From outward appearances, it seems the media figures and lawmakers were covered, however, looking over the list of speech-makers, I didn't see one reference to anyone from the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, or even the Libertarian CATO Institute.
This was a grand opportunity to gather up, what is left of the best conservative minds, and develop a strategy and direction. Instead, what I witnessed seemed more like a pep rally than a war room meeting. The scene offered was that of a party in power not a party that has been relegated to a rear guard movement.
Admittedly, generating excitement and fist pumping is always a necessary evil. It gets activists motivated and gives them the mental energy to get out and spread the word. The problem is there was no discussion of what the word is.
It has been difficult to surmise what exactly is wrong with the GOP and American conservatism, as a whole. Nevertheless, here are a few ideas that might connect some dots.
From the Conservative Institute,
In a recent interview with Matt Bai, of the New York Times, New Gingrich lamented on this particular subject.
NYTimes-“Most Republicans are not entrepreneurial,” he lamented to me. “They’re corporatists. They like the security and the comfort of a well-thought-out, highly boring boardroom meeting in which they do a PowerPoint once. And it worries them to have ideas, because ideas have edges, and they’re not totally formed, and you’ve got to prove them, and they sound strange because they’re new, and if it’s new how do you know it’s any good, because, after all, it’s new and you’ve never heard it before.”
Eight years ago, the conservative movement stood on the brink of reshaping the American political landscape for generations. Unfortunately, President Bush embodied what was wrong with American conservatism.
From Reflections Magazine,
Reflections-"Mr. Bush was not a traditional conservative. Rather, he was a big-government corporatist, who federalized education, added a new entitlement prescription-drug program for seniors, racked up massive budget deficits and championed “comprehensive” immigration reform."
President Bush was not evil incarnate as many people believe. His greatest mistake was allowing the Leftist activists to frame the debate and choose their battles. This gave them the ability to paint him in whatever light they chose and directly linked his "failures" to conservatism. If he was wrong for America, then conservative ideals must be wrong for America. The only problem is, Mr. Bush isn't really a conservative, he is a Republican.
The former President and his war with the Leftists wasn't the only significant problem. At this point no one can frame the terms of a conservative rebirth without understanding what conservatism is. So, how can we solve the problem?
This post is not a admonishment of those hardworking people at the American Conservative Union, who hosted CPAC, or the attendees. Maybe some sort of catharsis was in order before war plans can be drawn up. But, time is running short. If something isn't done to educate people on what conservatism is, the opportunity to strike back boldly and swiftly against the Progressive juggernaut will be missed.
If you are interested in purist conservatism, in the historical context, here are some great places to start educating yourself. Comprehending the philosophy is where the ideas for a new direction begin.
The Russel Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal
The Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal