I have been to two CPACs, in 2008 and 2010. In 2008, the Ron Paul supporters were a few isolated crazy people and Paul came in fourth in the presidential straw poll, with 12% of the vote. In 2010 — well, you already know.
The shift in power toward Ron Paul and the Campaign for Liberty is so astounding that I probably would not fully believe it had I not been present at CPAC this year myself — which is not to say that C4L is anywhere close to its goal of reclaiming the Republican Party. We should remember that 69% of straw poll voters voted for someone other than Ron Paul. Dick Cheney got a standing ovation, to chants of “Run, Dick, Run!” (meaning “run for president,” not “you better run, you bastard” as per my chant.) And Marco Rubio got similar applause when he giggled over the thought of waterboarding terrorists.
Nevertheless, revolutions don’t occur by sheer majority force alone. They occur when a determined minority is well organized enough to actually realize its ideals. It is often cited that before the American revolution, one third of people were patriots, one third were loyalists, and one third were indifferent. By this standard, the libertarians are well on their way to reclaiming the GOP. When I was passing out flyers for C4L, more than a few people responded, “I already have five of those! You people are everywhere!” This is true testament to C4L’s excellent organizational capacity.
Take another instance: that of the bizarre homophobe Ryan Sorba. Yes, he was booed off stage for condemning CPAC’s decision to invite a gay Republican group. But the next day, Ann Coulter received laughter and applause when she said in sarcastic reference to President Obama’s drive to allow gays in the military, “If that doesn’t make you feel safe, I don’t know what will.” Sorba, however had the misfortune of appearing right before Ron Paul’s official CPAC address, and the room was full of C4L and YAL supporters. If it was not for them, I do not think CPAC attendees would have booed. But they were there, and they controlled the audience, and, as such, the panel.
The liberty movement has a long way to go. But I saw CPAC 2010 as the movement flexing its muscle, and the neocons and party hacks are starting to take notice. Even for a congenital pessimist like me, it was hard to leave CPAC this year without a sense of optimism.Published in