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If you wanted to be reminded again of why Republicans lost the presidential election last year, all you had to do last week was watch this C-PAC thing they do every year.
The Conservative Political Action Conference, it’s actually called, and, well, it’s always good for a laugh in my part of the world.
But if you’re a good Republican who remembers a better party in earlier days, what you saw on display was indeed enough to make you cry.
First, one of the most revealing facts of the conference was announced even before it began: Donald Trump would be invited; but Chris Christie would not.
How in the world could Trump still be a hero to the Republican Party? You’d think he’s embarrassed it enough with the birther nonsense, and his tease of a campaign that he never meant to wage (not that he’s qualified, in the least, to be president).
And Chris Christie? Well, all he’s done is get elected as a moderate Republican in one of the bluest states in the nation, and governed reasonably with a Democratic legislature. That’s all. But that doesn’t count for much in the modern “conservative movement.” Christie, C-PAC said, “hadn’t earned” an invitation.
So, without an apparent leader of the party willing to take it away from the extremism that keeps getting it beaten, what did you see at C-PAC?
In short, it was the biggest bunch of losers in one place since the 1962 New York Mets posed for a team photograph.
Loser number one? Well, that was a tight contest between Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin. Romney had to listen as pollster Pat Caddell (yes, the former Carter speechwriter) called his campaign “the worst ever in presidential history.”
For his own part, Romney is still pandering to the same far-right policies that got him beaten. He’s quite forgotten that he was ever a moderate. He offered nothing new, and said he thought everyone was being too pessimistic. Thank you, Mitt.
Palin was the same moose-shootin’ mama that her celebrity has assured. As usual, she exhibited little evidence that she really understands much about the policies she espouses.
Virginia’s own tea-party warrior, Ken Cuccinelli, was there, too. He wanted to ensure his fellow ideologues that he also hasn’t learned anything from last year, and that his campaign for governor will prove that point.
If there was one person who spoke who might have showed some realization that the party has to change, it was none other than Jeb Bush.
Yes, that Jeb, the brother of the failed, swaggering little Texan, and another son of the respected George H.W. Bush. Now whether America will be ready again for the “Bush” name in four years, well, that’s yet to be seen.
But Jeb – said to be seriously considering a presidential bid in 2016 – did say that the party needs more “inclusion and acceptance.”
Perhaps what he was talking about was on display just a few days later, when Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman came out in favor of gay marriage, after learning that his own son is gay.
The country has changed, and it’s still changing. You can argue whether it’s center/left, or center/right, but it is certainly not as far to the right as today’s tea-party dominated GOP.
Most conservatives still bow to the memory of Reagan. But could he even get the nomination of that party today? He raised taxes, raised the debt ceiling, and pulled troops out of a foreign entanglement as soon as they were in trouble (Lebanon).
Jeb Bush’s “inclusion and acceptance” advice would be a good place to begin, but most of those who spoke at the conference still haven’t figured that out.
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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at RickDem117@gmail.com