In the halls of the Gaylord Hotel at the National Harbor just outside of Washington DC, the scene of CPAC 2013, confusion was palpable. Emotions were mixed as crowds gathered to hear speeches from the Republican Party’s motley crew of aspiring leaders. Organizers frantically tinkered with the schedule, changing times and moving speakers to accommodate competing agendas, messages, and events. In the end, the conference left many wanting and sparked more questions than answers.
Perhaps one question stands out among the rest—what is the future of conservatism in America? The New York Times skewered CPAC, leading with the following byline, “GOP Divisions Fester at Conservative Retreat.” Indeed, divisions were legion: Tea Party against establishment, interventionist against isolationist, and amnesty against accountability.
The disunion manifested in human form. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush implored Republicans to eschew their ant-immigrant, anti-women, anti-gay persona. Sarah Palin charged that Republicans needed a rhetorical facelift. Senator Rand Paul called the GOP “stale and moss covered” while Senator Marco Rubio rebuffed, “We don’t need a new idea.” Mitt Romney, the keynote speaker, somberly asked Republicans to learn from their mistakes, and his.
This leads us to reality. Despite the dubious claims by conservative thinkers like George Will, who claim that the issues tearing apart the GOP are a source of strength, the reality is that the Republican Party is in meltdown. A party divided against itself cannot stand.
The Grand Old Party is undergoing a heart transplant and suffering a stroke at the same time. But before you tremble with fear for the future of America, bear in mind that the principle enemy to conservatism today is the GOP, not the DNC. Republicans caved to the New Deal. Republicans expanded LBJ’s Great Society Programs. Republicans granted the first amnesty. Republicans first exploded the country’s national debt. Conservatives stood by, happy to accept electoral victory even if their candidates failed to follow through on conservative principles.
And now Republicans want to finish off conservatism, this time for good. Senators McCain and Graham want amnesty for illegals, Speaker Beohner and Whip Cantor have conceded on Obamacare, and Representative Ryan’s budget actually increases federal spending for years to come.
But this time the GOP has gone too far. The conservative right has had enough. Conservative radio has grown defiant, filling the air waves with angry Americans who demand representation in Washington. They want a new voice, a new message, and a new party that represents their views, the views of people who are confronting America’s real problems.
The American people are beginning to realize their country is breaking down economically, culturally, and spiritually. Almost 50 million Americans are on food stamps. Over ten million are unemployed or underemployed. Well over 12 million illegal immigrants steal our jobs, exploit our public services, and ignore our laws. Washington is broke. The federal government brings in enough revenue to fund three major programs: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The rest of government is paid for with borrowed money, and much of that is printed out of thin air by the Fed.
Conservatism is not dead; it is finally emerging from hibernation. After decades of showing up at the polls to vote for RINOs or liberals, conservatives are walking away. A new party is on the horizon. The question is who will lead us there?
Cameron Macgregor is a former naval officer and USNA grad. He is currently a graduate student a George Mason University.