Now that the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is almost a month past, this might be a good time for Politisite readers to hear some of the more personal perspectives that were offered by some prominent CPAC attendees. Over the next week or so, I’ll post some of the interviews that were conducted at CPAC over March 14th-16th.
Our first Politisite – “Echoes of CPAC” interview will be with Al Cardenas, Chairman of the American Conservative Union, who was gracious enough to give us some time during CPAC.
KW: As far as the diversity of attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference, how can this Conference help inform Conservatives about the opportunities that exist in Urban American communities?
AC: Look, Ronald Reagan in 1975, after our losses in ’74 said that there are three things we need to be a winning Movement… [One], to adhere to our Conservative Principles and not be a Party that says everything to everybody; [Two], he said that you had to be smart enough to recruit articulate leaders that not only believed in Conservative Principles, but could articulate them. Otherwise, we’d be losing election after election… as we found out in the last two cycles; And the third thing he said was that we had to appeal to all Americans. You can’t leave anybody behind. And if you believe as strongly as he did and I do that our principles are good for all Americans… then you should not shy from engaging all Americans. I think many in our [Republican] Party have a fear in their hearts that’s unfounded. That’s frankly short-changed us in the ability of the Movement to be stronger than it is. And so part of the diversity of this CPAC Conference is to let our fellow Conservatives that it is pretty cool to reach out to Everyone. I hope after the experience of these three days, people say, “Darn it. I am buying in on this.”
KW: Well, how important is it from a cultural standpoint to get the Conservatives in the Movement to really go into the cities… really go into the barrios, different sections and really bring their positions and their message “one-on-one” and not rely on “media-messaging.”
AC: If we don’t, we lose! Fortunately, we have upcoming new crop of Leaders… the next generation of Conservatives who are very comfortable doing precisely that. Perhaps more so than the older generation. But everybody… If you care enough about America, if you care about what we believe in… there needs to be courage in your heart to do this. Trust me, it’ll feel good.
KW: How do you feel about moving CPAC to this new location (the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, MD)?
AC: The good news is that we outgrew the earlier location, this one… everybody seems to like more. There is more room for exhibitors. A larger “Radio Row,” twice as many people can get into a ballroom to hear our speakers and by and large, I think we’ll have an audience that’ll feel even better [about CPAC].
KW: This is my fifth CPAC and it seems younger and it seems that it is a bit more diverse, but how important is it that young and college-age Conservatives come here versus folks over thirty?
AC: Look, we made a commitment to Ronald Reagan in the early 80s that we would always make CPAC a welcome place for our youngsters. As these Conferences have grown more expensive to hold… we’re kept the prices for young people [down]. I mean, for forty-dollars, you get to come to a three-day Conference and if you join up with groups like the Leadership Institute, you get fed for free. So, we’re talking about a “Grand Bargain,” it is the ultimate bargain. But, that is our spirit! Fifty-five percent of the people here are under the age of twenty-five and not only will they have tools in their toolbox when they attend our Panels and hear our discussions… but more importantly, they can join up with great groups and sign up for training sessions for involvement. [This] allows us to train the future leaders of tomorrow and this is the ultimate recruiting station for young, good-hearted Conservative leaders.
KW: Well, we really need them.
AC: Yes, we do.