Friday, February 27, 2009

The Edsel Dealers Convention

The conservatives rally in Washington.

Capping off a day of conservative soul-searching, strategizing and navel-gazing at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele announced Thursday that the Grand Old Party is “alive and well.”

Steele, addressing CPAC’s Presidential Banquet, told the audience that “the conservative movement must become a revolution,” and the goal “must be nothing less than the transformation of America.”

“Tonight, we tell America that Republican values, conservative values, are right for America,” he said, admitting that the party has made some mistakes. “Tonight, we tell America: we know the past, we know we did wrong. My bad. But we go forward in appreciation of the values that brought us to this point.”

To much applause, Steele attacked the Obama administration’s recently-passed stimulus package, calling it “nothing short of frightening.” He said conservatives must use the political moment to re-assert their belief in a set of basic principles: limited government, freedom, opportunity and the ability of the free market to “create, innovate and prosper.”

November’s losses, he contended, should not be a discouragement.

“I am here tonight to reject the idea that defeats of the past are a repudiation of core conservative values and principles,” he said. “Nor do I believe that those defeats are a sign of things to come.”

Far be it from me to piddle on their Wheaties; I’m enjoying hearing about what great shape the conservative movement is in and how, according to David Keane, head of the American Conservative Union, one of the groups at the fantasy fest, it was “liberating” to be out of power because it meant that they could finally be true to their core values. By that logic, he should be positively giddy with delight if the rest of the Republicans lost their seats in the next election.

As with any gathering like this, there were the usual groupies and exhibitors peddling their wares. Most of them were the usual bumpersticker tchotchkes, but this time, with the first African-American and Democrat in the White House, there is a racial tinge to them, like “Obama Waffles” cereal and other such juvenile humor. Then, of course, there are the speakers who are there to rally the troops with speeches about how the president really isn’t a citizen, and former U.N. ambassador John Bolton warning that Iran will attack us with nuclear missiles sometime next week, hopefully landing one on Chicago.

I suppose the only worthwhile response to these pathetic souls is to laugh at them and their clownish antics because to take them too seriously would only give them legitimacy. Besides, mockery and derisive laughter makes them more outraged — “you’re not taking me seriously!” — and that’s just more fun. But ignoring them would be a mistake, too, because that would give them the mistaken impression that somehow, some way, we don’t think they are as crazy as a boxful of birds. Perhaps the best thing to do is to watch them carry on their merry way, like a convention of Edsel dealers in 1959. But for most of the people attending this convention, who would be more than happy to go back to the old way of doing things like during the heyday of the Goldwater-Reagan-Thurmond conservatism, it still is 1959.