by Beverly Eakman
February 19, 2009
I just received TownHall’s invitation to this year’s CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), as did no doubt every Republican on the planet who has ever donated to a conservative cause or candidate. The 2009 theme is “Timeless Principles, New Challenges.” A subsequent e-mail from the Heritage Foundation, “the leading conservative policy organization in the country” asked me to “help fight America’s turn left turn before it’s too late,” complete with quotes from its hero, Ronald Reagan.
The three-day conference is $150, but banquets bring the cost to $700. These will feature the usual cheeky folks like Ann Coulter who are great at preaching to the choir and bashing “liberals,” but lousy at supplying new ideas, bold solutions, or mentioning disconcerting realities that top-tier donors would rather not think about.
Well, here’s a news flash: your Party’s over. Despite one finally intelligent move — tapping the eminent Michael S. Steele to head the Republican National Committee (and not just because he is black) — you’re still not the Party of Timeless Principles, small government, low taxes or “America First.” You have squandered your “capital” on issues that are either moot at this point, or low on outside-the-Beltway conservatives’ to-do list. You have ignored so many problems for so long, a turnaround would be miraculous: e.g., massive immigration without American sponsors to assure assimilation; out-of-this-world entitlements that have replaced America’s old self-sufficiency mentality with dependency; schools that psychoanalyze kids but don’t educate them (with ever-higher violence and STD rates); burgeoning threats to American sovereignty; enlisting business instead of the military as a first line of defense against foreign encroachment (via Real-ID, etc.); public/private partnerships masquerading as “free enterprise”; disintegrating infrastructures that have major cities awash in 1940’s equipment held together with Scotch tape; and foreign wars aimed more at rehabilitating America’s enemies than at ensuring Americans’ safety.
Too many conservatives, including the Heritage Foundation, have lost sight of what it means to have limited government, free enterprise or individual liberty, so of course the terms themselves have become meaningless to the newest generation of Americans, since they are rarely articulated.
For example, you say you are fighting to "save” Social Security. But this was basically a socialist program generated by Franklin D. Roosevelt that has run completely amok. You promote “public/private partnerships,” but this concept is a throwback to fascist Italy, which eventually “needed” to nationalize everything and found it easy to do so once it had a foot in the door of most enterprises.
The job of government, you used to say, was to protect private enterprise, free markets, personal property and privacy, not to “partner” with business, landholders, educators and foundations. With the current rash of bailouts, how can big-name conservatives like Newt Gingrich not see this? Yet, he is the hot new columnist featured in the conservative (sort of) Washington Times newspaper.
Maybe the fault lies with our deteriorating education system (including many private institutions) which, for all the money invested by parents and taxpayers still, for the most part, doesn’t teach history, government, economics or philosophy. Instead, schools teach “social studies” — an entirely different undertaking. Social studies is built around a United Nations construct called “social justice,” hardly the model upon which our nation was founded. Our Founders envisioned a system of laws that determined how commerce was conducted and assured both individual and state’s rights. “Social justice,” on the other hand, is about bettering societal conditions — “from each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs,” in the old Marxist mode. Inevitably, “social justice” assures that certain groups get a better shake than others — a vision contrary to the Founders’ concept. “Social justice” is morphing into the very elitism and favoritism the Framers sought to escape.
Without apparently realizing it, conservatives have moved toward socialistic, globalist positions, which if they stopped to re-read their earlier pledges, they would never support.
Instead, here comes the Heritage Foundation, the American Conservative Union and most other CPAC mainstays, expecting us to “fight America’s left turn before it’s too late”? Yikes! What are you thinking?
Or, are such slogans merely the products of PR firms to bring in big bucks for the Republican Frat House, which increasingly resembles “rush week.” Those accepted learn the equivalent of “secret hand-shakes,” entitling them to syndicated columns and cushy offices in downtown Washington.
My humble July PowerPoint presentation in July (headlined Dec. 2008 in Vital Speeches of the Day — see link) — generated more excitement among state legislators than CPAC leaders. State legislators abandoned protocol to crowd around the screen. Seems the National Center for Education Statistics (part of the U.S. Dept. of Education) is now creating political dossiers in earnest on parents through children’s school surveys. This has gone on right under Republican noses. I showed copies with the official documents, including some of interconnected computers this information goes into. I highlighted the surreptitious bar codes that students and their parents take for “anonymous.” Does CPAC know, for example, that a numerical code exists for every conceivable religious belief, right down to Calvinist and Agnostic? Inasmuch as teachers today scarcely know what a Calvinist is, why was our government, under a “conservative” administration, no less, so interested in such information from children? Do you know? Do you care?
For years, your world has revolved around lower taxes, small government, anti-abortion and gun rights. The fact that you’ve made zero headway on all fronts except gun rights (and even that’s shakey) ought to tell you something — that your constituents have some really pressing worries.
You love to quote Ronald Reagan, who famously revived the term “misery index.” So, let’s talk about that: vehicles stuck in daylong gridlock because of obstacle-course roads.
But, hey, Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, has a solution! “Build more roads,” he said, “not public-transportation systems.” Well, yeah, that would be swell, if anybody could get past government’s convoluted bidding process. The generation that put a man on the Moon in a decade can’t erect a stop sign in that timeframe today. Does CPAC have any idea how to ensure that projects that needed to be done yesterday are completed? And why do we have HOV lanes when we need every square inch of road we have to keep traffic moving? HOV’s don’t work!
And take that electronic fence George W. was going to place across 700 miles of our southern border following 9/11. At this point, the bad guys know how to avoid those 700 miles, and unless I miss my guess, any fence, electronic or otherwise, won’t stop airplanes, tanks and shoulder-fired missiles.
Speaking of which: What’s with the NAFTA Superhighway? According to the specs I saw, it appears to be the width of eight football fields — plenty of room for a tank or so — running from Mexico to Canada, smack-dab through the middle of the U.S. I asked whether property owners will receive “just compensation.” Swoosh! What about tariffs and border inspections for trucks and their cargoes? Swoosh! Will only electronic scanning be used? Swoosh! Such questions drew blank expressions.
So, why am I standing barefoot in an airport line with one teensy, insufficient baggy of toiletries, when potential bioweapons are set to zoom up and down the Superhighway?
about power outages? Whatever happened to the space-based geosynchronous-orbiting
satellite concept that would have beamed solar energy to collectors in
uninhabitable places in the U.S.? It was on the drawing boards at NASA
in 1978: I was there. Had we dove headlong into improving solar cell/microwave
efficiency from space and constructed interconnecting power grids, back
when the Carter Administration got wind of an intransigent Middle Eastern
oil crisis, we might be mostly free of oil dependency today.
Sure, lower taxes would be nice. I’d even settle for a form that didn’t require a Certified Public Accountant. Yes, government could be leaner. As for self-defense, well we sure can’t count on the police to protect us, what with all their speed-trap and click-it-or-ticket duties! As for modern technology (i.e., ultrasound): All right, already, I’m satisfied that a fetus is not a blob of tissue.
But these issues now are mostly “Gone, Baby, Gone.”
What’s not gone is all the stuff you aren’t addressing!
Are there loonies on the right? Undoubtedly. But having unaddressed priorities doesn’t equate to “fringe group.” Now, a real “fringe group” would be, say, the Log Cabin Republicans — and not so much because of its homosexual advocacy, which is of interest only to a tiny 3- or 4-percent of Americans, but because the group finds it necessary to advertise its sexuality at all, one way or the other. I mean, if you stop to think about it, that’s really weird politics.
case, a few loonies on any subject wouldn’t necessarily have hurt
your cause anyway. Did environmentalists throw a fit when some of their
idiot comrades blew up a McDonald’s in Benson, Arizona, to protest
meat? Or, when a few yahoos in the Northwest started forest fires to oppose
logging? Were enviro-causes compromised? Nope. Not a bit.
So, why does CPAC marginalize the concerns of dedicated conservative groups and legislators?
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“Reach across the aisle,” you admonished. “Let’s be uniters, not dividers.” Okay. You did that. You reached out to people who hate your guts, but not to those who mostly agree with you but have some distinct concerns? That sure worked out well for “W,” didn’t it!
Film-maker Michael Moore must be weeping with laughter.
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Beverly K. Eakman is a former speechwriter for the Voice of America (under the U.S. Information Agency) as well as for the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger when he chaired the Commission of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, and then a writer for the U.S. Dept. of Justice. Since retiring from the federal government, she has won numerous awards and is a sought-after speaker and lecturer.
She is the author of three best-selling books on education policy, mental-health issues and data-trafficking. She is a free-lance columnist with dozens of feature articles in hard-cover publications to her credit. She began her career as a teacher, where she first got wind, in the 1960’s and 70’s, of what was about to happen to classrooms nationwide. Her writings citing that period are considered historically important today and have earned her nationwide recognition.
She can be reached through her website: