The big news among conservatives and political junkies has so far this week revolved are Milo Yiannopoulos, his invitation to speak at CPAC, his disinvitation from CPAC, and his book being canceled by the publisher. In homes across America, that’s a boring sentence full of things nobody cares about.
Donald Trump has finished his first month in office as President, and it’s been a whirlwind. The executive orders on immigration and the appointments and subsequent confirmation hearings have dominated that news, while the fact that Obamacare limps happily along, unimpeded by the raft of Republican victories in November isn’t getting much press at all. That’s the kind of news that a lot of people care about.
It’s a kind of disconnect, but not the kind that should dissuade you from caring about both things.
The CPAC fiasco is a sign of the times, and that sign says “Fractures Behind and Ahead.” The divisions in the conservative movement matter, and eventually they will affect things that do affect dinner table conversations across America where currently the keynote speakers at CPAC never come up. Where the conference itself is relatively obscure. Because this is only a symptom.
Yes, it can be frustrating reading blogs and social media and seeing people talking and fretting about the splits on “our”side, seeing former allies in opposition, and seeing the Republican party fail to come together (although you should note Trump’s historically high support among Republican voters). It’s tempting to scold people who lament or otherwise highlight the divisions and disharmony, or to blame their observations on insularity or bubbles or a million other things that are really just a way to dismiss the discord as unimportant or trivial, and be done with it. But you’re fooling yourself if you do.
Both political parties in this country are in disarray. If the goal of 2016 among certain demographics was “disruption” it can only be called a complete success. Disruption is what we got. While Democrats are now rebounding in their opposition to be more Democratty than ever, even going so far as to think a good reaction to 2016 is to run Elizabeth Warren in the next election, the idea of the conservative movement is in complete disarray. CPAC is an example of that.
Make no mistake, there would have been no Milo invitation to CPAC if there were not a Trump victory last year. That’s just a fact. And it speaks to the bigger question about where the conservative movement is going. Even though that’s a frustrating conversation. Even though it can wear down your enthusiasm and joy to have it. Even though it would be much nicer and less annoying if everyone would just get along. It remains before us, yet to be decided. These are not imaginary divisions, they are not trivial, and they aren’t going away by wishing them so. We can’t just pretend everything is alright and tell everyone it’s no big deal, we’re just clumsy and ran into a doorknob. That won’t help anything.
The world isn’t ending. America is still here a whole month after Trump took office. We’re telling NATO to get their wallets out. We’re taking seriously the matter of security where large numbers of refugees are concerned. Mattis is on the job. There are some good things.
And this CPAC mess was a good thing. The water was tested this week. Milo was invited to speak and it turns out the conservative movement is not, in fact, ready to go complete nutjob alt-right just yet. That’s encouraging news. (It would be much more encouraging if the right had abandoned Milo-ism sooner, more forcefully, and had not invited him in the first place, but …)
CPAC showed us all something this week that maybe they didn’t intend. It showed us that the lines haven’t been all the way crossed. They haven’t been entirely redrawn. The populists and the disruptors made their way in, but they didn’t take over. When someone is vile, we can reject them, even over the chorus of internet toughs crying about political correctness.
So even though it’s hard and even though the big break in conservative politics is still there and will still have to be faced, there are bright spots. I know a lot of RedState readers and community members see a bleak landscape when they look out the virtual window into the political world, but civilization remains.
Just keep telling the truth. Just keep advocating for what is right and what you believe. Don’t be worn down. And don’t retreat. Go to CPAC. Be part of the conservative contingent at the event. It’s maybe not the loudest, maybe doesn’t get the camera time, but the group obviously still matters, and still has a voice. There is a future for the conservative movement.