Santorum’s blunt question

“How did it work out for the Republican establishment running ‘moderate’ candidates the last two elections?…After we leave here, we’ve got a job to do. We’ve got to win. We win by uniting.”

–former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, speaking at CPAC 2014

Rick Santorum (E. Kolb photo)
Rick Santorum (E. Kolb photo)

Seen at CPAC, day 2: a pair of showstoppers

I tweeted this morning that the three biggest hallway traffic stoppers up to that point were Allen West, Allen West, and Allen West.

Then came Senator Rand Paul. I got a clue about what was coming when I stopped by his book-signing session. The crowd was big (and young), and a pair of unsmiling young female bouncers sharply cut off anyone taking personal photos. I quickly brandished my blogger credential, and they left me in peace.

As the time for Sen. Paul’s speech approached, the ballroom with the main stage gradually filled up. Some of those people came to hear former senator Rick Santorum, who spoke immediately before Sen. Paul and who has a loyal following of his own. When Sen. Paul took the stage, however, there was no doubt the boss was in the house. Those of us in the media center in the back of the room had to content ourselves with glimpses of images of the senator on jumbo screens, occasionally visible through the sea of standing people.

As for the hallway outside the ballroom once Sen. Paul’s speech was over, the exiting crowd (I felt sorry for the next speaker) jammed it solidly. What’s usually a 60-second walk to the main staircase took about seven minutes.

Sen. Paul won last year’s CPAC straw poll. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he were to take bragging rights again when this year’s poll results are announced tomorrow.

 

 

SoCons & libertarians: Can we all just (sort of) get along?

There were two lively panels at CPAC today, meaning two panels that actually featured people with opposing views who aired their differences (in a civil manner, I might add). One involved the tension between national security and privacy. The other, much more relevant to the life issues, was about whether social conservatives and libertarians can ever get along. The discussion among the four men on that panel included reaction to the suggestion that lightening up on the social issues is the only way to make the GOP appeal to the rising generation. (The young people in the audience were by no means united in their responses to that.)

This topic interests me, because some of my closest political allies on the state level as far as life and marriage issues are concerned identify themselves as libertarians or “liberty Republicans.” We get along fine. Then again, a few fierce opponents of policies I favor are libertarian. Experience tells me that the answer to the can-we-get-along question is “sometimes.”

Michael Medved, author and political commentator, was the panelist whose ideas leaned most toward a natural synthesis of SoCon/libertarian. “Easing up on social issues is not an issue, because we both have a bigger problem: Big Government. What works, what we’ve seen work, is libertarian means and conservative goals.”

The example Medved cited was the right to life. In the past few years, many state-level laws regulating abortion have passed, and there has been a corresponding drop in the abortion rate, which is something prolife Americans have been working towards. The changes came at the state level, not federal. They came by legislative action – the branch closest to the people – not by judicial fiat, which has been seen far too often in state decisions on marriage. The changes in laws, Medved believes, reflect the gradual shift in public opinion that has come from local-level example and persuasion over the long term. Libertarian means, conservative goals.

I think he’s on to something. It’s not a complete treatment of the SoCon/libertarian tension, and it doesn’t address the fact that viewing the right to life as a local option makes it not a “right” at all. There’s no denying, though, that persuasion and state-level action have brought progress towards recognition of the right to life, while undermining the ’70s-era philosophy that pitted mothers against their preborn children.

And since neither SoCons nor libertarians are going away, insights like Medved’s are valuable.

Notes from CPAC 2014, day 1

The frugal blogger (c’est moi) saves money by flying into the Conservative Political Action Conference the day it opens, instead of spending money on a hotel room the night before. Unfortunately, the frugal blogger is subsequently wiped out by mid-evening, having gotten up at 4 a.m. to catch the morning flight, and has no energy to make a proper post at day’s end. I offer a few photos instead, leaving proper posts to the people who got more sleep.

Arriving at 8:45 a.m. with Ted Cruz scheduled to make the first speech at 9? Tough luck. Here’s what the media registration line looked like:

DSCF7579 (800x600)

But that’s OK, because Sen. Cruz later offered to sit down with some bloggers for a short Q&A session.

Sen. Ted Cruz (all photos by E. Kolb)
Sen. Ted Cruz (all photos by E. Kolb)

And by the way, if I were handing out awards to politicians who really seem to love meeting people without using staff as a buffer, Sen. Cruz would be a contender, as would Sen. Rand Paul and former Congressman Allen West.

Rep. Michele Bachmann at CPAC 2014
Rep. Michele Bachmann at CPAC 2014

Michele Bachmann can stop traffic just by showing up. She didn’t have a slot as a mainstage speaker today. She didn’t need one. She just stood by Radio Row and immediately drew a crowd.

Chris Christie surprised me – and a lot of other people, based on what I overheard around me – when he proudly identified himself as “prolife.” I was pretty sure someone nearby was muttering¬†hey, that’s no way for a moderate to talk!¬†But good for the Governor. He added that prolife means caring about people after birth as well as before, which is not exactly a news flash. Then he cemented his credentials as a Republican pragmatist when he pointed out, “We don’t get to govern if we don’t win.”

Congressman Paul Ryan
Congressman Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal both tore into the HHS mandate. We haven’t heard nearly enough about that lately from elected officials. It ain’t settled.

CPAC draws a youthful crowd; I’m guessing half the attendees are college students – most with a strong libertarian bent, if the students I spoke with today are representative of their peers.

Senator Tim Scott deserves more mic time than he got today.

The swag haul at CPAC can be huge. The dozens of exhibitors give away everything from bags (here’s a tip: get one of those first) to pins and shirts. Plenty of books are there to be purchased as well, with several authors holding book-signings during the conference.

One of my favorite authors, who was also one of my favorite speakers at last year’s CPAC, is Eric Metaxas. He’ll be speaking on the main stage tomorrow before moving to the exhibit hall to sign copies of his fine book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s on my Kindle, which probably rules out an autograph.

Phyllis Schafly was on a panel discussing Common Core and education. We should all hope to be that sharp at age 89.

More tomorrow, probably in several short posts, with tweets along the way @leaven4theloaf.