Founded in 1973, CPAC has morphed from a conservative organization into a meeting of co-conspirators, seditionists, and insurrectionists and those cheering them on — politicians whose acts of sedition now represent the base of the Republican Party.
Some call it TPAC, the Party of Trump. This group fails to acknowledge Trump caused the party’s losses in the 2018 midterms, lost the White House and caused the loss of two Georgia Senate seats. The problem for the reasonable Republicans remaining is they know they can’t win with Trump and can’t win without his voters. This should be good news for Democrats.
I first met some conservative operatives after meeting Terry Dolan in a D.C. gay bar. He co-founded NCPAC in 1975 with Charlie Black and Roger Stone. It was an organization that got its start with direct mail solicitations. Terry lived by the motto “The shriller you are, the better it is to raise money.” At the time we were both in the closet; the difference being I had worked for Bella S. Abzug (D-N.Y.) who first introduced the Equality Act in 1974 and was working for the Carter administration and would soon come out. Terry worked for rabidly anti-gay candidates and spoke out against the LGBTQ community even while going to gay bars in Dupont. He never did come out before dying of AIDS in 1986. His organization died off not long after Terry died.
Years later I was to learn more about the conservative movement and CPAC when they moved into offices down the hall from my office on H Street in D.C. I would go out for drinks with their then executive director. I talked about CPAC with some of the leaders of the Log Cabin Republicans when there was still some sanity in that group. Today both groups are living in an alternate universe. They support politicians who are blatant liars, sexists, racists, and homophobes. Log Cabin recently boasted that their statement against the Equality Act was inserted into the Congressional Record by the insane Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and came at the initiation of QAnon Congressperson Marjorie Taylor Green who their Georgia group is close to and supportive of. What alternative universe is that from?
The speakers at CPAC all seem to reside in that alternate universe. They believe in alternate facts getting their information from FOX and NewsMax. They appear to buy into any conspiracy presented whether from QAnon or just plain liars, racists, sexists and homophobes like Donald Trump, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. The insanity reached a point this year when former Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Minority Leader ‘Moscow’ Mitch McConnell wouldn’t attend CPAC because they were afraid of being booed out of the room. CPAC attendees wheeled a gold statue of Trump into the ballroom to bow down to their idol. Never mind their idol may soon end up in jail for tax evasion and fraud.
It all seems otherworldly but this is a majority of today’s Republican Party. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) denounced the $15 minimum wage, suggesting he could go along with a $10 minimum in his state only learning after his speech that Arkansas has already approved an $11 minimum wage. Ted Cruz, sounding totally deranged screaming at the audience, joked about COVID and his trip to Cancun as if millions of the Texans he represents aren’t still suffering from the worst disaster they have ever seen, and thousands have died from COVID. Cruz’s jokes about masks were cheered and the Orlando Sentinel reported “At one point CPAC organizers were booed and met with chants of ‘freedom!’ when they asked the crowd to comply (with wearing masks).” This in Florida, which has seen nearly two million coronavirus cases and 31,000 deaths.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, Democrats in the House of Representatives passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package to move the country forward from the pandemic. It contains money to open schools, help state and local governments to balance their budgets to avoid layoffs of teachers, nurses, and other first responders. It has money for the unemployed to buy food and pay their rent, and for small businesses to remain afloat and pay their employees.
If Democrats stick together and don’t have their usual circular firing squad they can take advantage of what is happening at CPAC to win more Senate and House seats in the mid-term elections. Republicans are giving us this chance let’s make the most of it for the American people.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.