Viewpoint: Conservative conference reflects current political attitude

By Danny Huizinga

It’s the last thing most Americans care about. But still, a group of the faithful made the trek to St. Louis this weekend for a regional version of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Compared to the three-day CPAC conference in Washington last March, the St. Louis event was notably more low-key.

Gone is most of the media buzz. There are no attendees in revolutionary-war costumes. The atmosphere reflects a weariness for the politics that have been plaguing the daily news cycle. The event’s schedule was changed at the last minute, likely owing to the sudden Defund Obamacare and budget resolution crisis in Congress. Most representatives and senators that were invited now find themselves tied up in a battle that’s taking the country by storm. In the words of Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, one of the only senators who came to the event, it’s been an “interesting week” in Washington.

And yet, “we are here to win,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “Never let them tell us to compromise when they mean ‘please lose.’”

The sentiment of perseverance in spite of difficulty is a common theme in a conference of conservatives stung by recent electoral losses and shrinking political support. Republicans who vote to raise taxes are “ratheads in a Coke bottle,” said Norquist, while Democrats are “teenage boys on a prom date — they keep asking for the same thing in different ways.”

On health care, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently claimed that those who support the Defund efforts are “weird” and need to “get a life.”

Those comments were referenced multiple times Saturday morning, as Lee (who aided Cruz in his efforts) argued we need to send a message to Washington: “Not on our watch, not under our Constitution, not on your life.”

Gov. Rick Perry tried to fire up the crowd at CPAC St. Louis, taking the stage to “God Blessed Texas” blaring on the speakers. He wasted no time in criticizing Washington and lauding the benefits of Texas.

“The culture in Washington is broken,” he said. “It’s a sentiment that most Americans share, especially after the showmanship of last week. Get out of the health care business, get out of the education business, stop hammering industry,” was the advice he gave to government officials.

It echoes the talking points of his likely successor, current Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Though it drew applause, it still seems forced.

In a press conference immediately after his speech, Perry attempted to walk back comments a few days ago, in which he called Cruz’s Defund strategy “nonsensical.”

“I was asked if I thought defunding Obamacare makes sense. I don’t think anybody thinks shutting down the government is a good option,” he said.

However, he blamed President Barack Obama for refusing to negotiate with Republicans, and concluded, “I think they ought to defund Obamacare, because it’s not going to work… The American people will defund Obamacare.”

The problem is, the base doesn’t seem to be as fired up as it once was. As we go to press, the government will likely be shut down – but Republicans will undoubtedly cave soon.

Danny Huizinga is a junior Business Fellow from Chicago. He is a guest columnist for the Lariat. Follow him @HuizingaDanny on Twitter.