Are you going to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year?
CPAC is an annual political conference attended by conservative activists and elected officials from across the United States. It was started in 1973 by the American Conservative Union and Young Americans for Freedom, two organizations which built the post-World War II conservative movement with leaders such as William F. Buckley and Richard Viguerie.
After being run for many years years by now-NRA President David Keene, former Florida GOP Chairman Al Cardenas took over as ACU Chairman in 2011. In his short tenure, Cardenas has more than doubled the budget and hosted smaller CPAC conferences in states across the country. What once was a small gathering of conservative activists will now host upward of 7,000 conservatives this week at the National Habor in Maryland.
With so much attention focused on the conference it has attracted plenty of controversy. Most notably, National Review, the movement’s most visible publication, published an unsigned editorial denouncing CPAC for excluding GOProud, a right-of-center homosexual organization.
From “two-bit whores” to communists, and from melodrama to the zombie apocalypse, it is clear that all eyes are on the conservative movement this week. And you’ll be able to follow it in real time, thanks to a last-minute large donation from a tea party organization to sponsor free wi-fi internet access, which thankful bloggers and reporters will fully utilize.
If you’re going to CPAC, here are some things to look for:
* Blog Bash: This is one opportunity for bloggers from across the country to meet and mingle on Thursday night. Andrew Breitbart was the guest of honor last year, and his memory will loom large over the crowd as bloggers try to follow his important advice in the battle against the left.
* Movies: Citizens United, the group named in the successful free speech Supreme Court case, is hosting movies throughout the conference, with introductions by hosts such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. They even are showing a movie starring penitential Kentucky Senate candidate Ashley Judd! But don’t worry, she dies within the first few minutes of the film.
* Donald Trump: Is inviting Donald Trump to speak at CPAC a good idea? He is a great entertainer and a showman. Sit back, relax, and get ready to be “fired.” It will be huge!
* Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky: He will bring out the straw poll voters in droves, if the success of his father is indication. The Junior Senator from Kentucky just stood on the Senate floor for a 13 hour filibuster over President Obama’s controversial drone program. Rand has infused the conservative movement with a healthy dose of libertarianism and brings young people into the movement. His speech is likely to have the strongest audience reactions, as Rand is as close to being the “leader” of the conservative movement as anyone.
* Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida: He joined in Sen. Paul’s filibuster and shows a serious understanding of hip-hop music in the process. He is building conservative and establishment support faster than any candidate, and this speech could be pivotal as donors start selecting what candidates to support in the early stages of the 2016 elections. He is eloquent, young, and a serious conservative who breaks the “white guy” mold of how Republicans are portrayed in the mainstream media.
* Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas: This conservative firebrand from Texas will give the keynote address, and he has more time allotted than any speaker. Labeled by left-wing Mother Jones as the Republican’s Barack Obama, Cruz is a Harvard trained lawyer who is deeply immersed in conservative intellectual thought. He has made more enemies than friends in the Senate and is a tough, no compromise leader. Clearly the ACU and others have high expectations for the 43 year-old Cruz, as the keynote address- given in previous years by Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck- always gets the most attention.
* Chris Christie: He wasn’t invited because of his closeness to President Obama and his support for a state run health insurance exchange, but will weigh heavily on the minds of attendees and straw poll voters.
CPAC will set the tone for how the Republican party moves forward from the 2012 electoral defeats, and will help decide what role the conservative movement should play. If you are attending or not, make sure to tune, buckle up, and get involved.