CPAC, that annual cattle call of opinion leaders on the right hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU) will for the first time in its history leave the Washington DC area in 2021. The ACU which non long ago was led by Floridian Al Cardenes is now led by the mega-MAGA insider Matt Schlapp. Yes the same Schalapp that was recently in the news for banking $750k selling pardons.
It is highly appropriate, yet depressing CPAC would relocate to Florida, the home of COVID denial (outside featured CPAC Speaker Kristi Noem’s South Dakota of course) and most MAGA of mega-states (though Ohio is really giving Florida a run for its money on this score – maybe CPAC 2022 will hit Cincinnati). Governor Ron DeSantis will kick off the conference on Friday morning and President Donald Trump will close it Sunday afternoon. These speeches will serve a book-ends on a weekend which will no doubt truly make the blood boil. CPAC, once a gathering of ambitious William Buckley and Milton Friedman wannabes is now the exclusive province of Trumpists, Insurrections, and anti-science nutcases.
For “conservatives”, unconcerned about spreading a deadly virus and wishing to pay homage to President Trump, the Hyatt Regency Orlando on I Drive provides the perfect venue. Unencumbered by sorts of restrictions indoor events would have in any truly civilized place where leaders are concerned about public health and safety, the ACU is bringing its show to Florida.
On Friday morning, Governor DeSantis will kick off a weekend of festivities that will focus on “election security” and fighting “cancel culture.” Within the first hour of the conference former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who also served as a lawyer for President Trump will speak. Over the course of the next three days, MAGA regulars, rightest provocateurs, conspiracy-theorists and insurrections will all get their turn at the microphone.
Conservatism, once a vibrant and respectable western ideology is no longer practiced among GOP leaders. The few conservatives left in the Republican Party, like Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse have to face the ridicule of MAGA-hat wearing rabble back home. In its place is the most unconservative of ideologies. This weekend CPAC speakers will rail against “cancel culture,” while having no less than five panel discussions about “securing elections.”
However “cancel culture” really is, the most conservative of things. It’s the free market expressing its will based on consumer choices and preferences without the prodding or interference of government. “Cancel culture,” is private industry making decisions to stay ahead of the curve in a world unlike politics where accountability and good public relations makes or breaks you.
We hear from “conservatives” like South Carolina Nikki Haley, Governor DeSantis and others that “de-platforming” politicians whose words and spreading of lies encourage violence is what they do in Communist China. Actually it is the OPPOSITE of what happens in totalitarian countries. Under the DeSantis remedy which he has suggested in Florida (in a moment of pure demagoguery, but maybe he was serious?), much like the Soviet Union or Communist China, tech companies would have to abide by the will of the government. They would be forced to allow any politician of the ruling class to spew whatever nonsense they wish. THIS IS EXACTLY HOW ANTI-DEMOCRATIC DICTATORSHIPS OPERATE.
Any logical person can appreciate the January 6 coup, an armed insurrection with the intent of stopping the functioning of American government was incited in plain view by Republican politicians and conservative talking heads on social media. If we are truly a developed, country, a western democracy we would embrace the efforts of private companies to restrict indecent speech that could lead to the collapse of our Republic.
In fairness those of us on the left should have a broader discussion about whether market-driven cancel culture is really fantastic or a partially illiberal thing we should be careful about fully embracing – maybe some sort of halfway house. But that’s a topic for another day, perhaps a day sometime in the future when we once again have two parties in this country both committed to democracy. Until then, “cancel culture” might be the only way for the free market to reign in wanna be authoritarians.
This is the new core of the Republican Party. Deeply committed to unconservative principles, personality cults, conspiracy theories and in economics, the type of direct government involvement objective people might call “Lemon Socialism.” Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) one of the leading inspirations for the January 6 coup has articulated a new populist vision for the GOP which can be summarized as direct government subsidies for those who support the GOP, regulations on anyone who opposes them and outright demonetization of the media and “elites” that are no longer supporting the GOP. Hawley’s ideology is a mixture of left-wing socialism and right-wing racially coded populism. This is who the Republicans are today.
Under Donald Trump, the GOP completed its transition from a conservative party to one obsessed with regressive social views which combined with populist anti-market driven economics lead to a morally bankrupt movement. These “conservatives” more closely resembled the old styled segregationists of the Democratic Party here in Florida and other parts of the south – those who embraced the largess of government except when it infringed on racism and lynching.
Conservatisim was once sunny and optimistic. Now it’s bitter and angry and not conservative at all. They whine about popular vote majorities for their opponents and make no real attempt to build a majority behind their policy views. They are a movement of angry, aggrieved, drop outs from polite society, a group committed to personality-cults and “winning” at all costs rather than democracy or traditional American values.
CPAC has evolved from a mass gathering of conservative intellectuals in the 1990’s, to a mixture of intellectuals and conservative entertainment media types by the 2000’s, to an event dominated by young crazies in 2010’s, to a flat-out conspiracy driven conference featuring some of the most offensive figures in American public life by 2020. This weekend’s gathering in Florida will complete the full conversion.
Even if the ACU’s decision to leave the Washington D.C, area for 2021 was forced by Covid restrictions, it’s appropriate the conference which will be a mass gather of insurrections and those echoing the “big lie,” about the 2020 Presidential Election.
CPAC 2021 in Orlando will be the final statement of cancellation of Conservative principles by self-proclaimed conservatives who are more nationalists and socialists than anything resembling conservative.