Here’s how you’ll know the conservative movement means something again: when the Conservative Political Action Conference moves its annual meeting from Washington, D.C., to Rockford.  Or Dubuque.  Or Peoria.  Or Helena.  Or San Antonio.  Or Bakersfield.  Or Murfreesboro.

Anywhere but the District of Corruption.

Conservatives flock from around the country to CPAC, expecting to advance the movement and gain some insight into what’s going on with “our” government.  Presidential wannabes deliver unctuous oratories aimed at getting the attendees’ endorsement.

This year’s CPAC straw-poll “winner” was, for the second year in a row, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).  His father, Ron, won the 2010 and 2011 pointless plebiscites while still serving as a U.S. representative from Texas.  These victories represented the increasing faction of young, libertarian-leaning attendees.  But in real voting around the country, Ron Paul was strongly opposed by the GOP’s Old Guard and garnered only 12 percent of the vote in the 2012 primaries.

Sen. Rand Paul has been cozying up to the establishment and certainly is a stronger public speaker than his father, who always came off (for me this is a good thing) as a likable free-market economics professor.  Just before speaking at CPAC, Senator Paul wrote an incoherent piece for Time entitled “U.S. Must Take Strong Action Against Putin’s Aggression.”

“Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a gross violation of that nation’s sovereignty and an affront to the international community,” he wrote, sounding like his colleague John “Bombs Away” McCain.  Putin’s “continuing occupation of Ukraine is completely unacceptable, and Russia’s President should be isolated for his actions.”

In the actions he recommended, however, Senator Paul sounded like his father, whose noninterventionist writings and videos about Ukraine are all over the web:

I would immediately remove every obstacle or current ban blocking the export of American oil and gas to Europe, and I would lift restrictions on new oil and gas development in order to ensure a steady energy supply at home and so we can supply Europe with oil if it is interrupted from Ukraine.

So we “intervene” by making American energy markets more free.

At CPAC, Senator Paul skipped the Ukraine muddle and roused the young libertarian lions with attacks on what I call the NSA-Stasi SuperSnooper State (NSASSSS).

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) finished second in the CPAC poll.  Cruz warned that “the people of Ukraine have seen Russian tanks move into their sovereign land,” meaning majority Russian Crimea, also the location of Russia’s Baltic Sea Fleet.  He said he agrees with Senator Paul about not intervening in Syria’s mess, but also agrees with McCain on taking a hard line against Iran.  Senator Moderation!

Cruz called for repealing every word of ObamaCare.  And he appealed to civil libertarians by joking, “By virtue of your being here today, tomorrow, each and every one of you is going to be audited by the IRS.”  But how is America supposed to stay the global buttinsky he wants without a sharp-taloned IRS to gouge enough money out of us for mammoth defense budgets?

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey garnered eight percent of the CPAC tally.  He was heavily applauded despite—or because of—the infamous incident in which his aides closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge during rush hour to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.  Or maybe conservatives were showing they were OK with Christie’s decision not to appeal a court ruling imposing same-sex “marriage” on his state.  Or perhaps they were cheering him on in his weight-loss efforts after gastric-banding surgery.  Call them the Oprah Conservatives.

The comic campaign for president of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) continued to flounder.  His vote tally collapsed to 6 percent from 23 percent in 2013.  His multiple positions on the Schumer open-borders bill offended all sides.  And it has become apparent that, compared with Paul (an ophthalmologist) and Cruz (a Harvard-trained lawyer), Rubio just isn’t that smart.

CPAC celebrities largely ignored the most important issue of the campaign, immigration.  The big exception was Ann Coulter, who told the gathered worthies that, unless immigration—including legal immigration—is halted entirely, the Republican Party will be as irrelevant nationally as it is in California.  “Amnesty goes through, and the Democrats have 30 million new voters,” she warned.  “I just don’t think Republicans have an obligation to forgive law-breaking just because the Democrats need another 30 million voters.”

I haven’t been in D.C. since 1988.  But I did attend a couple of CPACs back in the mid-80’s, at the height of the Reagan euphoria.  I remember one in which I sat at a table in the back during a Reagan address, and who should walk in and sit next to me but Irving Kristol!  That was before the neo-paleo split became obvious, and he was the “godfather” of making verbal attacks on the Soviet Union, which nearly everyone did, especially anticommunists like me.

The Reagan era had some high points, mainly winding down the Cold War without getting us all nuked, and tax cuts—for the rich, anyway.  The middle class got its tax cuts in 1981, but then got tax increases with Bob “Tax Collector for the Welfare State” Dole’s Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 and the Greenspan Commission’s 1983 Social Security tax increase.  Reagan backed both.

The rich got the gold mine, and the middle class got the shaft.

But one of the worst things of the Reagan Decade was the swarm of conservatives who came to Washington to do good, but stayed to do well.  The place now is infested with “movement conservatives,” sometimes called Conservatism Inc.  Despite all the rhetoric at CPAC and similar events, the government just keeps getting bigger.  During the past 40 years, the burgeoning conservative movement has done nothing but increase the contents of its own pocketbooks.

An incredible four trillion dollars of our tax money courses through D.C. every year.  Worse, the federal government controls almost every aspect of the rest of the country, from the amount of water in your toilet to what your children’s school teaches about God.  (He hasn’t been in favor for 50 years.  Godless communism was defeated in 1991, but the godless Warren Court will be around seemingly until doomsday.)

I worked in Washington briefly in 1977, then continuously from 1982 until 1987.  I always hated the place.  One of the happiest days of my life was in late June 1987 when I drove west out of the Beltway, heading across our beautiful country.  But I couldn’t escape D.C.  In the Show-Me State, I was issued a ticket for clocking a mere 65 mph on Interstate 70, 10 mph over the limit Republican Richard Nixon had imposed in 1974 during the bogus “energy crisis,” with his idiotic double-nickel national speed limit.  “Stay Alive at 55”—remember that slogan?

I ended up in Southern California, La-La Land, living 28 miles from where Tricky Dick would be buried in Yorba Linda.  But even the realm of lotus-eaters and Disneyland is made up of solid reality compared with the political and economic fantasies cooked up in the Swamp.

If you’re a conservative in Washington, you go to parties and hear claims about how Our Side Is Doing Something Important.  But it never happens.  Everything always gets worse.  Reagan, for example, was put into office by pro-lifers.  He even wrote a pro-life book, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation.  Well, he must have had a guilty conscience when he appointed pro-aborts Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony “Worse Than Teddy” Kennedy to the U.S. Supreme Court.  And who, voting for Reagan in 1980, could have guessed that it would be his appointment, Kennedy, who would impose same-sex “marriage” on the country in 2013?

Conservatives may claim to believe in decentralism and federalism, but their very presence in D.C. shows they actually believe the opposite.  They work for a centralized solution to decentralization.

When I was growing up in the 1960’s in the factory suburb of Wayne, Michigan, west of Detroit, the richest counties in America were those north of Detroit, where the auto executives and owners lived.  They produced real, tangible things: cars, trucks, buses.  Now, it’s the D.C. suburban counties that dominate the national list, populated by lobbyists, bureaucrats, and private-sector parasites who troll for public-sector dollars.

If you wonder why Detroit, GM, and Chrysler went bankrupt, look no further: The money was sucked from producers there and sent to the parasites in the humid Swamp on the Potomac.

During my stay in Washington, the only good things were the museums, especially the National Gallery of Art, and the National Symphony Orchestra, which played in the taxpayer-subsidized Kennedy Center.

I also saw a way-off-Broadway production of Sartre’s No Exit.  I never could read the play, or any other Sartre.  But the performance was compelling.  Sartre’s most-quoted line comes from the play: “Hell is other people.”  Wrong.  Hell, for a real conservative, is being trapped in Washington, D.C.


[© 2014 T.J. Kirkpatrick]