EDITOR OF REDSTATE
CPAC: Not Quite Like the Media Matters Communications Room. But Still, Grow Up.
UPDATE: Melissa Clouthier has taken on the task of writing the same point about the young women, too many of whom were even more scantily clad than some of Fox News hosts.
Stephen Glass was a fabulist. He made up stories and eventually he was caught. I read somewhere he wants to be a lawyer now, but his contrition is in doubt.
One of the things he made up was a story on CPAC. He may have made it up, but I think he got it right nonetheless.
After RedState got started in July of 2004, blogging on the right became all the rage, though it was correlation and not causation. By 2005, CPAC had a Bloggers Row and I went for my first time. The event was held that year at the Reagan Center in Washington, D.C. Most of the attendees stayed across the street at the JW Marriott. It was not an ideal venue, but it was my first time and I did not know better.
Being the good, intrepid blogger, I ran across the street to a CVS to buy a notepad, having left mine in my office back in Macon, GA. There in line were a half dozen young men, each with CPAC credentials around their necks and each buying condoms.
That is part of life on the college circuit. Young men, regardless of political persuasion or ideology, are intent on having sex, being boys, getting drunk — doing what young men in college often do. All to often there are also a few young ladies willing to shame their parents if their parents only knew.
But — and I wouldn’t be writing any of this had I not had a series of email exchanges on this subject in the past few days — I am more than a bit shocked by the young men at CPAC this year who just seemingly refuse to grow up or act their age. More troubling, while in 2005 it seemed to be just college kids, as the years have passed it is not just the 18 to 21 year old set, but the twenty and thirty somethings who just can’t seem to grow up. It’s like they started out at CPAC this way in college and each year at their CPAC reunion descend back to their freshman year rush week.
This is more and more common in society and none of us should expect that a behavior increasingly common in society should not spill over into any event including CPAC, but just because something is common does not mean it is responsible or acceptable.
We can be thankful that CPAC is not like the communications war room at Media Matters. But it should be much more than that. The young men and women who go to CPAC are often present or future leaders on their college campuses and within the conservative movement. They go to CPAC and are often on near equal terms at CPAC with people much older than themselves. Unfortunately, too many treat CPAC like spring break.
More than a few of the twenty and thirty somethings who go to CPAC seem to treat it like an extension of their college days doing their best to hook up before passing out. It’s not the majority to be sure, but it is a noticeable minority.
I am not even sure that there is a solution to the problem. But we should not think it is anything but a problem. It is not every young man, but there are many. They risk dragging the whole affair down to some bawdy, rowdy distraction. They risk embarrassing themselves and the conservative movement. They risk the perception premised on their own actions that conservative men of a certain age think that good manners and decorum around women of the same age is unneeded or unwanted.
This is not to say CPAC cannot and should not be fun. This is not to say that CPAC cannot and should not be a party. But it is to say that I hope the college groups bussing in students next year, the out of college set there to network, and CPAC itself encourage behavior we all too often don’t talk about anymore in our society — the behavior of gentlemen. Eat, drink, smoke, be merry, but be chivalrous too. There really is, regardless of your age, no need to play the cad at CPAC to score points with conservative ladies.
Conservatives should, first and foremost, want to conserve the basics and good behavior should remain a basic characteristic of the conservative movement. As conservatives, we believe in self-government. With that belief comes the duty of personal responsibility. We should accept that duty as the opportunity to do what is right, not as license to behave like fools.
It really is time to embrace again the concept of growing the hell up.