A Quick Glance: Conservatives and CPAC

The great conservative convention came and went, just like every year.  But this year showed something more than previous years—no, not a fractured party undergoing “civil war.”  This past weekend showcased a boxed-in party, a movement that fortunately includes a great debate, not a great divide.

The obvious:

Senator Rand Paul won the straw poll in a convincing fashion, showing that the libertarian-leaning bastions within the Republican ranks are indeed “dangerous,” to use Governor Chris Christie’s words. That’s a good thing. The GOP must move past simply calling libertarians “dangerous,” which will only stifle debate and momentum going into 2016.

There aren’t many fresh faces in the speaker crowd: Paul Ryan, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Marco Rubio were all there. Rand Paul seems to be the only one pushing for a new way forward, not just an intense focus on criticizing the President.

Indeed, the top applause came from speakers’ one-liners about President Obama’s perceived failures. This is an easy target so far into a presidency, and it’s effective for galvanizing the base.

The not-so-obvious:

Nervousness. I didn’t even have to be there to witness it—just watching people’s faces from the television convinced me. Why then, do I say it’s not-so-obvious?

Republicans are facing an uphill battle in ’16. They know it. Democrats know it.  The GOP is trying to catch up in the technology deficit, the true weapon in any modern national election battle. The party chair, Reince Priebus, stated he felt like they are gaining ground, but have yet to catch up, a rather rare and sincere answer given their uncertainty off success in ’16. 

This party soul-searching isn’t new, as evidenced by the Democratic Party of the 1980s. It’s also wasn’t the only interesting dynamic at CPAC 2014. CPAC invited gay rights advocacy groups to attend, just not speak or really be involved. Likewise, Ann Coulter’s argument that illegal immigration should be stigmatized the way smoking has been was controversial, and these . 

To continue to be a national party, the GOP must listen to and embrace a more diverse group of people, and figure out ways to help these groups by advancing liberty. Unfortunately, the Republican establishment at CPAC seemed more interested in looking backward and explaining what they oppose rather than pitching new and innovative plans.

What does a successful Republican Party in 2016 look like?  If it’s just opposing something without giving an alternative, or at least showing why your vision of the future is better, that’s not going to cut it. Stop talking about the “city on a hill” and actually build it for all Americans. Republicans must open their arms to more people if they ever wish to place another man or woman in the oval office, particularly with the support of us young folks.

A version of this post was originally published by Turning Point USA.

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