[Wiping away the drool]
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
I was asked yesterday whether I would be going to CPAC, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which is currently being held a half-hour’s walk from my office in D.C. It was a logical question, not only since the meetings are so close at hand but also because for five years I chaired CPAC.
CPAC brings together conservative activists from every corner of America. As national chairman of the American Conservative Union, a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation, and director of the policy task forces for Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, speaking at CPAC and shaping the program were high priorities on my personal agenda every year, even while serving in Congress.
But the answer to yesterday’s question was “no.” No, I’m not going to CPAC. And, truth be told, most of the folks there wouldn’t want me there. They wouldn’t think I’m a conservative; many wouldn’t think Barry Goldwater was a conservative; many, had this been three decades ago, might have been seeking a “true” conservative to run against Ronald Reagan. I don’t begrudge these activists their views and they are entitled to use the term “conservative” to describe themselves if they so choose. But the views many of them profess have little in common with the distinctly American kind of conservatism that gave birth to CPAC and the modern American conservative movement…
I’m not at CPAC because I believe in America. I believe in liberty. I believe that governments should be held in check. I believe people matter. I believe in the flag not because of its shape or color but because of the principles it stands for–the principles in the Constitution, the principles repeated and underlined and highlighted and boldfaced and italicized in the Bill of Rights. The George W. whose presidency and precedents I admire was the first president, not the 43d. It is James Madison I admire, not John Yoo. Thomas Paine, not Glenn Beck. Jefferson, not Limbaugh.
Ronald Reagan would not have been welcome at today’s CPAC or a tea party rally, but he would not have wanted to be there, either. Neither do I.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have friends and family who left the Republican Party after 50 years dedicated membership. Most left during the reign of King George W.. None would be inclined to return to the fold as designed and led by Dick Cheney, Dick Armey and the Birchers. Traditional American conservatism never marched to goosestep drums.