The main themes from this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference were not terribly surprising to anyone paying attention to the GOP presidential primary. According to CPAC speakers, President Obama is a “socialist, Marxist president” bent on destroying the country and the Constitution, and the nation will not survive if he is re-elected. “Compromise” is a four-letter word. Health care reform is tyranny. Contraception is tyranny. TSA searches are tyranny. You get the idea.
But there were also moments of insight into aspects of the conservative movement, often coming from smaller rooms and panels, like actor Stephen Baldwin’s declaration that “separation of church and state can kiss my ass” and the anti-multicultural, anti-diversity discussion which featured the founder of a white-nationalist website. Here are a few additions to the excellent RWW coverage of CPAC by Kyle and Brian.
Screw the Vote
As we have reported, Republicans are waging aggressive voter suppression campaigns across the country, including voter ID laws and voter registration restrictions supposedly needed to prevent “voting fraud.” At CPAC, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton hosted a press conference to talk about the group’s “Election Integrity Project,” which is suing states that Judicial Watch says have not done enough to clean up their voter registration lists. Panelists claimed that “rampant election fraud” took place in the last two election cycles – there’s no real evidence to back up that claim – and complained that the Obama administration’s Justice Department is selectively enforcing the Voting Rights Act. Fitton said that having the DOJ meet with representatives from Project Vote and ACORN is “like having the mafia running the FBI.” Another speaker represented True the Vote, an outgrowth of Houston Tea Party group King Street Patriots, which hosted a fundraising event last year with a speaker who believes:
Registering [poor people] to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country — which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote.
True the Vote is backing states whose voter ID laws have been challenged by the Justice Department and recruiting volunteers to challenge signatures gathered by those seeking to recall Wisconsin’s anti-labor governor Scott Walker.
The Federal Government’s War on Clean Underwear
It is an article of faith among many right-wing activists and candidates that health, safety, and environmental regulations are oten unconstitutional and are destroying the American economy. Americans for Tax Reform and its affiliate Cost of Government Center sponsored a panel dubbed “The Red Tape War: How the Regulatory Burden and Growing Nanny State Threaten Prosperity.” The group’s Mattie Duppler described regulation as an ongoing “war on consumers and taxpayers.” Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute said that energy efficiency regulations had caused a steep decline in the quality of top-loading washing machines, and talked about a campaign his group had run to have people send virtual underwear to the undersecretary of the Department of Energy. (Turns out that campaign was in 2007 during the George W. Bush administration)
Beyond Obstructionism to Nullification
One Newt Gingrich campaign theme has been pledging that as president he would ignore Supreme Court decisions he disagrees with and abolish the jobs of federal judges who don’t share his view of the Constitution. A couple of groups at CPAC – the Tenth Amendment Center and the Foundation for a Free Society – held a series of events to promote nullification, the idea that the states should similarly ignore federal laws that they believe are unconstitutional. In fact, they want to go far beyond ignoring such laws. Speakers introducing a documentary on nullification praised an Arizona bill that would not only declare the federal health care law null and void in the state, but would also make any agent of the government who tries to enforce the law guilty of a felony. The documentary featured state legislators as well as speakers from the Oath Keepers and the John Birch Society.
Here Sharia Comes!
Pamela Geller hosted a panel on Sharia, at which speakers complained about the room they were given and about their supposed mistreatment at the hands of CPAC – though other panels met in the same room and the “Islamic Law” panel was listed in the conference program. Geller and fellow panelist Robert Spencer attacked panelists from a previous, more thoughtful, panel on religious liberty which defended the religious rights of American Muslims. Also speaking was North Carolina congressional candidate Ilario Pantano, who said he was once charged with murder for killing terrorists in Iraq [charges were dropped] and who denounced “political correctness run amok.” Pantano praised discredited “historian” David Barton for telling the “truth” about America’s founding and called the misnamed “Ground Zero Mosque” a “desecration of an American holy site and an American national battlefield.”
Civics Education = David Barton, the Bible, and American Exceptionalism
In a panel on civics education, Matthew Spalding, VP for American Studies at Heritage Foundation praised the battle over textbook standards in Texas, in which David Barton and other Religious Right activists pushed to infuse far-right ideology into social science books.
Those are the battles that matter, especially big states because they control the textbooks. Texas had a great battle, and the media hated it, the left went crazy, but it’s an extremely reasonable curriculum improvement, and they focus on very good things. It’s a solid, good model….Civic education is not just in the classroom. You must understand the effect that public discussion about these questions, about history and about the meaning of our country affect politics, politics affects elections, elections affects state boards and things that make the curriculum.
Another panelist, Larry Schweikart, author of Patriot’s History of the United States, argued that civics education must be grounded in “American exceptionalism.”
All of the founders understood that the bible and biblical virtues were necessary to a good education, and a civic order. So once again it comes down to those four pillars of American exceptionism: common law, a predominantly Christian religion, property rights, and free markets.
Limit Government, Not Campaign Speeches
One of the final sessions before Sarah Palin’s closing remarks was intended to give a number of congressional candidates challenging Republican incumbents the chance to make 5-minute speeches. A couple candidates were shortchanged by the fact that Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, running to unseat Sen. Richard Lugar, took about twice as much as his allotted time and Ted Cruz, running against Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP Senate primary, ran even longer.
Mourdock devoted his speech to the need for conservatives to “conquer” - conquer the media, educators, advocates of reproductive choice, big-spenders, anyone who thinks America is just an “average” nation, and all who “wish to crush our traditional American values,” presumably including 35-year Senate incumbent Lugar. Repeated Mourdock again and again, “Conquer we must!”
Cruz, who was also given time at last year’s Awakening Conference at Liberty University, argued that liberty is under assault like never before, that President Barack Obama is the “most radical president this country has ever seen,” and that the U.S. Senate is the key battleground. Cruz, who hopes to follow in the electoral footsteps of Florida’s Marco Rubio, is like Rubio the child of Cubans who came to the U.S. in the 1950s. Cruz brags that he is the only candidate this year supported by all four of his favorite senators: Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Pat Toomey, and called his primary “ground zero” in the battle between the Tea Party and the GOP’s “moderate establishment.”