Stuff I’ve been writing

15 03 2010

This week I’m up against two exams, both on Tuesday: a Spanish exam and an econ exam.  The econ exam will be the more challenging to the two by far, so I’ve been trying to prepare accordingly.  Maybe an all-nighter tonight will be in order; we’ll see.

In the interest of not neglecting my blog, I’m just going to cop out and post some of the stuff I’ve written in the past few days.  Here’s an article for this weeks Michigan Review.  It’s sort of a CPAC retrospective—our spring break broke up our regular biweekly publication routine, so the timing could have been better, but there’s not much we could do about that.  Besides, it’s not like it’s any less relevant now, even if it’s a bit less timely…

This isn’t the published version, so there may be a few grammatical/spelling errors that got picked up during editing.  I really don’t have time to check now, though, so sorry in advance.

It’s been a few weeks since CPAC, the nation’s largest conservative conference, came to a close, and it’s a bit tough to tell exactly what everyone in attendance gained by going.  Not that I’d call the trip out to DC a waste of time by any measure; in the space of the few hours where I wasn’t completely hung over, I had the opportunity to hear a decent range of speakers and meet a lot of great and often inspiring people.

Yet as nice as it was to sit in a packed ballroom listening to conservative luminaries blow hot air, the whole forum started to become positively echo chamber-like after a while.  Perhaps this seemed so obvious to me because I consider myself libertarian, not conservative, and I was thus more likely to parse the words of whoever was at the microphone with skepticism and cynicism.  After all, it’s not difficult to coax a crowd into applause (and there was much applause) when you are telling them exactly what they want to hear, and it’s easy to tell a crowd exactly what they want to hear when your political party is out of power and you have no obligation or means to implement any of your promises.

So if I didn’t particularly care for most of the speakers I did see, and didn’t bother attending a large portion of the conference’s scheduled events, one might rightly wonder why I bothered going.  First, and most importantly, I got a great rate on a luxury hotel room for four nights.  Second, CPAC is kind of like a Petri dish: it’s very easy to study conservative culture and to get a feel for the direction of the conservative movement all while sitting at the hotel lobby bar, overpriced Manhattan in hand.

I did a lot of sitting around and listening.  It’s interesting enough to learn that conservatives my age do exist, let alone hear what they think is important.  Some common conversation topics included: waterboarding (“it’s torture, but I don’t care”), Sarah Palin and her political experience (or lack thereof), gays in the military (most individuals seemed indifferent), Scott Brown as a Presidential candidate (let’s not get ahead of ourselves), and ending the Federal Reserve.  Documentaries were being planned; new conservative websites were nearing launch.

Overall, I found the energy I had hoped to find; Obama’s fall from grace over the past year was reflected in the buoyant, fired up attitudes of the conference attendees.  Last year, we were going to batten down the hatches and endure the destruction of the Republic at the hands of the Socialist in Chief; instead, this year, we were going to take back our Congress, our Senate, and our country.  Hopefully the momentum lasts until November and beyond.

And the atmosphere at this year’s CPAC was markedly more libertarian than it was last year.  While I’m sure the limited-government focus of the Tea Party movement helped drive this shift, the hundreds of young Ron Paul supporters in attendance skewed the audience toward the libertarian end of the spectrum.  The Texan Congressman soundly beat out more mainstream GOP candidates in the CPAC 2012 Presidential straw poll, thanks in a large part to Paul’s well-funded and well-organized Campaign for Liberty.

As much as this libertarian shift dismayed some attendees (Jordan Monge, a sophomore at Harvard and a student journalist, warned that the ideological differences on display “threatened to divide the [Republican] party, rather than unify it”), it cannot be ignored.  The future well being of any movement lies in its youth, and if CPAC is any good indicator, the youth want a government less involved with both economic and social issues.  I’m glad I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with passionate, intelligent, and dedicated members of this burgeoning, libertarian-leaning movement, and I hope to go forward with a fraction of their enthusiasm in the upcoming year.

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