How CPAC went from 'City Upon a Hill' to 'Anti-Anti-Putin'

In 1974, Governor Ronald Reagan of California addressed a new conference of insurgent conservatives. But before jumping into what was t...

In 1974, Governor Ronald Reagan of California addressed a new conference of insurgent conservatives. But before jumping into what was to become one of his most famous speechesoutlining his vision of the nation as “man’s last best hope” and “a city on a hill”, he featured a young Navy pilot recently released from a North Vietnamese prison.

As the crowd gave John McCain, 37, an enthusiastic standing ovation, Reagan laughed.

“Well, I might as well sit down,” he said. “I can’t do better than that for the rest of the evening.”

The moment deserves an unboxing today, as Conservatives gather for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. It’s an event that bears little resemblance to the one that celebrated the future president and future senator, who both pursued careers defined by support for aggressive US intervention abroad.

The morning after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded neighboring Ukraine, at least one conference speaker used the platform to criticize President Biden, a Democrat, as distracted by a crisis in a place Americans don’t don’t need to worry about. Others on the conference agenda made remarks that appear to sympathize with Russia. On Saturday, activists will hear from Donald Trump, who this week called Putin a “genius.”

This isn’t the first time CPAC has revealed just how far the Republican Party has come in the Trump era. In 2018, when McCain was suffering from terminal brain cancer, a CPAC crowd booed when Trump mentioned the senator’s name in a speech.

But the conference’s evolution from its intellectual roots to fiery populism continues to irritate and sadden many on the right.

“CPAC has always been a place where conservatives get together and debate ideas,” said Heath Mayo, the organizer of an alternative conservative rally taking place in Washington, DC, this weekend. “And that’s not what it is anymore.”

Most Republican members of Congress have cut to a traditional conservative line — condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while blaming Biden for not moving faster to impose sanctions.

But while there has been much criticism of Biden’s alleged weakness, this year’s CPAC features a number of speakers who have taken a decidedly anti-Reaganesque stance. (Two of the Republican Party’s most prominent hawks — former Vice President Mike Pence and Nikki Haley, a former UN ambassador under Trump — were not in attendance.)

Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist, said in his speech: “The southern border of the United States matters a lot more than the Ukrainian border. He added: “I’m more worried about how the cartels are deliberately trying to infiltrate our country than about a dispute 5,000 miles away, cities we can’t pronounce, places most Americans cannot find on a map.”

Other speakers include Candace Owens, a popular podcast host who this week urged her three million Twitter followers to read Putin’s remarks on Ukraine “to find out what is *really* going on”. Tulsi Gabbard, a former Democratic congresswoman who has won supporters on the right, said on Twitter: “This war and suffering could have easily been avoided if Biden Admin/NATO had simply recognized Russia’s legitimate security concerns. security”.

It would be a mistake to infer that such remarks represent a majority of Republicans, said Quin Hillyer, a longtime conservative commentator.

“It’s not as widespread as it is loud,” Hillyer said. “The real debate among conservatives is how to react rather than sympathize with the Russians.” He pointed to polls suggesting that Republican voters are more anti-Putin than commonly believed.

Geoffrey Kabaservice, a Republican Party historian, said some conservatives are captivated by “Putin’s encouragement as he destroys the liberal order and brings all those smart-pants pundits to tears.”

“Tulsi Gabbard may believe a lot of things the CPAC crowd don’t, but they love his appetite for destruction – and it slants them all to an anti-anti-Putin line,” he added.

Matt Schlapp, the head of the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC, championed the conference as a platform for a variety of viewpoints. But he said he preferred to spotlight non-establishment voices.

“No one here has come up to me and said, ‘Why isn’t Mitt Romney talking? ‘” Schlapp said, referring to the Utah senator and 2012 Republican nominee. “I see no reason why I would have him on stage. I don’t find him to be a constructive voice.

“No one here thinks John McCain should be reincarnated and give a speech at CPAC,” he added, while saying he respects his wartime record.

Despite all of CPAC’s criticisms, efforts to develop an alternative forum remain embryonic.

This weekend, 450 conservatives are rallying in Washington, D.C., for what organizers call anti-CPAC, the Principles First Conference.

The aim is to return to the days when conservatives debated and inspired young activists, said Mayo, the group’s 31-year-old founder. “They respected disagreements and arguments. They went on stage and argued. That’s why we followed them,” he said.

And while not explicitly an anti-Trump rally, the anti trump vibe is impossible to ignore. In the 2016 presidential primary, Mayo supported Marco Rubio, the hawkish senator from Florida. The main speakers are Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, both Republicans who were censured by the party for their involvement in the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill. Both have been strong supporters of Ukraine.

Roger Zakheim, Washington director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, said “reasonable people can disagree” about the direction of the Republican Party, and noted that Reagan himself often faced attacks from his right flank.

But he urged Republicans to reconnect with Reagan’s foreign policy ideas, which he boiled down to two fundamental tenets: “Freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction. It must be fought” and “peace through strength”.

The more discussion and disagreement, the better, Hillyer said. “Right now, Trump is not our standard bearer. We don’t have a national flag carrier,” he said. “So it’s all fair game.”

  • For the latest updates on the rapidly evolving situation in Ukraine, follow with our Live.

  • The Hosted Opinion Bureau an audio panel on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with commentary from Ross Douthat, Frank Bruni, Farah Stockman and his host, Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

  • Lara Jakes, Eric Schmitt and Edward Wong preview what might happen next in the Ukrainian crisis, from cyberattacks to refugee flows to economic turmoil.


It is too early to know precisely how the Americans reacted to the Russian invasion. But public opinion polls on the eve of the conflict revealed voters were clearly divided on how far the United States should go to support Ukraine — and what costs they would be willing to bear.

Overall, 52% of Americans said the US should have a ‘minor role’ in the Ukraine situation, while 26% supported a ‘major role’ and 20% argued for no role at all. , according to investigation completed on Monday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

In a surprising marker of how views on foreign policy have shifted in recent decades, Democrats were slightly more likely than Republicans to say the United States should play a major role in the conflict. A Republican firm, Echelon Research, found a similar divide: 56% of Democrats believed the United States had a moral responsibility to protect Ukraine, compared to just 31% of Republicans.

Recent surveys have offered few signs that the public is poised to rally behind Biden during an international crisis. Only 43% of voters approved of his handling of his relationship with Russia, according to a Reuters poll. The tally closely mirrored his overall approval rating, suggesting that attitudes about his handling of Russia may reflect general attitudes towards his presidency more than any specific opinion on his foreign policy.

The readings were taken before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and should be interpreted with caution. The results represent only a basic measure of the public’s position before the conflict, and attitudes could change quickly with further developments and sustained media coverage. It could take several days for most investigators to fully complete the polls taken after the Russian invasion.

Still, the poll hints at some of the political risks for the Biden administration.

The Reuters poll found that only around half of Americans supported sanctions on Russia if it meant higher gas prices – as seems likely – even though more than two-thirds of voters said they were in favor. in favor of an increase in penalties in general.

Even before any economic fallout from the conflict, most voters gave Biden poor grades for his handling of the economy, inflation and gas prices. Voters ranked inflation and the economy among the most important issues the country faces in polls over the past few months.

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Newsrust - US Top News: How CPAC went from 'City Upon a Hill' to 'Anti-Anti-Putin'
How CPAC went from 'City Upon a Hill' to 'Anti-Anti-Putin'
Newsrust - US Top News
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