I had many questions today inquiring as to my take on the CPAC event that occurred over the weekend. I set out to watch a bit of it from what is available online (CSPAN had the entire library online earlier in the week), and read a few stories from the more conservative magazines to look into what “conservatives” themselves think, or thought, about the event. I put the word conservatives in quotes because I am not sure what conservatives believe the word means. There is widespread disagreement, even within CPAC, about the meaning of the word.
At any rate, I was asked about Ron Paul’s showing at CPAC, winning that straw poll. I think, as a matter of course viz polls, that it is meaningless. Reading anything into a poll where those voting are self-selected, and where the attendees to an event are self-selected means that it is unlikely representative of not only the group, but the Republican or Democrat parties. Some students today were rightly curious why this received so much news play. Interesting though it might be, it really is not much of a news story. The showing by anyone in that poll does not reflect the general population. What I found a little interesting was the fact the crowd basically booed when they found out Paul had won it:
There is not a small amount of restlessness and criticism, on the part of conservative intellectuals over people like Beck, and even Sarah Palin (who was not at the event). Conservative intellectuals seem to be dividing along the lines of expediency and populism. Beck and Palin represent the populist wing of the party, and, well, they are popular. It may be expedient to support them, but to what end? Will supporting them hurt their movement in the long run? The intellectuals seem to be saying they are too populist and hence are inexpedient forces to stitch together a lasting coalition. There could be a split before November thus mitigating the elections at the end of this year if the intellectual/activist divide on the right widens. That will be to the profit of President Obama should it occur. But, I realize that is unlikely to happen. The intellectual dissatisfaction on the right is not widespread, and many others who might be privately uncomfortable with people like Beck and Palin, will keep that concern private.
George Will delivered a great speech, according to some on the right, even if you disagree with the substance. I found the speech online, and embed it below. It is a combination of humor, wit, and intellectual assessment. It even provides a bit of temperance to the listener. The rhetoric and oratory is pretty well crafted and delivered. This is what we call a high brow speech:
CPAC does give people a view of the various interests on the right side of the isle of those who self-identify as “conservative.” A more academic discussion would include what conservatism is. Thanks to Ann Althouse, we have have Sen. Dirksen’s view of the matter (circa 1967, & below). But, we may want to save that discussion for another day. CPAC shows us the activists on the right. That does not mean they are representative of any party, but it does mean it is representative of a self-selected few.
I would be interested in hearing from others on this event.