In late February, at the CPAC meeting in Washington DC, American conservatives met to experience and engage in conservative thought. The annual CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) meeting is sponsored by the American Conservative Union. The ACU brands itself as “America’s Oldest and Largest Grassroots Conservative Organization.”
In the straw poll conducted annually at CPAC, this year’s winner was Ron Paul (R-TX). According to CPAC’s poll data, 2,395 of the 10,000 attendees voted; 64% were male and 54% were aged 18-25. In addition to voting for favorite 2012 presidential candidates, poll respondents also indicated other priorities: a) 58% believe that Congressional Republicans should focus on cutting federal spending; b) 52% want to see a reduction in the size of government; and c) 80% identified their most important goal as “promoting individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government and its intrusion into the lives of its citizens.”
The selection of Ron Paul in the straw poll has drawn a few disdainful observations. On Chris Wallace’s Fox News Sunday program, both Mara Liasson and Juan Williams stated that Paul is out of the mainstream and doesn’t represent most conservatives. (View their remarks around the 38 minute mark)
While I’ll refrain from tossing my support behind Paul at this time, I beg to differ that Paul’s chances of winning the presidency are nil because of these criticisms. Remember, the 2009 Gallop poll identified Conservatives as the largest ideological group with 40% of Americans self-identifying as conservative. On the other hand, only 21% of Americans describe themselves as liberal. Yet, Barack Obama won the White House even though he was ranked at the far left during his brief tenure in the Senate. Clearly, he represented even fewer mainstream Americans when he campaigned nor does he now that he is President.
What is clear today is that conservative voters will seek a candidate that truly embraces conservative ideals (whether the Republican Party machine delivers one for us is another story). It’s also clear that citizens are serious and highly motivated today in their involvement in day-to-day governance, both locally and nationally. More importantly, young people are engaged and vocal, and this may be the most noteworthy data from CPAC. They are our future, after all. Draw whatever conclusions you will from the CPAC straw poll or the other attendance data… It’s still an exciting time to be an American voter!