By Doug Porter
The annual Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference is underway. Billing itself as the largest conservative conference in the country, it has in past years served as a political fashion show for politicians of the right-wing persuasion.
This time it’s different. CPAC amounts to a day of reckoning for conservatives. Will they pledge allegiance to The Donald? Or will they fight on? A history of generous donations to the sponsoring American Conservative Union has apparently greased the wheels for a Trump appearance on Saturday morning.
Other GOP candidates, past and present will also speak at various times during the four-day event. But it’s The Donald that has everybody’s attention. And since it’s impossible to read thru the media today without seeing coverage of some angle of his ascendancy, I’ll share some of what I found.
He Kissed a Boy (And He Liked It)
At the National Review, Jim Geraghty is just about frothing at the mouth over Trump even daring to set foot in the hallowed halls of conservatism:
The previously pro-choice, thrice-married casino and strip-club owner who bragged of his affairs with married women, kissed Rudy Giuliani dressed in drag, defends Planned Parenthood, and says he’s never asked for God’s forgiveness . . . is winning the Evangelical vote in state after state and was endorsed by Jerry Falwell Jr.
The Republican front-runner pledges to demand financial compensation from U.S. allies for their protection by American military forces. He speaks warmly of Vladimir Putin and praised the Chinese crackdown in Tiananmen Square as showing “the power of strength.” He has promised to give the U.S. military at least two unlawful orders that they would likely refuse to obey (kill the families of terrorists and do a “hell of a lot worse” than waterboarding). He periodically calls for seizing Middle Eastern oil fields, wants to ban all Muslim visitors to the United States, and pledges to remain “neutral” between Israel and Palestine.
Who’s ready to party?
At Politico, there’s an article about Sen. Marco Rubio’s people (and others) trying to create a ruckus over The Donald’s appearance at CPAC.
The anti-Trump super PAC Make America Awesome this week launched a petition calling on the ACU to rescind its invitation to Trump. If plans for Trump’s speech proceed, the group is planning some form of protest at the convention center hosting CPAC in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, according to Liz Mair, the GOP strategist behind the PAC.
Allowing Trump to speak “will do lasting and huge (yuge!) damage to the reputations of CPAC, ACU, individual ACU board members, the conservative movement, and indeed the GOP and America,” Mair wrote in an email. Her group’s petition notes that the ACU has in the past snubbed high-profile Republican politicians — notably including Arizona Sen. John McCainand New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — for various deviations from conservative orthodoxy. McCain and Christie have both accepted invitations to speak in earlier years, and the petition asserts both men “are clearly more conservative” than Trump, who also has spoken at past CPACs, as have his rivals for the 2016 nomination — Rubio, Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
The #NeverTrump Pledge
Just about everywhere you look, there are listicles popping up with Republicans who’ve gone public with pledges not to vote for Trump. Here are examples, with lots of overlap: The Hill, NBC, Fortune, Bloomberg View.
Locally, libertarian stalwart Brian Brady has taken to SDRostra to call out Trump as a Republican (gasp) Progressive:
We will sit this election out and let a Democratic progressive fall on her face rather than let a Republican progressive destroy the conservative movement.
I won’t support Trump ever and there are tens of millions like me right now. It would be nice to hear some local electeds do the same. It may cost you your political career but if you care about the future of the conservative movement, you will soundly reject this charlatan by name, communicate your intent to abstain in November clearly, and show some damned leadership. If you don’t, I understand but don’t ask me for any favors locally.
Without movement conservatives and “established Republican” voters, Trump can’t beat Hillary Clinton. Heck, he is polling to a loss against her now.
#NeverTrump Not Today. Not in November. Your move.
The Creature Escapes from the Laboratory
The concept that Republicans are reaping what they sowed has gained traction with a lot of left of center pundits, and I have to say I agree.
Eight years of being sore losers can have unintended consequences.
Bob Cesca at Salon says pundit Bill Kristol (who’s now opposed to Trump) deserves some of the credit, thanks to his influence in propelling Sarah Palin on the 2008 GOP ticket:
Kristol’s GOP is about stunt-casting and pandering to the basest human instincts of its voters, and he deserves to be held accountable for all that. As we can clearly observe in The National Review this week, they’ll never own their wrongness, nor will they ever admit that they planted the fuzzy orange seeds that gave us the age of Trump. But the party of personal responsibility so rarely is, so don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology.
For eight years and more, we’ve been warning the GOP about the bumper-sticker blurting — the patriotic Mad Libs of empty suits like Trump, Bush and Palin. Only now, after it’s too late, are some of them beginning to see the light. Let historians record that Trump’s seeming invincibility didn’t happen in a vacuum. He’s not a political outlier, he’s the future of the Republican Party, and we only need to look to his most vocal conservative opponents to discover who’s responsible for giving us the Trump clown show.
It’s Bill O’Reilly’s Fault
Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic points to the influence of the conservative infotainment complex:
…All movements are vulnerable to populist excesses and the self-destructive impulses of their core supporters. Good leaders can help to mitigate those pathologies. Bad leaders magnify them.
Within movement conservatism, hugely popular intellectual leaders abandoned the most basic norms of decency, as when Mark Levin screamed at a caller that her husband should shoot himself; stoked racial tensions, as when Rush Limbaugh avowed that in President Obama’s America folks think white kids deserve to get beat up by black kids on busses; and indulged paranoid conspiracy theories, as when Roger Ailes aired month-after-month of Glenn Beck’s chalk-board monologues.
Erick Erickson now complains that many Republicans are supporting “a man of mountainous ego” who “preys on nationalistic, tribal tendencies.” But this is what happens when millions of people spend a decade with Bill O’Reilly in their living rooms each evening and Ann Coulter books on their nightstands for bedtime reading. Let’s not treat it as a mystery that their notion of what’s credible is out of whack.
Chairman Mao Did It
At the Daily Beast, Tom Nichols tried (and failed) to say that Trump was a creation of the left’s political correctness police, as in the people who dare complain about the right’s vacuous noise machine who are somehow denying them freedom of speech.
These brutish leftist tactics radicalized otherwise more centrist people toward Trump not because they care so much about gay marriage or guns or refugees any other issue, but because they’re terrified that they’re losing the basic right to express themselves. Many of these people are not nearly as conservative or extreme as the white supremacists, nativists, and other assorted fringe nuts who are riding along on Trump’s ego trip. But they are cheering on Trump because they feel they have nowhere else to go. And for that, liberals—especially those who have politely looked away as such methods were employed in the public square—must directly shoulder the blame.
The great mistake made by both liberals and their most extreme wing on the American left is to assume that ordinary people, once corrected forcefully enough, will comply with their new orders. This is, of course, ridiculous: Americans do not magically become complacent and accepting multiculturalists just because they’ve been bullied out of the public debate. They will find a new vessel for their views, and will become more extreme with each attempt to shut them down as the issue moves from particular social positions to the far more encompassing problem of who has the right to tell whom to shut up, and to make it stick. Nixon’s “Silent Majority” increasingly feels itself to be a silenced majority, and Trump is their solution.
This kind of thinking fits in well with Jeffrey Lord’s utterances, a former Reagan administration official now working as a Trump surrogate for CNN, where he called the KKK a “leftist” organization and said it’s the terrorist wing of the Democratic Party. (Wait! I thought it was Black Lives Matter…. I’m so confused…)
I’ll Take My Marbles and Go Home…
So now there’s talk from The Donald (again) and the aforementioned Bill Kristol about a third party if they don’t get their way.
From the New York Times:
William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, said he would work actively to put forward an “independent Republican” ticket if Mr. Trump was the nominee, and floated Mr. Sasse as a recruit.
“That ticket would simply be a one-time, emergency adjustment to the unfortunate circumstance (if it happens) of a Trump nomination,” Mr. Kristol wrote in an email. It “would support other Republicans running for Congress and other offices, and would allow voters to correct the temporary mistake (if they make it) of nominating Trump.”
As Laura Clawson at Daily Kos notes in response to the NYT quote:
Thing is, Trump is much more likely to follow through and more likely to draw a substantial number of votes if he does. It looks like that threat is no longer enough to fully protect him from attack. But on the flip side, he’s probably not lying awake at night worrying about Bill Kristol recruiting a senator few people have ever heard of to mount a third-party challenge if Trump is the nominee.
And, as Trump’s looking to expand his base for the general election, this:
So it appears Donald Trump’s campaign photoshopped their model to be brown: pic.twitter.com/V0DghCiQAW
— Eric Ming (@ericming5) March 3, 2016
On This Day: 1906 – The lumber workers’ union local in Humboldt County, Calif., founded the Union Labor Hospital Association to establish a hospital for union workers in the county. The hospital became an important community facility that was financed and run by the local labor movement. 1908 – The U.S. government declared open war on domestic anarchists. 1931 – The first jazz album to sell a million copies was recorded. It was “Minnie The Moocher” by Cab Calloway.
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