Republicans have not held the White House for a CPAC gathering since 2008. It was at the start of a year when Republican operatives and activists weren’t optimistic about their chances of winning the presidency. CPAC 2017 marked the first time a Republican was in office and only the second time (the first being Ronald Reagan) a sitting President spoke at CPAC.
Unfortunately, President Trump’s speech was a standard Trump speech. Delusions of grandeur (“Nobody loves the first amendment more than me!”), absurd ideas (“The media shouldn’t be allowed to use anonymous sources!”), and attacks on the press (“They are the enemy.”). Typical stuff.
In 2012, Andrew Breitbart’s “two paths” speech electrified the CPAC crowd, looking to unify people behind the candidate, who was expected to be Mitt Romney. Even in 2016, the nomination had not been decided yet, and Ted Cruz drove the place wild by taking aim at — Donald Trump (who canceled).
As for 2017, aside from Milo Yiannopoulos being invited, then unceremoniously uninvited and some local employee who took a deadly header off the roof of a parking garage, CPAC 2017 had no defining moments. What could have been a rallying cry for particular policy proposals such as the repeal of Obamacare, tax reform, and entitlement reform, was wasted on typical speeches and silly panels such as “If Heaven Has a Gate, A Wall, and Extreme Vetting, Why Can’t America?,” “Is Political Correctness Killing US Institutions?” and “Facts, Not Feelings: Snowflakes, Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings.”
Once again, many conservatives seem to be focused more on catering to outrage culture than they are to governing effectively. After all, tax policy is boring. Entitlement reform is boring. Yelling about “safe spaces” and “precious snowflakes” is where it’s at, apparently. And why not? There are plenty of scam Super PAC’s sending out emails bashing Speaker Ryan, looking for donations they’ll use for nothing other than to pay their three-person staff and vendors who are tasked with increasing the size of their mailing list.
This may sound cynical, but it’s not. It is merely indicative of where a large segment of the conservative movement resides. As I said last week, so many are happy if “the libs” are pissed off, and conservatives are “sticking it to the man” (i.e., ‘the establishment’ and ‘the liberal media.’)
Catering to outrage culture may have worked when Obama was President because options were limited. Without a veto-proof majority in Congress, Republicans were restricted in what they could accomplish. But Republicans now control the House, Senate, and the White House. Assuming Neil Gorsuch is confirmed, there is a Supreme Court makeup reminiscent of when Scalia was there. Republicans have zero excuses for not getting anything done.
Republicans have a choice. They can pass legislation that would make Bill Buckley and Ronald Reagan nod in approval. Or they can get nothing done but “piss off the libs” and watch as their majority goes down the tubes. At that point, what’s the use of CPAC?