Sunday, February 21, 2010

CPAC Civil War: The Fight For the Soul of Conservatism

Conservatives seemed to be in disarray at this year's CPAC Convention, with a full blown war being waged for the soul of the Conservative movement. The fight was between the ultra-conservative, take no prisoners, cultural warriors club led by the likes of Glenn Beck, Dick Cheney, and Sarah Palin against the more moderate, "independent", big tent faction led by Ron Paul and Bob Barr.

The division and uncertainty was on full display in the CPAC Presidential Straw Poll, where the attendees voted on their 2012 presidential hopefuls. In a surprise to everyone, Ron Paul won the poll with a whopping 31%. Mitt Romney came in second with 22% and Sarah Palin came in a distant third with only 7%.

Here are the full results from the poll:

Texas Rep. Ron Paul - 31 percent
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- 22 percent
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- 7 percent
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty - 6 percent
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich - 4 percent
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee -- 4 percent
Indiana Rep. Mike Pence - 5 percent
South Dakota Sen. John Thune -- 2 percent
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels -- 2 percent
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum -- 2 percent
Mississippi Gov. Hailey Barbour - 1 percent
Other - 5 percent
Undecided - 6 percent

However, it has been reported that upon announcing Ron Paul as the winner the crowd erupted in to a chorus of "boos".

In his speech at the conference, Ron Paul, essentially a libertarian, rallied against government over reach but also against the dangers of neoconservatism. This seemed to be in direct conflict with the keynote speaker, Glenn Beck's, speech.

In his highly anticipated keynote speech Beck blasted fellow Republicans (including John McCain and Teddy Roosevelt) and called for purity in the Republican ranks. In fact, most of the major Republican speakers-Cheney, Armey, Bachmann, Coulter-not only stuck to their normal vicious and partisan attacks, but actually seemed to even up the ante. Why? The widespread pandering to the Tea Party movement that has been on display in the Republican party throughout 2010, not to mention the venom that courses through neoconservative veins at the mere thought of President Obama.

So which is it going to be, conservatives? The "big tent, independent" style of Ron Paul or the "take no prisoners, purity" approach of Beck and Palin?

Honestly, I think it has already been decided. All of the major, mainstream, best known Republican speakers-Beck,Cheney,Coulter-embraced the radical style and talking points of the paranoid, conspiracy theorist, anti-Obama fringe. The representation of the more libertarian conservatism would probably be met with "Oh yeah, I remember you. You're still around?" (Ron Paul) or "Who the hell are you?" (Bob Barr) by the average Fox News follower. The star power of the conservative movement seems to be drifting even further towards the fringe and taking the whole Republican Party with it.

Media Matter's full coverage of the CPAC event, with videos from about every important speaker:

The Insanity of Beck:

Beck calls President Warren Harding's death "divine providence"

Beck: "Rush [Limbaugh] is a hero of mine"

Keith Olbermann's coverage of CPAC:

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  1. Good to see them fighting among themselves. That should keep them busy for a while. But I like most of what Ron Paul has to say.

  2. During the last primaries I thought Ron Paul was the crazy radical. However, as time has progressed, my views have changed. I saw him do an interview with Bill Maher, whom I loathe, and the dude is really very intelligent and straight-forward. A lot of what he says makes sense. But at the same time, I wouldn't call him "moderate". His approach may be moderate, but he represents a much purer conservatism.

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