Is there a liberal confab anywhere that gets as much media attention as CPAC did this week? You’d think the speakers and attendees actually had some relevance to what’s going on in politics today, instead of having responded to being voted out of power by insisting that they’re going to take their ball and go home. To their credit, some of the speakers (well, Tucker Carlson) have noted that, for conservatism to recover its mojo, it needs to be based on principles other than obstructionism and pissing off liberals. In other words, it needs to come up with some actual new, practical policy ideas. (Hint: “More tax cuts” doesn’t count.)
Some conservative bloggers covering the conference have noticed this as well. Hats off to Patrick Ruffini for recognizing that his side needs more than populist anger and symbolism, though I’m not sure his prescription (Look to has-been demagogue Newt Gingrich for new ideas!) is going to change anything. Conor Friedersdorf takes a step beyond Ruffini and recognizes that most people want good policy ideas no matter which side comes up with them, just as most people want good movies without worrying much about the ideological agenda of the filmmakers. (In other words, Big Hollywood folks, tell a good story, not a propagandistic one, and the free market that you worship will finally work in your favor.) Friedersdorf is even willing to grant that people with whom he disagrees on policy aren’t necessarily operating out of bad faith or treasonous motives.
That seems more than the crowd who lapped up Rush Limbaugh’s keynote speech was willing to grant. Rod Dreher’s post “CPAC: White Kids on Dope” (love the Tubes reference!) recognizes that Limbaugh (and his audience)’s insistence on ideological purity resembles nothing so much as Leninism. No wonder the Obama administration is trying to use the conservatives’ fealty to Limbaugh to further marginalize them. But perhaps Limbaugh’s oratory reminds you of another orotund, thrice-divorced motivational speaker. Check out the video above, and you’ll see what I mean. (Hat tip to James Edwards.)