The initial idea with the Freedom Center sending me out to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was so that I could network with other bloggers and organizations, recruit new writers for NewsReal Blog, and so that I could cover the conference (and what would be David Horowitz’s neutron bomb of a speech) for our publications. Parts one and two of that plan went along well enough, but part three — actually attending the speeches and panels — had to be dropped from my agenda when I realized what the situation was going to be for my co-workers. It became clear where I was needed most: at our booth in the exhibition hall.
My colleague Jeff Wienir, our Director of Campus Campaigns, had arrived at CPAC a day before me to set up our area, including the Palestinian Wall of Lies, an 8′ by 8′ banner that will be sent out to student groups all over the country this spring. The Wall is our attempt to counter the anti-Israel “Apartheid walls” built every year on college campuses by leftist students groups and the Muslim Students Association (a Muslim Brotherhood front group if you weren’t already aware.) The plan was for him and Sara Dogan, our National Campus Director, to present the wall to the students and find more who would be interested in using it to combat the leftists and stealth jihadis on their campuses.
The problem we did not think of to anticipate: a vocal (though, thankfully statistically small) segment of the students at CPAC — and the adult participants too — are hostile to this mission.
Not realizing yet it would be necessary to help at the booth, on Thursday morning I took a brief break to go and meet some friendly faces from the blogosphere. Up at the Blogger’s Lounge I ran into wonderful people like Right Wing News editor/publisher John Hawkins, prominent blogger Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit, talented video master Lee Doren, and Mr. Hot Air himself Ed Morrissey. (I’d meet many more later that night at the delightful Blog Bash party thrown by Freedom Works’ Tabitha Hale and Liberty Pundits‘ Melissa Clouthier.)
When I returned Jeff gave me a startling report. At the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) booth two slots down from us a man had objected to the organization and said that “the Jews are the most oppressive people on the planet.”
As young people started flowing in as less-interesting speakers took the main stage Sara, Jeff and I started pitching the Wall of Lies to students walking through our row. Some responded in a cold, disinterested fashion, saying that they “didn’t believe in foreign aid” and others suggesting that perhaps our support of Israel was exacerbating the conflict and that if we just got out then perhaps the tensions would ease. Jeff, Sara and I decided on a new strategy: “Let’s not even bother to pitch the campaign to any students wearing Campaign for Liberty, Ron Paul, or Anti-War.Com buttons, stickers, or T-shirts.”
At one point later in the morning Seth Mandel, NewsReal Blog‘s associate editor in charge of our Right to Exist sub-blog came down to meet us and see the wall. His timing was fortuitous. Shortly after he came for his visit we were confronted by a man in his mid-to-late 20s — about our age — who was walking around with a stack of the paleo-conservative magazine The American Conservative, the barely-read rag founded by the infamous anti-Semite Pat Buchanan. (To see just how unpopular the publication is note its ranking as #100 on the list of top 100 conservative websites — easily beaten by many noted solo bloggers.) Seth’s exchange with him got so in depth and heated that they eventually walked away from our booth to continue it for almost an hour. As their debate drew out I walked over to the two of them with my video camera and asked if perhaps they might talk a little bit on film. The Buchananite refused before saying a few choice words about how horrible our boss David Horowitz was. I asked him if he had ever read a single of David’s books. He admitted that he had not and had only read articles. When I pointed out the genocidal nature of our Islamist opponents the Buchananite countered by highlighting our own alleged history of genocide. I called him out for using arguments popularized by the neo-communist propagandist Howard Zinn. When the young man with his stack of magazines declared Zinn a historian worth reading finally I said, “You know it’s really pretty pointless for us to even talk.” He immediately agreed, took that as his cue to exit, and dashed out of the exhibition hall.
After CPAC I asked Seth about the exchange. He said,
“He can basically be boiled down to someone who asks questions but doesn’t answer them (or can’t answer them) and moves on very quickly when you’ve answered something well so he can try to catch you off-guard on something else. It felt a bit like giving a Middle East 101 lesson to a hostile class. You don’t get the impression that such a person is ready or willing to have a conversation, but is there to launch accusations. There’s a lot of anger there more than anything.
I always enjoy debates, especially on this subject, but there’s a sadness in meeting people who strike up debates without any sense of intellectual curiosity or honesty.”
This was just the beginning, though. Over the course of the afternoon and the next day Jeff, Sara, and I would be drawn into numerous debates, sometimes each lasting more than 20 or 30 minutes. We heard it all — some points nakedly anti-Semitic, others nonsensical, and some emanating from the talking points of Ron Paul. Was this really that important of an issue? Israel doesn’t have a right to exist. Israel is a “Nazi state.” It’s hard to be sympathetic for Israel when they oppress the Palestinians so much. People are starving in Gaza. The Jews don’t let the Palestinians go to the beaches in Gaza. All the Jews in Israel should just move somewhere else where they wouldn’t bother anyone — like Alaska. Israel should simply have never been created where it was. Part of the reason why the Palestinians are angry is because the Jews set up the trash service to pick up Jewish garbage every day but for the Palestinians they only had weekly trash pick-up. If you haven’t been to Israel and actually seen how the Jews bulldoze Palestinian houses and drag innocent families out of their homes then you’re not allowed to advocate for Israel’s right to exist.
In other words: the reaction to the Wall of Lies at CPAC was identical to what one can expect in the coming weeks from leftists on our college campuses.
By the end of the day on Friday I was drained. Was this the state of the Right? Then I put things into perspective: no, this wasn’t really the Conservative Movement that Jeff, Sara, and I had experienced. It was just the fact that Ron Paul had bribed over a thousand students to attend CPAC to stuff the ballot box for the straw poll.
After dumping my belongings back in my room at the Marriott I hitched a cab for the apartment of Bethany Murphy — a friend on Twitter, occasional NRB contributor, and Seth’s girlfriend. Bethany had invited me and several other 25-35 year old, New Media conservatives for Shabbat dinner. Arriving and finding many familiar faces, a sense of peace washed over me as I could finally let my guard down and not have to worry about rebutting some misguided argument. Seth arrived shortly after I did and the party began after he performed a blessing. As Bethany served the tasty kosher food she and others had prepared, we began talking about the days’ events, the conundrum of the 2012 presidential election (it was the rare CPAC attendee who had a favorite candidate that actually had a chance at winning,) and the future of the Movement. I took the rare meeting of young, rising conservative voices to get feedback for a project I’ve been working on: trying to define “Generation Y Conservatism.” How is the generation born from the early ’80s through the mid ’90s going to redefine and refocus the project to defend freedom? What are the common generational tendencies which unite us and will influence the Conservative project? Listening to Seth, Bethany, and others talk I found many of my own impulses and tendencies repeated almost verbatim. For example: a desire to transcend the the divides of the “social issues” by trying to get those fights focused at the state level. Attitudes toward abortion and gay marriage varied but all were in agreement that Roe v. Wade should be overturned and individual states should hash out the issue, likewise that the citizens of each state should determine how and if government should recognize same-sex unions in some fashion. (The whole controversy over GOProud’s inclusion at CPAC struck most Gen Y cons as overwrought and silly with both sides making unfortunate missteps — more a sign of the continued Baby Boomer influence on the movement than anything truly meaningful.) Economics and foreign policy questions also saw a similar unity in support of Tea Party-style shrinking of entitlements and a hawkish response to Islamist aggression.
This young conservative approach might not have gotten the media attention of the Ron Paul “revolutionaries” who yelled at Donald Rumsfeld as a “war criminal” but it was actually the more dominant political vision at CPAC and will only become more pronounced as Generation Y rises up into more positions of leadership and influence within the movement.
Editor’s Note: Check out David Horowitz’s post from today on this issue: Ron Paul Is A Vicious Anti-Semite and Anti-American and Conservatives Need To Wash Their Hands of Him.