3/1/2008 - March 2008 SLI Educational Update - Conservative Political Action Committee 2008
AN EDUCATIONAL UPDATE FROM
THE SOUTHEAST LAW INSTITUTETM, INC.
To: SLI Supporters
Date: March 2008
From: A. Eric Johnston
Re: Conservative Political Action Conference 2008
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has always been a valuable source of information and insight. For over 25 years I have regularly attended. It is the preeminent meeting of conservatives. This year's theme for CPAC was "The Power of Principle." Its many speakers dwelt on the principles of conservatism. Since it is an election year, there were many questions about for whom to vote. SLI is prohibited from campaigning and we do not here. We are only reporting what was said. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney chose CPAC to announce his withdrawal from the race and informally endorse John McCain (later formally endorsing him). Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul also spoke. Though Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were invited, they did not appear. Presidential election years have always been the most interesting. They were particularly exciting during the days of Ronald Reagan and conversely energizing during the days of Bill Clinton.
Democrats seem to be perplexed about whether to vote for Clinton, a known candidate, or for Obama, a voice of change. Fox News commentator Brit Hume recently asked how it was the Republican Party could be without a conservative candidate after such a long run of conservatives. Commentator Charles Krauthammer replied that "Godot is not coming." Like in the play, the person for whom we are waiting, a conservative, is not coming, but unlike the play, we would know him if he did. Like the characters in Waiting for Godot, America faces many distressing issues. There is a real dilemma for all voters on who will lead us.
At CPAC, the issue was whether McCain is a conservative and can be supported by the conservative movement. There was a host of apparently handpicked speakers who urged conservatives to support McCain as the presidential candidate. McCain later spoke to the conference indicating that while he and some conservatives may have had disagreements in the past, they were minor and all could work together. A straw poll of the over 6,000 attendees suggested conservatives were not comfortable with McCain.
The conservative movement is not related to the Republican Party, although the GOP platform has been heavily influenced by conservatives and provides a vehicle with which conservatives can more easily identify. Conservatives often follow the candidacies of libertarians and independents, and less often, Democrats. For example, the State of Alabama has many conservative Democrats in the Alabama Legislature.
There was a general feeling that many of us have turned away from conservative principles and have let Republican politics corrupt our philosophy. While a great deal of energy was focused on the presidential conundrum, the majority of the conference was directed to issues that affect our culture, among others: an expected Supreme Court opinion on gun control; return of the Fairness Doctrine (legal restrictions on the content of talk radio) by liberals in response to the conservative dominance of radio; political correctness and censorship on college campuses, particularly focusing on the protection of Islamo-Facism (significantly funded by Muslim groups); the environment; taxes; government regulation of technology; elitist federal judges; international law (Law of the Sea Treaty and other international laws that undermine U.S. sovereignty); the accountability and transparency of government; sanctity of life, etcetera.
Not since the early 1980's has our national defense been in such focus. Not only do we face the War on Terror, but experts provided explanation on the increasing military strength of Russia and China, the possibility of biological threats by North Korea, instability in Pakistan, and relations between Venezuela and Iran that could place nuclear missiles on our very doorstep. There is genuine concern for the safety of the United States.
So what did I come away with? Conservatism is a cause and a set of principles that are influenced by a Judeo-Christian heritage. That theme was noted by many speakers. Conservatives find their source in their religion. On the other hand, liberals see their own ability as our salvation and they are able to answer the needs of our culture. Whether you are exercising your rights in the voter's booth in the coming presidential election or exercising those rights in your day to day affairs, you must make a choice. The influence of the U.S. presidency cannot be underestimated and therefore every presidential election is important. The general consensus seemed to be that among conservatives that the moderate John McCain is the only choice and he must be supported. Democrats have yet to make their choice, but the liberal ideology of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will not attract many conservatives.
Conservatives have been too closely affiliated with the Republican Party and have, in many ways, lost their moral compass. There is disarray in presidential politics, even to the point that it was said that Ann Coulter was not invited to speak at CPAC (she did not speak to the general assembly), because she said she would rather vote for Hillary Clinton than John McCain. Perhaps, conservatism has become complacent and let the Republican Party define the cause. As Newt Gingrich said, conservatives must be independent, be critical of their political leaders when necessary, and have a conservative action plan. You might ask yourself what values you have and whether you have an action plan.
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