WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than 10,000 activists will convene here today at the Wardman Park Marriott Hotel for the biggest gathering of conservatives in history.
This year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) will not only be the biggest in the 38-year history of the event, it is quite nearly certain to be the most festive and energized. Following on the heels of last fall's mid-term election triumph, conservatives are in a mood to celebrate and this three-day conference is where they will assemble for that celebration.
You wouldn't know this, of course, from most of the press coverage. According to the media, the right is deeply divided by internecine feuds, with social conservatives battling libertarians and neocons in a grand three-way donnybrook that threatens to destroy the Republican Party.
Sic semper hoc.
For as long as I've been covering CPAC, reporters have been hyping the idea that this event is extraordinarily controversial, using their coverage of the conference to suggest that the conservative movement is teetering on the brink of its final ideological implosion. The only difference this year is that some conservatives decided to join liberals in promoting the overhyped idea of CPAC controversy.
"Gay group in conservatives' gathering splits GOP," read a headline at CNN's website, describing this year's pet controversy.
The "split" exists mainly in the minds of journalists, having been relentlessly publicized by Joseph Farah's WorldNetDaily.com. The controversy involves the inclusion of GOProud, which was also represented at last year's CPAC. That points up the fundamental problem with the "conservatives divided" narrative being promoted in the media: The alleged division isn't anything new, nor is Farah's anti-CPAC animus.
Last March, Farah pronounced CPAC "dead," but this renunciation had nothing to do with homosexuality. Instead, Farah was upset because CPAC refused to address the so-called "birther" issue: Was President Obama born in the United States? Farah suggested this as a topic for CPAC 2010 and, when a reporter asked conference director Lisa DePasquale about it, she said "that isn't something we're interested in."
Having pronounced the death of CPAC in March, WorldNetDaily returned to the theme in November with a story headlined,"Will the Right bring 'gay' agenda into the tent?" With or without their "agenda," however, GOProud was already inside the CPAC "tent," as were many other potentially controversial participating groups, including the John Birch Society. Prominent social conservative spokesmen -- including Robert Knight of Coral Ridge Ministries, a longtime friend of mine -- gave quotes to WND reporter Brian Fitzpatrick denouncing GOProud. Liberal bloggers and journalists jumped on the "conservatives divided" story, and the fact that GOProud's participation was nothing new -- and that Farah's grievance against CPAC was a year old -- got lost in the subsequent uproar.
No matter what anyone says, gays aren't taking over CPAC. I'm writing this story in the lobby bar of the Marriott, surrounded by heterosexual conservatives, most of whom are happily married, and all of whom are having the grandest times of their lives. As I explained two years ago, this is "Mardi Gras for the Right" and, after the Tea Party-fueled GOP triumph of 2010, the mood is very much laissez les bon temps rouler.
This is true every year. Even in years following Republican defeats, the activists who gather for CPAC manage to have a good time. In fact, when the media isn't busy trying to make up non-existent conservative divisions, they have been known to gin up controversies about conservatives having too much fun. Most notoriously, in 1997, Stephen Glass of the New Republic fictionalized a story about out-of-control College Republicans engaged in sadistic degeneracy during the conference.
Amid all the furor over this year's alleged controversies, the attendance of more than 5,000 college students is one of the big untold CPAC stories. Every year, thousands of young conservatives come to CPAC to hear the speakers, attend seminars, and discover that they aren't nearly as rare as they sometimes seem amid the dominant liberalism of American campuses. Many of the students, in fact, aspire to careers as conservative journalists, and will attend a CPAC event Friday afternoon called "Jumpstarting your Journalism Career," hosted by The American Spectator.
Just in case any of those would-be journalists read this article, let me suggest that their first assignment should be to tell the world the truth.
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