sarah Palin’s speech closing the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference was enjoyable in large part because there was so little at stake. Having resigned an executive office midway through her term, the former governor of Alaska is well and truly retired from retail politics — a status reflected in the CPAC straw poll, in which Palin garnered only 2 percent of the vote.

Among presidential hopefuls and prospects, the straw poll delivered strong results for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who took first place with 31 percent, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who placed with 11 percent; and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a long shot with no political experience who showed with 9 percent.

Disappointing showings by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who took fourth place with 8 percent, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who pulled in 6 percent, show how those former power hitters have slumped. Both are already in danger of becoming stars of yesteryear. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Senator Rick Santorum could be said to have gotten a push, with 7 percent each. Neither is on at the top of anybody’s list of likely presidents, but both did okay.

Despite an impressive self-reinvention and sterling record as the longest-serving executive of Texas, Governor Rick Perry drew a meager 3 percent, tying with wonkish Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan — a casualty of the 2012 Romney/Ryan ticket — and barely outscoring CPAC non-attendee Condoleezza Rice, who got 2 percent. While Perry’s speech Friday succeeded in removing some of the stench of his bumbling 2012 primary effort, he leaves the Gaylord with no momentum.

Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, who is giving up her House seat next year but still seems to harbor electoral ambitions, got even worse news. The 2012 presidential hopeful did not even show up on the straw poll’s roster of 1-percent-or-more vote getters.

The less-than-energized conference did, however, demonstrate that the death of the Tea Party has been greatly exaggerated.

After reports that this conference would show a Republican-party establishment back in control amid a general fading of Tea-Party energy, the conference followed a pattern that has characterized GOP events since at least 2008: When the small-government zealots are not around, you can hear a pin drop. When a member of the Paul family shows up, there’s so much energy in the place it almost seems like Republicans can win an election.

Nowhere was this more evident than in a highly combative panel on privacy Friday, during which former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore was repeatedly booed and catcalled for being the least anti-National Security Agency voice in the discussion. The mid-sized audience was fired up against even a Republican-approved version of the security state.

This libertarian wave continued throughout the conference, and the smartest presenters tried to ride it. The CPAC audience responded enthusiastically to all mentions of drug legalization. And pollster Pat Caddell broke the applause meter Saturday in a presentation that laid into the party establishment with a vengeance, reiterating his charge that the GOP establishment actually supports the Obama Internal Revenue Service’s persecution of Tea-Party nonprofit groups. Caddell’s fellow panelists questioned that assertion, but the dynamic was clear: The more Caddell ripped into the RINOs, the more the crowd loved him.

These data points could merely indicate the meaninglessness of CPAC and other GOP events. Rand Paul’s father used to be the only act that got crowds on their feet at Republican events too, but in two straight presidential elections he failed to turn that energy and fundraising advantage into primary wins.

But whatever peace the GOP establishment seemed to have imposed on the Tea Party hasn’t sunk in among the faithful. The Tea Party has been pronounced dead every year since 2009 (though oddly it also gets blamed for an ever-growing list of troubles). But for the Republican insurgency, it’s still a dead man’s party.

Tags: CPAC

What a Difference a Year in the Life of Ben Carson Makes


Left-wing racists are attacking Johns Hopkins University physician Ben Carson, who delivered a crowd-pleasing speech Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The indispensable Twitchy Team collects many jaw-dropping assaults on Carson as a thinker, a professional, a leader, an American, and a human being.

Carson is an “Uncle Tom,” tweets self-described comedian Laura Levites.

“I’d like to thank brother Malcolm X for explaining the House Negro and Field Negro,” adds “Unabashed class clown” @WiseGuy Eddie, who promises to “make you laugh” in his Twitter profile. “Ben Carson is the former. #CPAC2014″

CEO Elon James White tweets that Carson, whose record in the field of neurosurgery has won plaudits from far beyond the narrow world of politics, defies “science, history, common sense too.”

“They like a black man telling them it’s okay to discriminate and hate political correctness,” feminist funmaker Kaili Joy Gray deduces.

Other epithets hurled by progressive bigots: “lunatic,” “clown,” “house negro” and beneficiary of the “soft bigotry of low expectations” — this last a sophistical phrase baritone Michael Ditto expropriates from former president George W. Bush.

The high toxicity of progressive venom may be partly explained by Carson’s personal history. Though few Americans may have been aware of Carson prior to his breakthrough speech in the presence of President Obama at a 2013 prayer breakfast, fewer still thought of him as a political player in any regard.

Carson was known him mainly through his books, which straddled the inspirational, popular medical and self-help genres, and which included titles such as The Big Picture: Getting Perspective on What’s Really Important in Life; Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story; and America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Country Great. Amazon groups Carson’s Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk among its “Applied Psychology” titles.

That as of late 2012 America the Beautiful was given away to students in the Democrat-controlled Alexandria, Va., public school system, that as of February 2013 Carson was considered a smart choice to share a podium with the president, indicate that the Left viewed Carson as a safely non-political figure.

Carson pointed out Saturday that three signers of the Declaration of Independence were physicians — but it’s clear the leftists attacking him are not overly concerned about his skill in operating, literally, on people’s brains. The embrace between Carson and the Republican party since the prayer breakfast has been mutual and rapid enough to come as a shock to progressive bigots.

In retaliation they have subjected Carson to a string of small-bore sitzkriegs such as a petition demanding that he not give a Johns Hopkins commencement address. These are unlikely to hurt Carson’s standing as either a public figure or potential politician. If they had a case against Carson, the Democrats wouldn’t be going straight to the whip.

Tags: CPAC

If You’re Speaking at CPAC, Do It After Lunch


The morning/afternoon dynamic that governs all convention-appearance schedules (i.e., the later you go the better the house will be) has a special significance at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Many speakers are aiming to make a national splash; all are hoping to look good on camera; and both goals are easier to attain if you’ve got a big audience.

Speakers who got the short end of this year’s schedule include Senator Ted Cruz, Texas governor Rick Perry, and Representative Michele Bachmann, who delivered strong addresses before many attendees had rolled out of bed. Schedule winners included Senator Rand Paul, Dr. Ben Carson, former senator Rick Santorum, and the beloved comedy team of Mickey Kaus and Ann Coulter, all of whom played to large, carbo-loaded, after-lunch crowds.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, fresh off a 9:36 a.m. panel on Saturday, viewed the spare crowds at CPAC with the equanimity of a show business trouper.

“It seems fine,” Priebus told National Review Online when asked about attendance. “I’ve only been here this morning and a little bit yesterday.”

Tags: CPAC

Rick Perry, Intellectual


In the process of announcing himself as a serious candidate for the presidency in 2016, Texas governor Rick Perry Friday showed America a new persona that is both more laid back and more souped up than prior Perrys.

Perry, seen above rapidly drawing a crowd to the National Review booth at the Conservative Political Action Conference, needed to his outdistance the legendarily unready impression he gave to voters in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. That outing is now remembered for a debate flub during which he was unable to name the three federal departments he intended to cut. As seen in this old video, Perry’s memory failed him despite a friendly assist from then-Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who deftly played Karl Malden to Perry’s George C. Scott.

Perry’s roof-raising speech Friday, which was festooned with ten-dollar words and an emphasis on state governance as a mechanism for crowd-sourcing solutions, broke through in part because it came in a new package: Perry the collected-but-not-cool thinking man, wearing a muted tie, a bespectacled elder statesman whose long tenure as chief executive of the Lone Star state bestowed wisdom on him while showering prosperity on Texans.

Here’s the visual package in a blowup of the above picture, from Perry’s appearance with National Review’s Jim Geraghty. You can’t see Perry’s sensible shoes, but he’s working a subdued, knees-together posture, modestly leaning in to his interlocutor, fully committed to the pursuit of better solutions.

Bias confession: This reporter’s heart is with Cruz and/or Paul, but the Republicans have a very deep bench of governors. America’s most recent experiment with electing a senator to the White House has now been exposed as a folly the nation was smart to suppress during the preceding four decades. The 2016 candidate will be a governor. Perry brought a new self to CPAC, and his idea-guy act proved a better vehicle to move the crowd than his previous instantiation as a big Texan in cowboy boots.

Tags: Rick Perry , CPAC , 2016

Toomey Surprised By Senate Vote to Reject Obama DOJ Nominee


Our first interview at CPAC is with Senator Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), who says he was surprised by the Senate’s vote to block Debo Adegbile’s nomination to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division. Toomey, among the leaders of the effort to reject the nomination of Adegbile in part because of his role in the defense of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, says he expected one or two Democrats to vote against the nomination. Instead, seven Democrats voted with Republicans.

Toomey also discussed his relationship with gun owners after last year’s gun-purchase background-check proposal, cosponsored with Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.).

Tags: CPAC , Pat Toomey

Wecome to a Purge-Free CPAC!


The Thursday Morning Jolt looks at the accelerating era of Obama lame-duck-hood, and of course, a preview of CPAC, which begins today:

Welcome to CPAC. Try Not to Catch the Annual Plague-like Cold.

Are you ready for the Conservative Political Action Conference for 2014? Tomorrow, Kathryn Jean Lopez and I will be at CPAC, conducting quick video interviews with the biggest movers and shakers at the conference. Look for them here in the Corner, starting tomorrow morning and all the way through Saturday.

Three perennial CPAC stories we ought to retire:

“Look, it’s an offensive or racist tchotchke from a vendor!” All it takes is one bumper sticker and that becomes the photo sent out over the wires. MSNBC will get a month’s worth of programming out of it.

“Look, this faction of the party or movement is being driven out!” Here’s the Daily Beast’s early entry into the genre; notice the glaring contradiction that undermines that “increasingly fractured conservative movement” reference she begins with:

On the list is Jenny Beth Martin, head of the Tea Party Patriots. Off the list is House Speaker John Boehner, the highest-ranking Republican in Washington who has run afoul of the far right flank of the GOP again and again over the last year.

On the list is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the embattled 2016 hopeful who has suddenly gained favor with the right after two months of abuse from the mainstream media over his bridge scandal. Off the list are Mitt Romney and John McCain, Christie’s fellow “pragmatists,” “moderates” or “RINOs,” and former White House aspirants who no longer need to try to convince activists they’re all on the same team.

So those torch-carrying fundamentalist arch-conservatives managed to drive Romney and McCain from the invite list, but not Christie. Oh, by the way, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s among the speakers.

Paul Ryan’s speaking; wasn’t he on the squish list not long ago for the budget deal and sounding cheery about immigration reform? Sen. Pat Toomey’s speaking; I guess his gun deal with Joe Manchin isn’t such a deal-breaker. Sen. Marco Rubio’s speaking; wasn’t he supposed to get driven out over the Gang of Eight deal? Ed Gillespie, who’s running for Senate here in Virginia, is speaking; isn’t he Mr. GOP Establishment? Finally, Mike Huckabee’s speaking, and he’s Mr. Big-Government Conservatism. Some purge this turned out to be!

“Look, So-and-so won the straw poll!” Okay, the straw poll winner might be intriguing. If somebody like, say, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker wins, it will be a wake-up call for the other big names. But this is about as unrepresentative a sample of the GOP primary electorate as you can find; the 11,000 or so straw-poll participants are the die-hards of the die-hards, the most dedicated, most passionate, most up-to-date folks. But Republican primary electorates include a lot of folks who aren’t like that, even in states with closed primaries. They’re Republicans, not necessarily conservative activists, and what appeals to one group isn’t guaranteed to appeal to the other. Remember, while McCain and Romney were greeted reasonably warmly at the CPACs of 2008 and 2012, they were never classic CPAC crowd-pleasers. Yet they both won their respective nominations.

Finally, take note of the intriguing, little-noticed sponsor:

The Conservative Political Action Conference has never been known for attracting Hollywood (unless you count Kirk Cameron, Stephen Baldwin or the Duggars), but the Motion Picture Association of America will be there this year — at least in spirit. The movie studios’ biggest lobbying group is once again sponsoring the conservative confab, which kicks off Thursday just outside of D.C.

The MPAA won’t really talk about the sponsorship, though the group’s logo adorns the CPAC website.

“We don’t comment on political contributions,” an MPAA spokesman told Whispers.

Cue the cries of “CPAC has sold out to Hollywood!”

Tags: CPAC

Watch This Space!


Tomorrow, Kathryn Jean Lopez and I will be at CPAC, conducting quick video interviews with the biggest movers and shakers at the conference. Look for them here in the Corner, starting tomorrow morning and all the way through Saturday.

It’s like being there, without all the crowds and booze. Of course you can always drink at home while watching these interviews. Sadly, I’m not bartending at CPAC.

Tags: CPAC

Oh, CPAC. What Are We Going to Do With You?


From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Oh, CPAC. What Are We Going to Do With You?

CPAC just wouldn’t be CPAC without some opening controversies, now would it?

Here’s the scoreboard:

Atheists: Previously invited, now disinvited. This was the somewhat surprising news Tuesday morning

American Atheists, an outspoken organization that advocates for atheists nationwide, will have a booth at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference.

The atheist institution, which is well known for its controversial billboards and media campaigns, informed CNN of its inclusion on Monday night, and a representative from CPAC confirmed that the group will have a booth at the annual national gathering of conservative leaders and activists in March. American Atheists hopes to use the forum to tap into the conservative movement and bring conservative atheists “out of the closet.”

And by Tuesday afternoon, CPAC had made the decision that the atheist group wouldn’t have a booth after all. Meghan Snyder, a spokeswoman for CPAC, said in a statement to CNN that “American Atheists misrepresented itself about their willingness to engage in positive dialogue and work together to promote limited government.”

The rescinding of the invitation did not mitigate the anger of Brent Bozell, who declared, “no conservative should have anything to do with this conference.”

GOProud: Technically invited but disallowed from having a booth, an agreement that some former board members find to be a sad joke:

One of the founders of GOProud, a gay Republican organization, has resigned from the board after accusing the group’s new leadership of allowing themselves to be used as “stooges” by antigay conservatives.

Chris Barron, who helped create GOProud in 2009, condemned the current directors for touting an agreement that only allowed for limited GOProud participation at the American Conservative Union’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

In 2010 and 2011, GOProud, which bills itself as a conservative alternative to Log Cabin Republicans, served as a CPAC sponsor. But amid a strong pushback from conservatives who complained about the participation of the gay organization, the relationship splintered and GOProud was not invited back in 2012 and 2013.

The National Journal reported Wednesday that a compromise was reached to permit GOProud to attend this year’s Maryland conference March 6-8, though it would not be a sponsor or have a booth as it had in past years.

In an interview Thursday, Barron mocked the agreement, saying nothing had been achieved since GOProud members were allowed in 2012 and 2013 to attend the event though the organization had no official involvement.

“It’s completely and totally disingenuous to pawn off an unconditional surrender as a ‘compromise’” said Barron, who complained that he was not consulted about the decision as a board member.

Chris Christie: Attending. I don’t mind the invite, but this year’s invitation sure does conflict with the explanation for the lack of an invite last year:

New Jersey governor Chris Christie was not invited to address the Conservative Political Action Conference because of his position on gun control, according to a source familiar with CPAC’s internal deliberations who requested anonymity to speak freely.

Christie has a “limited future” in the national Republican party given his position on gun control, the source tells National Review Online. As a result, the CPAC insider says, the focus of this year’s conference, “the future of conservatism,” made Christie a bad fit.

Christie, the source adds, is simply not a conservative in the eyes of organizers.

So what’s changed since last year? Is Christie now better on Second Amendment issues? Is his future in the national Republican party brighter now?

Last year I wrote that the organizers of CPAC should sit down and try to get a clearer sense of what the purpose of the conference is. “Begin with the end in mind,” as Stephen Covey wrote. What headline does the American Conservative Union want coming out of three days of events? When attendees go home, they should say, “I’m really glad I went because [blank].” Now fill in the blank.

Is it meant to showcase the rising stars of the conservative movement? Or is part of the experience bringing out the “old favorites” like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich?

Is it meant to hash out policies, or is it more of a showcase for the most rousing, rah-rah speakers? After news broke that Donald Trump would be speaking, someone I respect declared that his appearance is “fun and entertaining. If anything, we’d be better off with more of that at CPAC and less debates on tax law.” I don’t know if it’s possible for me to disagree more strongly, but then again, I’m not in charge of persuading people to buy tickets to attend this shin-dig.

Kevin Eder: “Obviously, the real purpose of CPAC is to generate outraged headlines and tweets about CPAC.”

Tags: CPAC

How Do We Win Arguments in a Fragmenting Culture?


Today is the last Morning Jolt until April 1 — I’ll be away for Easter week. Today’s edition looks at the Senate vote on repealing Obamacare’s medical-device taxes, a creepy poll out of the Ivy League, and this thought on the difficulty of influencing politics through culture . . .

The Difficulties of Winning the Argument in a Fragmenting Culture

In her assessment of this year’s CPAC, Melissa Clouthier laments:

Pardon me, but why are we kvetching over social issues when the nation is staggering under it’s own indebted weight? It would be one thing if there seemed to be a reasoned, respectful, fact-based argument around some of these divisive issues, but no. Instead, the right is being treated to the same sort of shrieking emotionalism that one is used to getting from the left. The misinformation and loping strawmen arguments have been embarrassing to watch. Why are average Americans, trying [to] pay their bills and scraping by, supposed to take the Right seriously? The Right certainly isn’t acting like they care about how the average person is faring. For more on this read Ben Domenech’s excellent piece on which issues should animate the Right.

Domenech’s points about self-employed, home-business or contracting moms are indeed great. But beyond that, Clouthier hits on something important: whether the issues that inspire, drive, and excite the average conservative are the same as those that inspire, drive, and excite voters as a whole. And part of the problem may be that there may not be that much of an “average American” anymore.

Our electorate, and the culture, feel really fragmented right now. You can be in a bubble and not know it. It used to be if you wanted to know what was on everybody’s mind, you watched the evening news and looked at the front page of the newspapers. Now to the extent these programs tell you what the “big news” and “big issues” are, they reveal what is on the mind of the rapidly aging audiences for those products; the rest of the population is scattered in a million different directions. There are very few moments where a lot of us are looking at the same place at the same time.

At its peak years of 1986 and 1987, “The Cosby Show” had an audience of 30.5 million people, out of a country of 240 million people — meaning about 12 percent of the population were watching each week.

The top show last week was “The Big Bang Theory,” which had an audience of just under 16 million people — in a country of about 314 million people — eaning about 5 percent of the population were watching.

Every day, you can discover some little subculture that a lot of folks dabble in, and some folks can get completely wrapped up in:

There are 211 million video-game players in the United States. For perspective, 130 million voted in last year’s presidential election.

About 35 million Americans and Canadians play a fantasy sport (fantasy football, fantasy baseball, etc.).

At least 31 million Americans are “foodies,” with an avid interest in food and culinary trends, as of 2008.

A site of “Bronies” — grown men and women who are really into “My Little Pony” — estimates that there are 7 to 12 million of them in the United states.

I don’t begrudge any of those interests (okay, the Bronies are weird*) but the point is that there is no common popular culture anymore, which makes it particularly tough for conservatives to start influencing that culture. If we’re Balkanizing into more and more niche subcultures, it’s easier than ever to live in an unrepresentative bubble without ever realizing that you’re in an unrepresentative bubble.

Mind you, the niche culture has been good for conservatives in a lot of ways. You could argue we’ve become a “niche” culture ourselves, with our own news channel (Fox News) and entertainment programming (“24”, the History Channel’s “The Bible” series, Sarah Palin’s reality show, some would argue “Duck Dynasty”), sports heroes (Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin) , our own books, our own newspapers, magazines, web sites, morning newsletters . . .

But by becoming the well-cultivated niche, we’ve become this acquired taste, not always easily appreciated by newcomers and outsiders. Things that we think are absolutely vital, like the debt or Benghazi, end up being ignored by large swaths of the electorate, while things that seem absolutely unimportant to us, like the latest celebrity news, are given enormous attention and focus by millions of citizens who have a vote just like the rest of us. (Right now on YouTube, a guy getting punched by a street performer has 11 million views in three days. Remember, that’s about two-thirds of the audience of the most-watched broadcast television show last week.)

There are topics that we’re pretty sure are largely irrelevant to the voting electorate at large, but the speakers at CPAC go on at length about them because A) they think they’re important regardless of the public’s attention and/or B) they’re convinced their issues and views are popular, because everywhere they go, they encounter like-minded folks who agree with that assessment.

*My Libertarian side argues that as long as what you choose to do with your free time doesn’t harm others, it’s none of my business. But hearing about grown men dressing up like “My Little Pony” characters, I’m also reminded a bit of the Internet film critic Harry Knowles flipping out at the end of Toy Story 3, upon seeing the now-grown protagonist give away his favorite childhood toys.

If you are lucky enough to find a way to keep your favorite childhood joy in your life as an adult, good for you. Some kids who grew up loving “Star Wars” ended up working in Hollywood, I’m sure almost every professional athlete loved their sport as a child, and so on. But as one of Harry’s commenters pointed out, “not everyone has the luxury of holding onto their childhood.” Some people had to grow up and put their favorite toys aside and become farmers and lawyers and accountants and doctors and parents.

Some argued that when television was an endless succession of “Friends” clones, our culture was celebrating an extended adolescence — the carefree dorm-room life extending well into your 20s. Seeing grown adults almost obsessively embrace something designed for children exacerbates this sense that our culture is having a hard time groping with the concept of maturity.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Tags: Conservatism , CPAC , Culture

No Muscles Were Actually Flexed on This Panel


The fine folks at the American Conservative Union have posted video of my panel at CPAC, discussing “From Reacting to Breaking News: Flexing the Muscles of the Conservative New Media.” The moderator was Floyd Brown, board member of the ACU, and my fellow panelists were Ed Morrissey of and Erik Telford, vice president at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

Tags: Conservatism , CPAC

Coming Soon to a Convention Center Near You . . .


CPAC 2012 gets its own theatrical-style trailer. Among the Republican presidential candidates who appear in it: Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, in that order. CPAC begins on February 9; it’s quite possible that one or more of those candidates will no longer be in the race at that point.

(The montage also includes a pair of Floridians, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Allen West, as well as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, etc..)

It also features two quotes from William F. Buckley, along with Reagan, Friedman, Kirk, and Chambers.

Tags: CPAC

Sadly, the ‘C’ in CPAC Won’t Stand For Self-Described ‘Caribou Barbie’


A bit of Sarah Palin in today’s Morning Jolt…

CPAC, Yes; See Palin, No.

No Sarah Palin at CPAC. Again. ABC News: “After skipping the popular Conservative Political Action Conference for the past three years, Sarah Palin has once again turned down the invitation of CPAC officials to address the conference this year. CPAC organizers invited Palin to deliver the closing-night keynote speech on Saturday Feb. 12, immediately following the announcement of the results of CPAC’s annual presidential straw poll,  but after several days of negotiations, she declined. “We’re disappointed that she wasn’t able to make it this year,” American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene said through a spokesman on Thursday. He noted that Palin “expressed interest in wanting to come this year,” but said that it came down to ‘a scheduling issue.’”

Rachel Weiner, writing at the Washington Post’s Fix column: “Four years of scheduling conflicts seems like a trend. So what’s behind Palin’s repeated opt-outs? If there are lingering bad feelings with Keene, that is almost certainly reason enough for her to take a pass. And, unlike some other potential nominees, Palin doesn’t need to raise her profile. She can draw press wherever she goes. And, given the heightened controversy over gay and Muslim attendees, the exposure might seem too risky.”

Er… risky? She quits her term after two-and-a-half-years, endorses long-shot underdogs in GOP primaries, does a lot of her communications through Facebook and Twitter, did a reality travelogue series , had her daughter appear on a national realty competition series about dancing and issued a video commentary on the Tucson shootings right before a presidential address at a memorial service… and we’re to believe Palin going to CPAC would be risky? Heck, she deals with bigger risks when she goes fishing near bears.

Alana Goodman, writing at Contentions: “As ABC News noted, Palin “has a rocky history” with CPAC and skipped the event last year owing to some of the reportedly shady business dealings of the conference’s organizer, David Keene. But the fact that she hasn’t attended the event for three years in a row makes it seem like it could honestly be about scheduling issues, as opposed to any involvement in the social conservatives’ CPAC boycott.

Marco Rubio will also be absent, and it will be interesting to see if any other prominent politicians skip out. The Senate will be out of session next week — since Democrats will be away on a retreat — and it’s possible that some GOP senators slated to speak at CPAC will decide to head to their home states at the last minute. But at the moment, the conference apparently hasn’t been seriously impacted by the boycott, and organizers told ABC News that they expect around 10,000 attendees at the event.”

In today’s edition, I also recommend, “never take restaurant advice from a skinny chef or an ostentatiously healthy eater.”

Tags: CPAC , Sarah Palin

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