We are in for a treat. The Conservative Political Action Conference has scheduled a three-day (March 14-16) convention in Washington, D.C. They have provided a list of conservative speakers with the name recognition and experience to set a lively agenda. Included are Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum. Sarah Palin was mentioned as a speaker in 2012.
As I survey this list of political luminaries, I am struck by the number of losers as well as those who were not invited to stand behind the lectern. Looking at this list is somewhat like attending a party with Elizabeth Taylor as the hostess and all of her former husbands as the attendees. Their main topic of discussion will be, “How to have a successful marriage.” Richard Burton would be the master of ceremonies because he was brave enough to make a second try.
What should we expect as words of wisdom and inspiration from such a notable cluster of political leaders that will result in future victories for the conservative movement? Are they the ones to advise those who seek a political office? What words should be used or what policies to pursue?
I think it might go something like this.
Since Palin is not a presenter, she will be expected to be a force during the discussion phase of the program. She will be a huge presence because of her emphasis on seeing the larger picture from the proper distance to view the whole. Who can forget the profundity of seeing Russia from her porch? Again, consider the importance of her recommendation that we should expand the range of our reading. When asked what papers she read, Sarah, with characteristic humility, replied that she read about all of them.
Santorum was especially informative about family planning. He had reservations about the use of contraceptives. Then, too, he was convinced that the decision to abort was too important to leave in the hands of women. There was great applause from the audience, almost as boisterous as that given to Palin.
Paul nearly brought down the roof when he so eloquently recited the virtues of minimal government. The applause became delirious as he called for the elimination of one cabinet-level post after another and one regulatory agency after another. We can take care of our own health needs; we do not need unemployment insurance, mine inspectors or restaurant inspectors. The climax came when Paul quoted his mentor, Ronald Reagan, “Government is not the solution to the problem; it is the problem.”
The tea party enjoyed its explosive growth and visibility and played a conspicuous role in all events. Members said “free market,” “beware of socialism” and “freedom over slavery” with more gusto than others and warned of “creeping socialism.” This helped to bring about an evangelical enthusiasm in the crowd.
The speaker who got the most spectacular applause was Romney. He fully deserved such an enthusiastic response. Who else could create such a socialistic health plan for a whole state and then convince the tea party that he had to repudiate a very similar plan cobbled together by the Democrats because it was unacceptable for the nation? But this feat was small potatoes to his next move.
Without a blink, he told the admiring conservatives that his earlier speech to a group of wealthy supporters had been shamelessly distorted by his liberal enemies. The video tape showing a very sincere candidate, earnestly informing his base that 47 percent of the American population were “takers” with a clear dependence on the government to get by.
Later, he pleaded for understanding, just as fervently with a reminder that his words had been taken out of context and twisted into a wrong meaning. He claimed to be a victim of the dirty tricks expected during campaigns.
We need not go on with the menu of sage wisdom and seasoned advice. It is evident that all of the speakers have reinforced the rightness of what was done in the last election. No matter that they lost, they only needed to be more active and sincere the next time around. This has been made clear by the critique of the president’s State of The Union address by Rubio. Armed with platitudes and code words, he had nothing new to say.
All in all, this conference will generate about the same amount of success in getting a president as Elizabeth Taylor’s party to discover how to have a successful marriage.
Allan Powell is a professor emeritus of philosophy at Hagerstown Community College.