Conservative Political Action Conference

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The Conservative Political Action Conference[1] is an annual political conference attended by right-of-center or moderately conservative government and mainstream media activists from across the United States. CPAC is hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU).[2] Participants generally prefer non-confrontational debate methods, and a willingness to compromise with political opponents.

More than 100 other organizations contribute in various ways. In 2011, ACU took CPAC on the road with its first Regional CPAC in Orlando, Florida. Since then ACU has hosted regional CPACs in Chicago, Denver, St. Louis, and San Diego.

In the late 2010s, CPAC has increasingly been rejected by those further to the political right as a so-called cuckservative or SJW converged organization. This began after CPAC leaders condemned the newly-emerging alt-right movement as "fascists" for questioning international free trade, opposing cultural and social diversity, opposing immigration, and proposing that human racial groups have innate differences instead of being theoretically interchangeable.[3] Since then CPAC conference organizers have allegedly been enforcing politically correct positions that were not traditionally part of conservative doctrine, such as acceptance of transgender identity, and have rejected or expelled[4] right-wing figures who question these new positions.[5] CPAC's continuing relevance was questioned as conference organizers increasingly rejected right-wing politics' more confrontational and sometimes radical activist methods.[6]

History

Number of CPAC attendees over time

The conference was founded in 1973 by the American Conservative Union and Young Americans for Freedom as a small gathering of dedicated conservatives.[7][8] Over the years it has grown to thousands of attendees annually. Roughly half of those in attendance in the past few years have been college-aged.[9][10][11]

Speakers have included Ronald Reagan,[12][13][14] George W. Bush,[15] Dick Cheney,[16] Pat Buchanan,[17] Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich,[15] Sarah Palin, Ron Paul,[18] Mitt Romney,[15] Tony Snow,[15] Glenn Beck,[19] Rush Limbaugh,[20] Allen West,[21] Michele Bachmann,[22] Donald Trump,[23] and other conservative public figures. Before, during, and after his presidency, Ronald Reagan spoke at CPAC a total of 12 times.[24] In his 1985 speech, he referred to CPAC as his "opportunity to dance with the one that brung ya", referring to CPAC having been a contributing factor to his political success.[25][26][27]

CPAC has featured "groups at odds with conservative orthodoxy in years past—including the American Civil Liberties Union," and, more recently, the gay Republican group GOProud, which has attracted major controversy.[28] In 2015 Jamila Bey became the first atheist activist to address CPAC's annual meeting.[29]

Conferences

In 2006, Senator George Allen won the straw poll. John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Condoleezza Rice finished second, third, and fourth, respectively.[30]

In 2007, the top three candidates in the straw poll were Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and Sam Brownback.[31]

President George W. Bush waves to the crowd at CPAC 2008, alongside American Conservative Union chairman David Keene.

In 2008, President George W. Bush addressed CPAC. Mitt Romney won the straw poll, but officially dropped out of the presidential race and ended his campaign during his speech at the conference.[32]

In 2009, Romney won the straw poll for the third consecutive year, while Bobby Jindal finished second.[33] Conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh gave the keynote address in which he urged conservatives to "take back the nation" after the election of Barack Obama.[34]

Television and radio host Glenn Beck delivering the keynote address at CPAC 2010.

In 2010, the conference was opened by Marco Rubio, a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Florida that year, and closed by conservative commentator Glenn Beck. In his keynote address Beck denounced progressivism, calling it "a disease in America."[35] The Ronald Reagan Award was given to the Tea Party movement, which marked the first time it was ever given to a group instead of an individual.[36] The 2010 conference marked the first year in which one of the co-sponsoring groups was the John Birch Society.[37] The 2010 conference also featured co-sponsorship by a gay Republican organization called GOProud.[38] In response, some groups, such as Focus on the Family, made threats to leave the conference, but none actually did so.[39] Rep. Ron Paul won the straw poll for the first time.

A so-called "conservative civil war" marked the 2011 conference because of another controversy over the participation of GOProud.[40] Numerous prominent organizations, including the Heritage Foundation, Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and the Media Research Council, among others, joined a boycott organized by the American Principles Project, which said GOProud stood in "diametrical opposition" to core principles of the conservative movement.[41][42] Senator Jim DeMint also announced he was boycotting the conference.[43] Those boycotting the conference also pointed to alleged financial mismanagement by the ACU and the invitation issued to Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels, who had called for a "truce" on social issues, to be the keynote speaker.[44] Mike Huckabee declined to attend the 2010 and 2011 conferences, citing his concern that, because of the inclusion of GOProud and Ron Paul's victory in the 2010 and 2011 straw polls, CPAC is turning libertarian.[28] Some conservative figures were moving to turn the more recently created Values Voter Summit into a "full-fledged rival to CPAC" by expanding its social issues focus to include economic and security issues.[40]

For the 2012 conference, the ACU board voted to not invite GOProud or the John Birch Society to the 2012 conference.[45] Ron Paul declined an invitation at CPAC 2012 in favor of campaigning in Maine.[46] CPAC organizers sought to increase participation in the straw poll in an attempt to give a candidate other than Paul a chance to win by moving from paper ballots to electronic voting that remained open until the last day of the conference after all the candidates had spoken, as opposed to the afternoon of the second day of the conference in years prior.[47] The presence of Paul supporters was significantly less at CPAC 2012.[citation needed] Mitt Romney won the 2012 straw poll with 38%, beating out Rick Santorum, who placed second with 31%.[48] Newt Gingrich came in third with 15% and Paul was fourth with 12%.[48] However, Politico reported that an unnamed source said that Romney campaign bought CPAC registrations to ensure their victory at the straw poll and The New York Times said the campaign had bused in students from along the East Coast to vote in the straw poll.[49][50] Santorum replied on CNN by saying that he does not "try to rig straw polls" and "talk to the Romney campaign and [see] how many tickets they bought. We've heard all sorts of things."[51]

In 2014, Kentucky senator Rand Paul won the straw poll with 31% of the vote, nearly triple the amount won by the runner-up, Texas senator Ted Cruz, with only 11%, followed by former neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 9%.[52] In 2015, the results were nearly the exact same, with Paul finishing first with 26%. The exception was Wisconsin governor Scott Walker rising to second with 21%, pushing Cruz down to third with 12% and Carson to fourth with 11%.[53]

The 2015 CPAC featured Jamila Bey who became the first atheist activist to address CPAC's annual meeting.[54] The 2016 CPAC featured co-sponsorship for the first time from the Log Cabin Republicans.[55]

In December 2016, CPAC invited blogger Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the event over strong protests from members who disliked his politically incorrect opinions, but then rescinded the invitation.

Straw poll

Straw poll results at the 2015 CPAC in National Harbor, Maryland on February 28, 2015.

The annual CPAC straw poll vote traditionally serves as a barometer for the feelings of the conservative movement. During the conference, attendees are encouraged to fill out a survey that asks questions on a variety of issues. The questions regarding the most popular possible presidential candidates are the most widely reported. One component of CPAC is evaluating conservative candidates for president, and the straw poll serves generally to quantify conservative opinion.

Year Straw Poll Winner  % of Votes Second Place  % of Votes
1976 Ronald Reagan[56][57] -- George Wallace --
1980 Ronald Reagan -- -- --
1984 Ronald Reagan -- -- --
1986 Jack Kemp[58][59] -- George H.W. Bush --
1987 Jack Kemp[60] 68% Patrick Buchanan 9%
1993 Jack Kemp[61] -- -- --
1995 Phil Gramm[62] 40% Bob Dole 12%
1998 Steve Forbes[63] 23% George W. Bush 10%
1999 Gary Bauer[64][65] 28% George W. Bush 24%
2000 George W. Bush[66] 42% Alan Keyes 23%
2005 Rudy Giuliani[67] 19% Condoleezza Rice 18%
2006 George Allen[68] 22% John McCain 20%
2007 Mitt Romney[68] 21% Rudy Giuliani 17%
2008 Mitt Romney[68] 35% John McCain 34%
2009 Mitt Romney[68][69] 20% Bobby Jindal 14%
2010 Ron Paul[68][70] 31% Mitt Romney 22%
2011 Ron Paul[71] 30% Mitt Romney 23%
2012 Mitt Romney[72] 38% Rick Santorum 31%
2013 Rand Paul[73] 25% Marco Rubio 23%
2014 Rand Paul[74] 31% Ted Cruz 11%
2015 Rand Paul 26% Scott Walker 21%
2016 Ted Cruz 40% Marco Rubio 30%

Overall, Mitt Romney holds the record of winning more CPAC straw polls than any other individual, with four. Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and Rand Paul follow with three consecutive wins each, followed by Ron Paul with two wins. Of these five, the Pauls are the only two to win more than one straw poll, yet never appear on a Republican presidential ticket in any election.

Awards

Every year there are several awards given to notable conservatives. Although the exact lineup of awards varies, five awards are usually presented:

  • The "Ronald Reagan Award" is the highest award given at CPAC. It is awarded to dedicated activists, regardless of how high their profile may be on a national scale. ACU director David Keene described the award in 2008: "The winners of this award, our highest honor, are not household names, but the men and women working in the trenches who sacrifice and, in so doing, set an example for others."[75] This award is different from the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, which is not affiliated with CPAC.
  • The "Jeane Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award" is presented annually in honor of Jeane Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick was affiliated with the American Conservative Union for many years.
  • "Defender of the Constitution Award"
  • The "Blogger of the Year Award" is given to a leading conservative member of the blogosphere.
  • The "Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award" is named after the late actor and political activist Charlton Heston.

References

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External links