Monday, February 26, 2018

CPAC Pushes Aside Conservative Intellectualism to Embrace Hate and Hypocrisy

Last week, the American Conservative Union hosted the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.  Started by ACU and the Youn Americans for Freedom in 1973, CPAC was an annual event that was about discussing conservative ideas and promoting those ideas, particularly among young people who regularly dominate the conference attendance.  I use past tense "was" instead of the present tense "is" because the event held this weekend was certainly nothing about conservative ideas.  Rather it was about Trumpism,i.e. the blind and unquestioned worship of Donald Trump, a lifelong liberal only recent turned pretend Republican, the ultimate RINO who barely stumbled into the Presidency in 2016 only because the Democrats managed to nominate the worst candidate the party could find.

Mona Charen
I have never been fond the of the description "tribalism" to define Trumpism, but it is growing on me.  Basically the term, especially when used in this context, refers to Trumpers who see anything done by "The Donald" and his supporters as right because, well, Trump is the leader of their team.  Meanwhile, anything done by those outside the Trump orbit is by definition wrong, because they are on the other team.  It does not matter if both sides are guilty of the EXACT same thing.  It is Right when Trump and his allies do it, and it is Wrong when those who oppose Trump do it.  There is nothing more anti-intellectual than that "logic," a hypocrisy that was on full display at this year's CPAC.

During President Trump's speech to the conference, a chant broke out to "lock her up," a reference to the investigation into Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, exposing to hacking classified information because she chose to use a private server to receive that information.  I, for one, think, especially in light of General Petraeus' prosecution for mishandling classified information, that Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted.  But given the revelations of scores of officials without proper security clearances handling classified information in the Trump White House, is this really an issue that the President and Trumpers in the CPAC audience should want to bring this up?  A true intellectual would note the hypocrisy and steer clear of the issue.  But when it comes to tribalism, intellectual honesty matters not one whit.  What matters is what side you are on.

There are so many things that happened at this year's CPAC that speaks to the intellectual rot of those who are trying, wrongly I might add, to claim the mantel of modern-day conservativism.  I could talk about the attack on former GOP chairman Michael Steele by a CPAC spokesman, who it is said only received his position because he is black.  Or I could talk about the President reading a poem that suggested all immigrants, not just the illegal kind, are prone to criminal behavior because they are, well, immigrants.  Or the shear absurdity of giving House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes the "Defender of Freedom" award,  Nunes has done more to undermine the rule of law and obstruct a legitimate investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election than anyone.

But nothing at CPAC demonstrates the rife anti-intellectualism among its participants how they treated conservative icon and syndicated columnist Mona Charen.  USA Today describes what happened:

In the final hours of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, conservative columnist Mona Charen was escorted out Saturday after remarks she made about conservatives supporting politicians despite sexual misconduct allegations against then.
Charen, who was speaking on an all-women panel titled "#UsToo: Left Out by the Left," rebuked conservatives for excusing the behavior of both President Trump and Alabama Republican Roy Moore.
"I'm disappointed in people on our side for being hypocrites on sexual harassers and abusers of women who are in our party, who are in the White House, who brag about their extramarital affairs, who brag about mistreating women," she said. "And because he happens to have an 'R' after his name, we look the other way, we don't complain."
She also criticized Republicans who endorsed Moore, who was accused of pursuing and assaulting teenagers while he was in his 30s.
"You cannot claim that you stand for women and put up with that," she said.
Shouts of "not true" came from the audience afterward.
Charen later penned a column in the New York Times about what happened.  If readers can get past the pay wall, its worth reading in its entirety.

I’ve been a conservative my entire life. I fell hard for William F. Buckley as a teenager and my first job was as editorial assistant at Buckley’s National Review, followed by stints writing speeches for first lady Nancy Reagan and then working for the Gipper himself. Looking toward the 1988 race, Vice President George H.W. Bush wasn’t conservative enough for me. I went to work as a speechwriter for Representative Jack Kemp in 1986.
So you’d think that the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, would be a natural fit. It once was. But on Saturday, after speaking to this year’s gathering, I had to be escorted from the premises by several guards who seemed genuinely concerned for my safety.
What happened to me at CPAC is the perfect illustration of the collective experience of a whole swath of conservatives since Donald Trump became the Republican nominee. We built and organized this party — but now we’re made to feel like interlopers.
While there were reasonable, mainstream Republican speakers at CPAC, the lineup also featured demagogues like Sheriff David Clarke Jr. While he oversaw the Milwaukee County jail, one pregnant prisoner was repeatedly raped, and several prisoners died in the space of just six months. One was a mentally ill man who was denied water for seven days. No matter. The sheriff was cheered by the CPAC crowd.
My panel was about the #MeToo movement, which was a natural for me since my new book coming out in June, “Sex Matters,” grapples with the movement and other aspects of our fraught sexual ecosystem.
After every woman on the panel had a chance to speak and with 10 minutes remaining on the clock, the moderator threw a slow pitch right over the plate. She asked us about feminist hypocrisy. Ask me that at a cocktail party and I will talk your ear off about how the very people who had lectured us about the utter venality of workplace sexual harassment throughout the 1980s became suddenly quiescent when the malefactor was Bill Clinton.

But this time, and particularly in front of this crowd, it felt far more urgent to point out the hypocrisy of our side. How can conservative women hope to have any credibility on the subject of sexual harassment or relations between the sexes when they excuse the behavior of President Trump? And how can we participate in any conversation about sexual ethics when the Republican president and the Republican Party backed a man credibly accused of child molestation for the United States Senate?
I watched my fellow panelists’ eyes widen. And then the booing began.
I’d been dreading it for days, but when it came, I almost welcomed it. There is nothing more freeing than telling the truth. And it must be done, again and again, by those of us who refuse to be absorbed into this brainless, sinister, clownish thing called Trumpism, by those of us who refuse to overlook the fools, frauds and fascists attempting to glide along in his slipstream into respectability.
I spoke to a hostile audience for the sake of every person who has watched this spectacle of mendacity in disbelief and misery for the past two years. Just hearing the words you know are true can serve as ballast, steadying your mind when so much seems unreal.

For traditional conservatives, the past two years have felt like a Twilight Zone episode. Politicians, activists and intellectuals have succumbed with numbing regularity, betraying every principle they once claimed to uphold. But there remains a vigorous remnant of dissenters. I hear from them. There were even some at CPAC.


True Republican said...

It’s such a shame that CPAC that hosted Ron Paul back in 2012 is now pandering to the lowest common denominator. We have no doubt that if Gary Welsh was alive now he would be enraged over “Trumpism”. If for no other reason than Trumps picking of Mike Pence for VP. And Trumps allowing Hoosier Party hacks like Marc Lotter and Marty Obst into his administration. There are many sensible Trump supporters around. But more and more both sides of the aisle are displaying this primitive tribalism nonsense. Ultimately both political will suffer much deserved damage from this tribalistic b.s.

leon dixon said...

A different perspective..... Of course, when the ACU bans some conservatives I no longer watch them so I missed their whole show.

Veterans for Peace Indianapolis said...

Is arguing for the Iraq War and pretty much every War conservative? Are neo-conservatives conservative?

See especially the update at the bottom here:

tryexcept said...

Lol, "conservative intellectualism".

You're kidding yourself if you think this actually existed past ~1963.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said... Just to note that the list of Trump disasters is so short that it doesn't even exist.