CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, is in the news because someone in attendance was infected with the coronavirus, and shook hands with Sen. Ted Cruz and Matt Schlapp, the head of the American Conservative Union (ACU), which puts on CPAC. Schlapp shook hands with President Donald Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, thus making them possible carriers of the virus. In addition, at least three other congressmen who were exposed to the same unidentified person have self-quarantined in response. In the meantime, the panic over the virus has grown dramatically over the past few weeks.
But CPAC was notable for many reasons other than as an example of a Petri dish that may have touched the President of the United States. This year’s CPAC was a remarkable gathering that took place the last four days of February. These annual conferences began in 1974, organized by the American Conservative Union. This was the 22nd year that I have attended and this may have been the most enthusiastic and unified group yet, with an estimated 10,000 people in attendance. It included a rousing, closing speech by President Trump, and interviews or speeches by Vice President Pence, Kellyanne Conway, most of Trump’s cabinet, and several of his family members. The theme this year was “America vs. Socialism.”
There was a time that conservatives would have been accused of “red-baiting” with a theme like that, but with the then-Democratic front-runner (at least until Super Tuesday) a self-described socialist, it was tougher to make that accusation. From the last day of CPAC to just four days later, the electoral world was shaken. Joe Biden went from being considered dead in the water as a candidate to being considered the unstoppable front-runner. The other “moderates” dropped out and endorsed Biden. Michael Bloomberg showed how little a half-billion dollars could influence an election these days (his only win before dropping out of the race was American Samoa), while others remain convinced that Russian “bot farms” spending a few hundred thousand dollars on social media swung the 2016 election to Trump.
Yes, Bernie Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist,” but he still defends the deceased Communist dictator Fidel Castro for at least making the trains run on time, or in this case for teaching the illiterate to read well enough to understand “The Communist Manifesto.” And he mistakenly cites the Scandinavian countries as the model he wants to emulate. Mistakenly because as CNN and The Washington Post’s Fareed Zakaria wrote in a recent column, Bernie’s Scandinavia turned out to be another failed socialist experiment. And while Bernie says, “Billionaires should not exist,” Sweden and Norway have more billionaires per capita than the U.S., with Sweden having nearly twice as many. Zakaria adds that “Inheritance taxes in Sweden and Norway are zero, and in Denmark 15 percent. The United States, by contrast, has the fourth-highest estate taxes in the industrialized world at 40 percent.”
In addition, these countries have no minimum wage, and their generous safety net is financed by heavy taxes that fall “disproportionately on the poor, middle and upper middle class.” Sounds like Bernie hasn’t been doing his homework.
The point Zakaria is making is that these countries moved away from “democratic socialism” before they became Venezuela, Cuba, Soviet Socialism (USSR), or even National Socialism. Sorry, Bernie. The real point is that we don’t need any more socialist experiments after all the failed ones of the last hundred years. And just because we have Medicare and Social Security doesn’t in any way make the U.S. a socialist country, as some try to argue.
CPAC was in part a celebration of Donald Trump’s first three years in office, and a launch party to propel him to reelection on November 3rd. At least that was the overwhelming view of the attendees. The CPAC format is that there is a large ballroom at the Gaylord Hotel at the National Harbor near Washington D.C. where the key speakers and panels take place. There were also presentations in a dozen or so other smaller conference rooms in the hotel. You can see the entire agenda here.
Among the themes that were most prominent was the Russia hoax, also referred to as the Coup. One of the very first panels at this year’s CPAC was with Representatives Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows (who has since been named White House chief of staff), titled “The Coup: The Day After Tomorrow.” There were a number of people and panels talking about various aspects of how the Obama administration weaponized the FBI and Intelligence Community to spy on and attempt to undermine the Trump campaign and presidency. The big question hanging out there is whether or not any of the participants ⸻ including Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe and John Brennan ⸻ will ultimately be held accountable. John Durham, the federal prosecutor who is currently investigating the origins of the FBI’s probe, is perhaps the last best hope that they will be.
Among the other topics covered at CPAC were the accomplishments of the Trump administration, the situation in Israel and the Middle East, energy independence, opportunity zones in black communities across the country, socialism, election integrity, a corrupt media, and free speech and religious liberty under fire by the Left and social media.
Most of it can be seen here on YouTube.
Regarding Israel, one panel was called, “Israel: What Should the Map Look Like?” with journalist Caroline Glick and Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York. This was a very pro-Israel audience, and the panelists discussed what Trump had done to strengthen Israel, and its alliance with the U.S.
Among the other highlights was James O’Keefe of Project Veritas, exposing the bias and corruption of Facebook, Twitter, Google, ABC News and CNN through his practice of undercover video recordings, a tactic the media happily uses, but doesn’t like so much when it’s turned on them. From my seat in the media section, it was clear that this particular presentation made a number of journalists quite uncomfortable.
Nigel Farage was there to report on finally winning the Brexit War, while taking something of a victory lap. Lara Trump and Brad Parscale talked about the planning and social media efforts going into the 2020 presidential campaign.
Michael Pillsbury of the Hudson Institute, author of “The Hundred Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower,” gave an update on how Trump’s policies and progress with China have made him more optimistic than his book would indicate.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the crowd and laid out the case for Trump’s foreign and national security policies. He cited numerous successes of the administration, including the release of hostages, strengthening ties with Israel, withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, new trade agreements, as well as the death of Qasem Soleimani and other terrorist leaders.
Clare Lopez, a member of the Citizens Commission on National Security, participated in a panel titled “Freedom of Speech in America and How we are Losing It.”
With all of the informative discussions and substantive speeches that came out of CPAC, it’s a shame, but no surprise, that the media’s focus has been on who might have caught the coronavirus. That is clearly an important issue and a serious matter, but long after it has come and gone, the serious matter of who should lead our country and what policy matters should be pursued will persist.
The views expressed in CCNS member articles are not necessarily the views or positions of the entire CCNS. They are the views of the authors, who are members of the CCNS.