According to several sources within the conservative movement, the American Conservative Union (ACU) had to pay close to one million dollars to the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel for breaking their contract. The justification was that the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) had grown too large, requiring a bigger venue.
The vice-chairman of the American Conservative Union said that CPAC this year would get away from the “glamor” of past conferences and bring it back to “substance”.[ Does Conservative Political Action Conference matter anymore? By Karen Tumulty, Washington Post, March 13, 2013] Apparently, this meant hosting it at the spacious Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, the largest non-gaming hotel and convention center on the East Coast. Even though campaign consultants and political hacks like Karl Rove were popular targets at the panels, the location itself made it impossible to take any thought of “reform” seriously. With colorful indoor fountains, embarrassingly opulent accommodations, and almost comical prices ($8 for a small lemonade from room service, not including tip), Conservatism Inc. is flying high, even as the conservative movement flounders.
But as the party continues, the cracks in the foundation are growing ever greater. This was to be the CPAC where the movement coalesced around a program of minority outreach, moderation on social issues, and a singular focus on economics. Instead, it showed that Conservatism Inc. may be incapable of holding the coalition together.
Immigration patriots knew that the fix was in from the beginning, as the main panel on amnesty was a unanimous celebration of cheap labor, a refreshingly honest admission that Conservatism Inc. is essentially one giant corporate lobbying firm. None of the so-called conservative superstars at CPAC so much as mentioned the topic of immigration, except with vague promises to reach out to minorities.
The real debate on immigration took place in the side panels. Mark Krikorian laid out a careful, fact based case against Obama's lawless executive amnesty at a panel sponsored by Judicial Watch. Unfortunately, the Judicial Watch panel was sparsely attended, perhaps because the official CPAC guide didn't list the panel. An accidental oversight, I'm sure.
Breitbart.com organized a panel entitled “The Uninvited” to discuss controversial issues at CPAC.
This panel only featured one immigration speaker, Rosemary Jenks of Numbers USA. In the limited time she was given, Jenks argued that “According to all polls, Hispanics vote for larger government, more gun restrictions [and other aspects of] the liberal agenda.” Jenks outlined policies that went unmentioned throughout the rest of the conference, including mandatory E-verify, entry/exit systems at ports, and tracking visas to prevent overstays. This was essentially the only treatment that details of serious immigration policy that took place over the weekend.
The lone exception among elected officials from the main stage at CPAC 2013, was Congressman Steve King. King bravely condemned Ronald Reagan's 1986 amnesty, warned against the Left's attempts to “deconstruct” America, and said “economics isn't the most important issue.” Steve King also served as a surprise introduction speaker at “The Uninvited” where he slammed the idea that the GOP must abandon immigration enforcement to win the Hispanic vote. King noted, “If the Hispanic vote had gone to Romney in all swing states, he still would have lost.”
Nonetheless, none of the elected conservative “superstars” on the stage including Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, or Ted Cruz even mentioned amnesty, to support or condemn it. The ideological thrust of the conference can best be summarized by Rubio's defiant cry that the conservative movement doesn't need a new idea. “The idea's America, and it still works!”
With this kind of wishful thinking, it's no surprise that immigration patriotism has been decisively purged from movement conservatism, at least among elected officials and organization heads. At the same time, none of these figures advocated amnesty from the stage. Movement conservatives are afraid to take a stand against amnesty—but also too afraid to confront their restive base.
Thus, the only criticisms of amnesty from the main stage came from figures not wholly dependent on Conservatism Inc. Legendary conservative organizer Phyllis Schlafly received a positively cold reception from the young CPAC crowd when she slammed the “North American Union” and the push for amnesty. Sadly, most of the crowd probably did not understand who she was. (Those who did probably identified her with “homophobia” and opposition to free birth control.)
Donald Trump went off the reservation and also criticized amnesty, but he is seen as a celebrity and entertainment figure, rather than a conservative intellectual leader. It says something that Donald Trump probably did have more substance to offer than any of the movement's so called intellectuals.
It fell to Ann Coulter to save the day by using her prime speaking position to deliver a message CPAC desperately needed to hear. The most important point Ann Coulter made in her masterful address condemning amnesty was not the singular importance of the amnesty issue, the deliberate malice of the 1965 Immigration Act, or the doomed dreams of Republicans winning the “Hispanic” vote. These are all true, but pale in comparison to her last charge.
Ann Coulter's incredibly courageous contribution was calling out Conservatism, Inc. —to their faces—for their cowardice in confronting a phony “Establishment” while collaborating with their betrayers. She mocked attacking
“The scapegoat of a fake Republican establishment which is allowing the real Republican establishment to plot and scheme undetected. My example of this is, 'What public policy will harm average Americans, drive up unemployment, change America permanently in negative ways, and on the other hand, is supported by businessmen who will never vote for a Republican anyway?' Amnesty for illegal aliens. And half of elected Republicans support it, as far as I can tell most talk radio and TV hosts support it... you want the Republican establishment? That's the Republican establishment... if amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will ever win another national election.”
This short excerpt makes more sense than anything else said at the entire conference.
The so called “rebels” of the libertarian student groups, “Tea Party” champions like Marco Rubio, “movement conservative” leaders like Al Cardenas, and so called “moderates” like Jeb Bush are all essentially the same. Every single one of them is characterized by a refusal (or simple inability) to think seriously on the most critical issue of our time. Mass immigration will render every single one of their cute little pet issues utterly irrelevant, if they refuse to confront it.
However, the lumpen conservative base that opposes amnesty is currently leaderless, aside from figures like Steve King. Ann Coulter has a popular base, but she will almost certainly be punished for her insistence that the conservative movement think seriously about the consequences of mass immigration. Her access to that base may decline as a result.
Furthermore, figures like Coulter derive their influence by channeling the latent populist, patriotic spirit of the mostly white conservative base. That base is not just being dispossessed demographically, but actively replaced as an even implicitly identitarian political movement. Conservatives do not have an ideological justification for their own survival, and all they have to fall back on is simplistic rhetoric about the free market and reactionary hatred of “liberals.” Thus, intellectually lazy open borders left-libertarianism can stroll through the open door.
CPAC's theme was “The Future of Conservatism.” At the youth panel, the moderator was Alexander McCobin, founder of Students for Liberty, an organization that has actively condemned fusionism and conservatism as such. The Conservatism Inc. is actively hostile towards immigration patriots but gleefully allies with people who hate them as long as they support the “free market”. “Ideas matter,” as movement conservatives used to say, and Conservatism Inc. doesn't have any left.
That said, immigration patriots should take heart. Ann Coulter's courageous speech communicates a powerful truth—immigration patriots are the only ones in the room who matter. Everyone else, the rising libertarians included, are being swamped by forces they are desperately trying to ignore.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him] travels around the United States looking for a waiter who can speak English.