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CPAC Was Tragic Comedy, Missed Call From History

March 1, 2021

If you watched, listened, or read any of the remarks coming from the stage of the Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend it was clear that the majority of us reside within reality while the speakers and their followers in that audience live (as I point up and out) waaaay ‘out there’. The weekend speakers were part comedy show and part tragedy. Too often, both.

As timid and spineless politicians kneeled and groveled so to be in the good graces of the cult leader I watched and wondered what Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg would say if able to give one more speech.

For partisan purposes, the most determined attempt continued this weekend to besmirch the electoral process. To also sully President Biden, who is an honorable man, and in a time not so long ago in this land would be recognized as such by both sides of the aisle. This brings me to Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg, and why the outlandish words from this weekend do not echo with what history tells us is a far better road to travel in Washington.

President Franklin Roosevelt had played tough political ball during the creation of the needed New Deal. Some Republicans felt that upon his death, and his replacement being the novice Harry Truman, that it might be political payback time. But Vandenburg saw things differently.

Vandenberg wrote to Democratic President Truman saying “Good luck and God bless you. Let me help you whenever I can. America marches on.”

The two men, both vocal and determined from opposite ends of the political spectrum, bonded and shaped the international policy of the nation following World War II.

It seems quaint to write of political opposites seeing their role on the national stage being about the higher requirements of the nation. Upon the death of Vandenburg the former president described him as “a patriot who always subordinated partisan advantage and personal interest to the welfare of the Nation.” Can there be a better tribute for a senator?

Will there be a single senator who spoke at the conference who can even dream of such an outcome at the time final words are said about their political life?

Historians will write voluminous accounts of the past five years but to hear the speakers this weekend none of what average Americans are dealing with is anything worthy of talking about in front of the red-meat crowd. Charlie Sykes summed it up concisely.

“There was no introspection down in Orlando; no sense that conservatives needed to look an the mirror and ask themselves hard questions about violence, sedition, white supremacy, or cults of personality.”

“Less than two months after the insurrection at the Capitol, the event was scarcely mentioned. Even after the deaths of a half million Americans during the pandemic, there was no sense that the GOP needed to re-think its values.”

“In fact, there was remarkably little focus on policy at all — it was all culture war all the time. And, of course, Trump.”

This weekend the Sunday morning shows were dissecting the ruins of the once Grand Old Party. There was, without doubt, the most emotional and well-worded response to the dangers of racism within that party coming from Rahm Emanuel. The remarks aired on ABC’s This Week.

Rahm Emanuel: Wait a second. I said, listen, you are a house divided, your party. And he has legitimized the ugliest parts of anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia. And the Ronald Reagan party, when David Duke and others came in, in that party, rejected and spoke out.

And nobody in the party has the leadership or the character to attack that anti...

I apologize. I’m not going to take a lecture on anti-Semitism from Chris. (Christie) And I love Chris, but I’m not going to do that.

Chris, you have a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Illinois, her and her husband, he’s a state rep, who talked about Nazi ideology and legitimacy. You had people on the south — on the lawn of the House of Representatives who said six million is not enough, Camp Auschwitz, and it did not come to the condemnation of the Republican Party, because they are still of the view that the Antifa and others were part of that protest.

I am sorry. The party needs to reject anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia, if it’s going to be a majority party anywhere in a country that respects human rights.

I view politics with the long lens of history, and as such, it needs stating that there are no more serious intellectual conservatives—as evidenced by this weekend. There was a time such conservatism existed and knew the mission was to impart, down through the generations, what might be termed a high duty to engrain humanizing beliefs and habits. What precisely were the speakers imparting to the eager young faces looking up the stage this weekend?

Racism, xenophobia, and culture wars galore.

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