Thursday, March 19, 2015

Capitalism, Anti-Environmentalism, and Disease at 2015 CPAC

The 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) took place on February 26-28 in National Harbor, Maryland. Organized by the American Conservative Union and sponsored by high-profile conservative groups, CPAC is an annual gathering of right-wing political figures and commentators, where inflammatory rhetoric is common. Scheduled speakers at this year's CPAC included Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Laura Ingraham, Jeb Bush, and Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association.

Other commentators have already discussed 2015 CPAC's trite rhetoric, sexism, uncomfortable "humor", and ties to controversial groups such as ProEnglish. For your reading pleasure, I'd like to share some lesser known quotes from CPAC's keynote speeches and workshops.

Robert Doar, Morgridge Fellow on Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, spoke at a workshop entitled "How Capitalism Empowers the Poor". Doar argued for the merits of a strong economy, which would increase the number of jobs available to low-income Americans, as well as work requirements for assistance programs. While Doar acknowledged that conservatives "need to make peace with the social safety net", he looked askance at the "welfare system" at the 5:00 mark.
"We need to acknowledge that there are going to be some people who can't work, or elderly or disabled, and there we need to have some avenue of support, and we need to acknowledge that. We also need to convey to people that we care about these issues and we care about the extent to which the economy is not producing jobs or opportunities and the extent to which whatever supports we have in place don't work effectively. If we write off those issues, if we act like that's not our game, that's somebody else's game, but there's also a policy objective, because when we give up that terrain and we give the impression it's not something we care about, then the terrain is won by the other side. Polices get put in place that reward dependency, and reward assistance and don't reward work or families and instead set people back ... They become enslaved. They become captured by the welfare system of the United States which rewards dependency."

In another workshop entitled "Climate: What Tom Steyer Won't Tell You", panel speakers condemned environmental policies and the work of environmental activist Tom Steyer. At the 9:52 mark, Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX, 17th District) insisted that the liberal "climate agenda" would undermine U.S. energy production.
"In order to have a great American future, we've got to have energy security. This administration has done everything it can to stop or thwart American energy production. Now the private sector's been able to overcome those headwinds, but it's getting tougher and tougher. At the same time, they're trying to stop domestic energy production. They're spending billions on failed green energy programs like Solyndra. We've seen that. There's a lot that Tom Steyer won't tell you about the Obama-Steyer climate objective, or the climate agenda that many liberals have. Here are the six inconvenient truths about that agenda that I think you need to know. It kills U.S. jobs, it costs trillions of dollars, it's based on junk science, it's based on fantasy technology, and it uses manipulated cost-benefit data, and last, it doesn't even pass the smell test."
Myron Ebell, director of Competitive Enterprise Institute's Center for Energy and Environment, spoke ill of global climate initiatives at the 18:58 mark, accusing them of stifling economic growth.
"I want to start in 1992. That's when President Bush flew to Rio for the Earth Summit and signed the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. That was when the leaders of almost every country in the world decided to put a noose around the global economy ... The next step after 1992 was during the Clinton administration when Bill Clinton and Al Gore cooked up what became the Kyoto Protocol. Now, you will recall that the U.S. Senate never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, but if you want to thank President George W. Bush for that, that's okay, but in fact, he did virtually nothing to stop the tightening of the noose. So we go next to President Obama who is part of this agenda ... It's how you take control of the U.S. economy through environmental regulations over energy use. If you control what kind of energy people can use and how much, you control the economy."

At a workshop entitled "Would the Pilgrims Still be Welcome Here?", panel speakers lamented the alleged war on (fundamentalist Christian) religious freedom. "The greatest threat facing the future of our country is the loss of religious freedom," claimed Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. At the 10:35 mark, Perkins likened anti-gay discrimination and denial of birth control coverage by businesses to the struggle of the Pilgrims.
"The president has repeatedly said that we have the freedom of worship. That is a truncated view of the freedom of religion. The Pilgrims came to this country after they had gone to Holland. They were driven out of their country because of a corrupt church and a corrupt state, and they wanted to not just have freedom of worship, to choose to go to a church on Sunday and spend an hour or two on an appointed day of the week. They came here to live their life according to their faith, and there's a big difference, and that's what's at risk in the Hobby Lobby case ... Small businesses, photographers, wedding cake makers, florists who are losing their businesses because they refuse to leave their faith at home."
At the 15:40 mark, panel moderator Cal Thomas voiced his contempt for "government schools", appalled that they teach children evolution.
"I have a certain prejudice about the government schools. I think that for conservatives and Christians or people of faith, of any faith, to put your child in a school where they teach them that they evolved from slime and their nearest relative is down at the zoo and that's why they like bananas on their cereal is working against the faith and values that you believe in. Better to put them in a private school where your faith and values are reinforced instead of a government school, and especially universities where they have teachers trained to do away with it."

Finally, one speaker at CPAC was even more bizarre and offensive than the usual fare. The 2015 winner of the Andrew Breibart Defender of the First Amendment Award was Phil Robertson, the infamous patriarch of Duck Dynasty. After sauntering on stage in camouflage clothing with his wife in tow, Robertson sighed that "all of us ought to be able to speak freely where we didn't have to be awarded." At the 24:51 mark, Robertson defended capitalism against its detractors, arguing that capitalists who benefit from capitalism never condemn it (!?).
"I am a God-loving, Bible-believing, gun-toting capitalist! [Audience cheers] Always remember, when you hear a guy or a gal ad infinitum attack the results of capitalism, which is capital, and you have a steady attack on those people who receive the capital ... when you hear someone badmouthing them ad infinitum, you can be sure of one thing. He's not a capitalist! I've never heard a capitalist badmouth the result of capitalism, have you? Not one."
At the 35:40 mark, Robertson began a bizarre rant against sexually transmitted disease, using it to promote married monogamy.
"One hundred and ten million Americans now have a sexually transmitted illness. One hundred and ten million! ... I don't want you, America, to get sick. I don't want you to become ill. I don't want you to come down with a debilitating disease. I don't want you to die early. You're disease-free and she's disease free, you marry, you keep your sex right there, you won't get sick from a sexually transmitted disease! Come on!

There is a penalty to be paid for what the beatniks, and who morphed into the hippies [did]. You say, what do you call the hundred and ten million people who have sexually transmitted illnesses? It's the revenge of the hippies! Sex, drugs, and rock and roll have come back to haunt us in a bad way ... You want a godly, Biblical, medically safe option? One man, one woman, married for life."
2015 CPAC serves as a reminder that America's far right still nurses a persecution complex, sneers at environmentalism, and ignores the excesses of capitalism. Unfortunately, the worldview of the far right does not equip its followers to confront the social and environmental realities in front of their faces.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

SPLC Hatewatch: Extremist Highlights from CPAC 2015

The Advocate: Decoding CPAC Celebrities' Mixed Messages on LGBT Issues

Raw Story: Republicans still fighting the ‘War on Women’ at CPAC — here’s why


  1. It's amazing to me how people continue to buy into this kind of rhetoric. For the far right, it's all about controlling the narrative with their false story that boosts their pro-corporation anti-poor agenda. They use misleading inflammatory rhetoric and play on hot-button issues to invoke emotion rather than reason. They are truly targeting an uninformed demographic.

    But as income disparity continues to increase and the reality lived by the poor diverges from the right's delusion, one would think their narrative would stop resonating.

    1. Agi Tater -- It's an artificial narrative that unfortunately still convinces plenty of voters. I don't know why people still believe these narratives when the realities of environmental harm and poverty are staring them in the faces.


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