It’s (admittedly very late!) Tuesday, so that means I have a brand new RE: Culture for ya, and what a RE: Culture it is!
I had the pleasure of going to CPAC last Friday & Saturday with most of the FRN crew and got to meet all kinds of exciting people, both famous (James O’Keefe!) and infamous (James O’Keefe!). I also got to tour around the exhibition hall and talk to groups on the tip of the conservative spear, getting some interesting perspectives on where the movement is going, and how it’s getting there.
But first, the layout.
CPAC is not unlike ComicCon or other Trade Shows you might know about. There are several stages where the featured guest speakers like Ted Cruz, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Paul Begala show up and give their speeches to large audiences, about a fourth of which is made up of the press. There were also a few smaller rooms that mostly saw panel discussions on topics like Gay Marriage, Protecting Traditional Marriage, Foreign Policy, and other miscellaneous topics. One example of the miscellany was a fun panel on the Conservative Technology Gap where the guests were asked to introduce themselves and inform the crowd of their favorite grilled cheese toppings. That panel, by the way, doesn’t appear to be on the Internet, nor does there appear to have been any kind of effort made by CPAC to film any of the side panels. Progress.
Anyway, to the booths!
The exhibition hall floor was gargantuan and packed with tons of fascinating displays from prominent groups like The Franklin Center, Leadership Institute and the NRA; as well as smaller groups like (the totally awesome) Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, The 60 Plus Association and ProEnglish (which I wrote about yesterday). I had a very fun time engaging people at their respective booths, and was met by individuals mostly ready and willing to answer my questions. That isn’t to say their answers were always helpful. I had two main questions to ask, both of which I think are fairly important given where we are as a party: “What is your organization doing for youth outreach?” followed quickly by “What about minority outreach?”
Some groups like The Franklin Center, Leadership Institute and Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty aced both questions pretty easily, having real solutions to our complex branding issues, and training people to advocate conservatism even in the least likely areas; while other groups like National Right To Work said they were attempting to correct their lack of outreach by creating coalitions with other groups & learning their strategies. A few were mediocre; in particular, the NRA guys come to mind. They admitted they had an issue alienating gamers and young people over their “blame video games” rhetoric. However, they didn’t really have a plan to help fix that situation. At least they now know they have a problem.
There were also some fails and incompletes in the mix, most notably The American Conservative Union, the organization behind CPAC. While CPAC itself was well staffed, the booth for the group that organized it was vacant for large swaths of time on both Friday and Saturday; not exactly confidence inspiring. The fact that there wasn’t anyone from the ACU for me to talk to leaves me no choice but to give them no grade. I can also give a big fat fail to all of the Voter Map companies. While they really don’t need to do “outreach” to either minorities or youth, none of the companies really tried to push the envelop on micro-targeting, something they said wasn’t their job. That might be true, but if you’re building a voter map, I’d think that knowing key issues for voters would help to sell your product. Apparently the voter map guys don’t agree with me.
Overall, I’d give this year’s CPAC exhibition hall a B-. It provided a reasonable mix of new and established groups (aside from not allowing GOProud), and was varied enough to appeal to all of the three legs of conservatism with a slight edge going towards the social side of the spectrum.
Hopefully next year there will be even more booths to peruse and voices to hear; it’s either that, or stagnation. And stagnation means death.