Another Conservative Political Action Conference has just wrapped up in Washington DC. As always I come away infused with conservative ideas and a duffle bag full of books and videos. In time I hope Canada's Civitas or Manning Centre conferences match the size and scope of this annual Washington event.
Rick Santorum, Newt Gengrich, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and many others spoke in the Marriott Hotel ballroom. Rick Santorum spoke about his values with conviction. Newt Gengrich listed off executive orders like a 12.5 percent flat tax and the elimination of the capital gains tax. Mitt Romney won the delegate straw poll with his front runner status, money and organization. Sarah Palin was a muse extolling the virtues of traditional small town patriotism. CPAC is a great way to sample the conservative movement over a weekend.
There were over 140 groups with booths in the exhibition hall. You could feel the Tea Party's populist message of fiscal restraint in the air. The National Rifle Association had an indoor gun range and other gun groups sold hardbound histories of founding father arguments about the right to bear arms. In the theatre there was never seen before moving footage of the Pope's visit to Poland in 1979 that Polish bishops had been keeping in storage. European Conservatives flew across the Atlantic to share their thoughts on the EU debt situation and their personal anecdotes about Margaret Thatcher. Men in uniform played bagpipes and there were many pledges to buy Canada's ethical oil via pipeline. Hundreds of college women in formal dress rallied for Ann Coulter. As always, CPAC was the fix conservative political junkies look for.
This year was special for how many Canadians were present at CPAC. Easily over two dozen Johnny and Janie Canucks came to take part in this conservative movement gathering. Sun TV deserves a salute for showing many of the speeches and exposing so many Canadians to this unabashedly conservative party. The closing image for me was the way this proud conservative crew dealt with some Occupy protesters who tried to disrupt Sarah Palin's wrap up speech. Instead of allowing the protesters the satisfaction of disseminating their message the conservatives drowned them out with "We want Sarah", "Sa-Rah" and "U-S-A" until they were removed. CPAC was pro-active and unapologetic even when dealing with disgruntled saboteurs. CPAC was inspiring and I hope for more next year.