After the Conservative Political Action Conference’s issue with Milo Yiannopoulos this week, conservatives need to do some self-reflecting over the movement’s definition. What better place for conservatism to take stock over what it is, what it’s doing, and where it’s heading than CPAC?
Thankfully, the American Conservative Union planned to do just that. In a short series of speeches hosted by Deneen Borelli of Conservative Review, four leading conservatives lent their perspective to the state of the movement.
Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College, the flagship institution of conservative higher education in America, spoke on the origins of American conservatism. He believes our origins come from the ideals articulated by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These documents celebrate our natural human rights and seek to conserve them through our particular organization of government.
On the current state of conservatism, Sabrina Schaeffer (of the Independent Women’s Forum) addressed conservative diversity. We proudly label ourselves as a “big tent party.” But do we mean it? We are criticized often about our inability to reach minorities. As a woman, Schaeffer believes that “thinking about and talking to women as a broader group…isn’t the same thing as pandering and playing gender politics.” I would imagine she would extend this idea to racial and religious minorities. In short, identity is a necessary part of political discourse, but ought not be the sole focus for conservatives, as it is on the left.
Former presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker discussed how he governs as a conservative. His home state of Wisconsin is the poster child for the success of right-to- work policies. Conservatism, unlike progressivism, is a political philosophy that is rooted in reality. We understand our brokenness, and thus seek to put policies in place to mitigate the trouble we will inevitably cause.
Finally, Dan Schneider of the American Conservative Union offered a way forward. After all the conservative infighting, we have to reunite on our principles.
His speech lambasted conservatives for being seduced by left-wingers posing as conservatives. He talked about how “the Alt Right ain’t Right at All” and painted the alt-right as nothing more than a classic, left-wing fascist group masquerading as radical rightists. Conservatives ought to beware these dangerous interlopers who want to hijack our movement. Schneider expressed his anger, albeit cryptically, over the Milo fiasco. He told attendees: “CPAC, we have been slapped in the face. There is a sinister organization that is trying to worm its way into our system.”
Schneider is absolutely right. But what are we to do about it? How do we defend ourselves from these wolves among sheep?We have know what we believe, and know it well.
Schneider offered his own definition of conservatism that goes like this: “Conservatism is the political philosophy that sovereignty resides in the person.” While I might add to this definition, it’s a fantastic place to start.
We’re only on Day 1 of CPAC, but I feel confident that conservatism is ready to reset and move forward as we reflect on what’s brought us to where we are.