Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Andrew Simon: CPAC 2012—A Change in the Network

“An atheist, a libertarian, and an evangelical walk onto a stage…”

Anywhere else, such a description would be a lead into a punchline. CPAC, however, is a world onto itself—and the stakes at the 2012 CPAC convention were no laughing matter.

A veritable conga line of conferences, seminars, speakers, and open bars, the event allowed for crucial networking opportunities and exposure for candidates, pundits, students, and undecided voters. Of course, the week focused on the presidential candidates, but more interesting to see were some of the surprising shifts that seem to be developing at the grassroots level.

While there were no shortage of speakers and presentations emphasizing a focus on conservative social policy, the real stars of the show were those that were able to articulate visions of the party focusing on American Exceptionalism, sound fiscal policy, strategies to empower social mobility.

Allen West, and particularly Marco Rubio, made these the cornerstones of their presentations, and the roars of adulation that followed spoke for themselves. “Why can’t they be running for president?” was probably the single most asked question at the convention.

In a seminar on GOTV strategies, a moderator offhandedly asked the attendees who their favorite candidate was, to a cacophony of responses. The second question—who’s been your favorite speaker—had a reply so unanimous and so loud that it could be heard from well across the hall.

Rubio’s speech had a profound impact on the convention. It succeeded in bringing together an audience coming from divergent religious, social, and fiscal backgrounds, fiercely competing in support of their chosen presidential candidates—as did West’s.

Where the 90s had our party caricatured as one focused on the “3 Gs” – “God, Guns, and Gays” the next decade is shaping up to be one that sees a party shift towards the “3 Es” — “Exceptionalism, Economics, and Empowerment.” For those in attendance, it was no surprise to see the results to the “personal core beliefs” CPAC straw poll.

The response “My most important goal is to promote individual freedom” dwarfed all other priorities combined, including a focus on gay marriage, abortion, the military, second amendment rights, and terrorism. Naysayers are likely to point out the obvious—that the convention was over 55% under the age of 25, and that there has always been a traditional slant away from social issues among younger voters.

The fact is, however, that anyone who was on the ground was able to see just how broadly the sentiment was shared—across virtually all geographic, socioeconomic and age ranges represented at CPAC.

The “3Es” managed to find themselves into the core arguments of nearly all of the issue-based discussion panels: approaches to military spending, strategies for education, attracting more minorities to the party—and the list went on.

All things considered, they seem like an obvious trio to hammer onto as central tenets for the party. For all of his eloquence, Obama has consistently failed at articulating a feeling of American Exceptionalism; from bows to Saudi Kings to apologism at home and abroad, Obama, if not a “malaise” President, has certainly failed to inspire a feeling of it being “Morning in America.”

As for the economy? It’s obviously the number one issue on voters minds, and with more and more blue collar workers losing their jobs overseas everyday, while Obama continues to refuse to initiative policies like the keystone pipeline that could have added tens of thousands of new jobs with the swipe of a pen, it may be the most critical factor to Republican 2012 victory. Empowerment?

It covers a lot of ground, but boils down to a hunger for a fair shake at the American Dream, without arbitrary government dictates or bureaucratic roadblocks creating a glass ceiling for our personal pursuit of happiness or those of our children.

It empowers lower income parents with big dreams and big dedication for their children to have the vouchers they need to take them to a school where they stand an honest chance at a good education; replacing policies that institutionalize inter-generational poverty with programs that provide strong educational, apprenticeship and mentorship programs to turn tax users into tax payers; allowing those disenfranchised with government retirement plans to invest their money as they see fit; and providing the resources for small businesses to form and prosper without obstruction, to hire the most qualified candidates for every position without bureaucratic meddling, and to be able to provide returns to their owners and shareholders that are capable of making their businesses a more attractive investment than opportunities abroad.

A 3E agenda is more than a socially conservative, or libertarian, or Baptist, or atheist view of America—it is the only blueprint capable of saving our government from walking off of the precipice into an economic and moral abyss. The CPAC attendants knew it. Rubio knows it. West knows it. Herman Cain knows it. Obama and the current administration clearly do not.

The hope, now, is that the remaining candidates for the Republican residential nomination will be able to tap into the new paradigm shift, and generate the same explosive energy that Rubio, West and Cain achieved at the convention.

For the sake of the nation, I for one would much rather see Rubio or West as 2012 VP serving under any of our remaining presidential candidates, than the 2016 presidential nominee of a nation ran into the ground by four more years of disastrous fiscal and foreign policy.

If we want to empathize with struggling voters, energize the electorate, and exorcize the Obama administration, it’s time for us to upgrade to a 3E network.

About the Author: Andrew Simon is the former Vice President 2004-2006 of the Campus Conservatives at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alta. He has worked and volunteered for Lee Richardson, a Member of Parliament Calgary, Alta. Between 2002-2005 Andrew organized a program focused on underprivileged communities in which, in exchange for volunteering to share a skill, tutor, or mentor, low income adults and their children were eligible to go to lessons taught from any other member of the initiative at no cost.

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