Former CPAC Chairman Denounces CPAC and the Right Wing

Wow. Mickey Edwards, who chaired CPAC for five years and served in Congress for 16 years, has a powerful piece at The Atlantic explaining Why I’m Not at CPAC.

The short version: because the modern right wing has been taken over by kooks.

No, I’m not going to CPAC. And, truth be told, most of the folks there wouldn’t want me there. They wouldn’t think I’m a conservative; many wouldn’t think Barry Goldwater was a conservative; many, had this been three decades ago, might have been seeking a “true” conservative to run against Ronald Reagan. I don’t begrudge these activists their views and they are entitled to use the term “conservative” to describe themselves if they so choose. But the views many of them profess have little in common with the distinctly American kind of conservatism that gave birth to CPAC and the modern American conservative movement. Instead, what many of today’s self-proclaimed “conservatives” proclaim is an ideology borrowed from what Donald Rumsfeld famously dismissed as “old Europe.” Winston Churchill, one of Europe’s better-known conservatives, was half-American and his incredible strength of character helped Great Britain survive World War II, but when asked to define conservatism, Churchill responded that conservatism was about reverence for king and church. But America has no king and has no national church. That distinction is crucial and one in which today’s so-called conservatives have switched sides; crossed the ocean, if you will.

What distinguished modern American conservatism was that it had its roots not in the British kings, but in John Locke and Adam Smith and other champions of individual liberties and individual empowerment. European conservatism—the kind that has now become the rage for the American Right—was top-down and centered on state power. The rise of modern American conservatism, on the other hand, had a distinctly Madisonian flair, embracing the fundamentals of American constitutional limits on central authority. European conservatism found its voice in magisterial decree, religious edict, and acts of parliaments in which members may or may not have ever visited the communities they were presumed to “represent.” American conservatism found its voice in a Constitution that placed every major power in the hands of the people, through their representatives, and ensured that those representatives would actually be residents of the communities that elected them. American conservatism embraced a Constitution that separated and constrained powers, that specified —highlighted—a few of the protected liberties of the people coupled with clear assertions that all undelegated powers—all other unsurrendered liberties—remained with the people rather than the government. A Constitution that placed unambiguous limitations, including direct prohibitions, on the attempted exercise of governmental authority.

Today there are few things that set a “conservative’s” teeth on edge more than a defense of “civil liberties;” yet that is what American conservatism was all about—protecting the liberties of the people. It was a system designed to protect the people from an over-reaching government, not to protect the government from the people. American constitutionalism was a historical high-point in recognizing individual worth. Stop at CPAC today and you will find rooms full of ardent, zealous, fervent young men and women who believe the government should be allowed to torture (we condemned people at Nuremberg for doing that), who believe the government should be able to lock people up without charges and hold them indefinitely (something Henry VIII agreed was a proper exercise of government authority). Who believe the government should be able to read a citizen’s mail and listen in on a citizen’s phone calls, all without a warrant (the Constitution of course prohibits searches without a warrant, but nobody cares less about the Constitution than some of today’s ersatz conservatives).

I’m not at CPAC because I believe in America. I believe in liberty. I believe that governments should be held in check. I believe people matter. I believe in the flag not because of its shape or color but because of the principles it stands for—the principles in the Constitution, the principles repeated and underlined and highlighted and boldfaced and italicized in the Bill of Rights. The George W. whose presidency and precedents I admire was the first president, not the 43d. It is James Madison I admire, not John Yoo. Thomas Paine, not Glenn Beck. Jefferson, not Limbaugh.

Ronald Reagan would not have been welcome at today’s CPAC or a tea party rally, but he would not have wanted to be there, either. Neither do I.

Jump to top

Create a Page

This is the LGF Pages posting bookmarklet. To use it, drag this button to your browser's bookmark bar, and title it 'LGF Pages' (or whatever you like). Then browse to a site you want to post, select some text on the page to use for a quote, click the bookmarklet, and the Pages posting window will appear with the title, text, and any embedded video or audio files already filled in, ready to go.

Or... you can just click this button to open the Pages posting window right away.

Last updated: 2015-08-02 10:58 am PDT

LGF User's Guide RSS Feeds

Help support Little Green Footballs!

Subscribe now for ad-free access!

Recent Pages
Great White Snark
The Strange Saga of the MH370 Plane Part — NYMag
Just when you think this will not get any more weird... Tomorrow marks one month since a piece of a Boeing 777 washed up on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion, but French investigators are no closer to confirming ...

12 hours, 49 minutes ago
Views: 167 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 0
Thanos
Sovereign Citizens Now Consist of All Colors and Creeds
The case made headlines last fall in the midst of the Ferguson unrest. Two men with ties to the New Black Panther Party were charged with acquiring weapons in what was later revealed to be a plot to kill ...

13 hours, 39 minutes ago
Views: 145 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 0
I Stand With Planned Parenthood
FHI 360 Leadership in Contraceptive Technology Innovation Through Envision FP Award From USAID
August 26, 2015 -- DURHAM, NC -- FHI 360, which has been a global leader in family planning (FP) research for more than four decades, has received Envision FP: Transforming Contraception to Expand Access and Choice, a new five-year ...

1 day, 13 hours ago
Views: 360 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 5 • Rating: 1
JmpMaster
Teachers as the Target in Schools and Media
As soon as you mention public education a barrage of soundbites and adages come flying from every corner at dizzying speed. Teachers are underpaid and underappreciated, teachers are all jaded cynics that don't care anymore, teachers are the cornerstone ...

2 days, 12 hours ago
Views: 411 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 0
VickieHaz
Spice Up Your Home Lighting
When many of us are in need of a new lamp, ceiling light or any other lighting application the first thing we'll do is jump in the car and head off to the nearest IKEA. This is the safest option ...

2 days, 19 hours ago
Views: 475 • Comments: 2
Tweets: 3 • Rating: 0
Bubblehead II
President Obama Remarks on Tenth Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina
In case you missed the NOLA Presidents speech today. President Obama Remarks on Tenth Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

3 days, 6 hours ago
Views: 433 • Comments: 1
Tweets: 1 • Rating: 1
KiTA
Vester Lee Flanagan Guns Down News Crew on Live TV, Live Tweets and Films himself doing so.
Update: The shooter filmed himself performing the act and uploaded the content to several social media accounts. It was shared thousands of times before Twitter deleted it. Twitter auto-plays the video. Today would be a very good day to close ...

4 days, 14 hours ago
Views: 735 • Comments: 4
Tweets: 6 • Rating: 3
Lumberhead
Why the 2016 Republican Nomination Can’t Be Predicted Through History
This election season provides a fascinating frame to see if the polarization in politics, from Washington to the states to the public, is no different than what we have seen in the past; if the angry populism evident especially ...

1 week, 2 days ago
Views: 826 • Comments: 1
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 3
No Country For Old Haters
Unraveling the Enigma of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, 20 Years Later
Twenty years ago, on August 21, 1995, Nintendo released the Virtual Boy in North America. The stilt-legged tabletop gaming console, which offered a unique red stereoscopic 3D display, attempted to ride a wave of popular interest in virtual reality. ...

1 week, 2 days ago
Views: 735 • Comments: 3
Tweets: 1 • Rating: 0
EiMitch
Cracked: The 6 Most Ridiculous F***-Ups In The History Of Science
cracked.com There's no doubt that science has made all of our lives much better, as evidenced by the fact that we wrote this article entirely from the men's room of our neighborhood Chipotle. (We'll be living here for the rest ...

1 week, 4 days ago
Views: 1,090 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 0