CPAC was a real circus this year, but the headline grabbing moments serve to illuminate the growing war within the party between young fiscal conservatives (idealists) versus the old guard social wedge issues strategists. First we had the Ron Paul supporters crying out, “War criminal!” at Dick Cheney (my heroes!) and then we had the Palin pretender who actually took interviews (this should have tipped off the Republicans in doubt as to her authenticity) and we had the Presidential candidate straw poll that left Sarah Palin clinging to the dust of Michele Bachmann’s crazy train.
In addition to the headline circus acts, however, the FrumForum conducted its own CPAC poll, and it’s this poll that tells the story of a party divided by social wedge issues, a party seriously threatened and at risk. It seems the younger conservatives at CPAC don’t want to restrict the freedom or voices of gay Republicans.This poll, of course, should delight the sane among us.
FrumForum conducted a poll on CPAC attendees and their view on the inclusion of gay conservative group GOProud at CPAC:
“We found that despite the recent controversy of the inclusion of GOProud, most conference attendees supported the group’s presence. Out of a survey of 50 CPAC attendees, thirty-one (62%) supported the inclusion of GOProud at the conference, and only three (6%) opposed the group’s presence. Five respondents had never heard of the group (10%), and eleven had no opinion (22%).
CPAC attracted a large young population that seemed to have more liberal social values and conservative economic values. As the official CPAC straw poll showed, 49% of CPAC attendees were between the ages of 18-25.
Concerning GOProud, conservatives from all over the country were tolerant of sexuality, as long as the group inhabited conservative values.”
The forum goes on to list several quotes from attendees, which suggest that said attendees are actually sane. Even more damaging to the current strategy of the Republican party, the attendees believe that the GOP is about fiscal conservatism. The attendees suggest, for instance, that people’s private lives should be private, in keeping with the small government mantra the GOP rolls out every time a microphone is near. Never mind that their actual governing priorities are all about restricting freedoms of everyone but white males.
Another attendee suggests that our rights don’t come to us as members of a group, but as individuals, and hence, the gay Republicans have just as many rights as the non-gay Republicans. Oh, Johnny, someone didn’t get the memo! My favorite quote, “If you’re really going to be conservative and have those Christian-based right wing values, we’re gonna welcome people of all makes, models, and races,” noted Kelly of Michigan. Wise words, Kelly. But I’m afraid the big boys can’t use that kind of common sense Christianity, so you’re going to be sorely disappointed once again. Your job is to judge, judge, judge and then vigorously seek to impose your values upon others. Never mind what Jesus said. Jesus never ran for office!
See, the younger folks at CPAC seem to care most about fiscal conservatism. Perhaps we had a large Ron Paul contingency at CPAC, which would explain some of the responses to the social issues poll. But since these are the primary voters, the young activists, it serves to demonstrate just how vulnerable the party is to its own rhetoric and strategies.
The GOP doesn’t have a fiscal plan for America and they don’t use fiscal plans to get elected. During the 2010 elections, for example, they never presented a plan or alternative to the healthcare law or the jobs crisis, they simply talked about “big government” intrusion and the “job-killing healthcare law”, sprinkled in with their standard “brown people taking over the world” fear tactics. The GOP has been relying upon social wedge issues and vague promises of small government to get elected for 40 years now. If young conservatives are not interested in social wedge issues, the GOP is in big trouble. They’re going to have to scramble to come up with a real fiscal agenda, and yet they didn’t even have jobs on the CPAC agenda this year. How can the GOP have a legitimate fiscal agenda without addressing the number one crisis in America right now?
The GOP sold its rhetoric about small government and fiscal conservatism to this younger generation of Republicans, but this generation isn’t buying into the social wedge issues trick. This puts the GOP in the precarious position of having to live up to their stated rhetoric or ultimately lose these critical young activists. But since the GOP has been borrowing and spending like drunken sailors, allowing Bush to steer the fiscal failure of Reagan trickle-down economics into the ditch by leaving wars off of the budget all together and never paying for anything, they are in some deep troubles.
If the GOP can’t convince these young activists to care about restricting the freedoms of gays, women, and to fear anyone with brown skin, their entire strategy for winning elections needs to be re-thought. Also, they’re going to have big problems with their public relations firm, Fox News, which is currently geared to pleasing the older whites in the party with divisive social wedge tactics and generating fear among the elderly.
Of course, all parties have their young idealists who serve to activate the get out the vote drives but also dangerously buy into the stated goals of the party without understanding the pragmatic concessions involved in governing. However, only the GOP has ridden on the coat tails of disingenuous social wedge issues and not only failed to deliver on most of them, but failed to live up to their primary claimed value of fiscal conservatism.
The GOP has no fall-back position. They are a plastic model car without an engine competing in a race where the Democratic Party, having actually managed to co-opt their fiscal responsibility mantle, is driving a M6 BMW on twisty roads. Their only saving grace has been the Democratic Party’s failure to seize this mantle and gloat over it publicly, though Nancy Pelosi gave it a good run and President Obama is nose to nose with them coming around the corner, but he’ll need the economy to improve to drive this point home.
While the Frum poll may have given a megaphone to a smaller faction within the GOP of the Ron Paulers, it makes sense that the GOP will have a challenge with a majority of younger conservative activists – at least those who weren’t home schooled, and hence were exposed to the world as it is today. Younger generations simply don’t care about gay marriage and they don’t fear brown people to the degree that older Republican whites do. The days of social wedge issues driving enough people to the polls out of fear may be numbered.