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Disastrous State of Conservative Movement on Full Display at CPAC

Party leaders stay focused on appealing to their rabid Christian evangelical base, at the expense of the majority of the public.

This week is the right wing’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which is organized by the 50-year old American Conservative Union. CPAC is where conservative stars are born, and where hopeful Republican Party presidential candidates undergo the mandatory rite of passage.

"After the Super Bowl and the two parties' national conventions, CPAC is the most covered event in the country," says Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union. "It's the only venue where thousands of activists get to see, back to back during our three-day conference, the likely 2016 leading GOP presidential candidates and begin to create perceptions which last through Election Day."

With the national mainstream media tuning in, it’s an opportunity for the Republican Party to let America know exactly where it stands on the issues du jour.

Last month, the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released the results of a major new survey that reveals the American people's list of issues they believe should be the focus of government attention in 2014.

Healthcare reform tops the public's list of priorities, mentioned by 52 percent of respondents as one of the top 10 problems, followed by unemployment (42 percent), the economy in general (39 percent), and the federal deficit (31 percent). On healthcare, it’s significant to note that a majority of Americans favor improving the Affordable Care Act, despite the GOP’s never-ending story of voting to repeal it.

Day 1 of CPAC addressed absolutely nothing when it comes to what concerns Americans the most. Instead it became the usual conservative conference where middle-class Republicans go to have rich Republicans teach them how to beat up on middle-class Americans. The first day of the event had no shortage of offensive sound bites.

Donald Trump said, "Immigrants are taking your jobs," while also mistakenly contending that President Carter was deceased. The NRA's Wayne LaPierre said Americans need more guns because there are "knockout gamers and rapers" around every corner. Center for Neighborhood Enterprise president Robert L. Woodson, Sr. said black liberals made Detroit look like Hiroshima after it was nuked. “Poor people are suffering from their friends in Detroit, where they have been led by liberal black Democrats for 40 years, and it looks like Hiroshima did when it was bombed. Hiroshima looked like Detroit did 60 years ago.”

Woodson left out the part where since the mid 1960s, the majority of Michigan state legislators and governors have been Republicans. He also left out how cheap, non-unionized labor in the South has drained Detroit of its auto industry jobs. But that’s another story.

Leading into the event, CPAC made headlines for all the wrong reasons when it shut out gay and atheist groups, while welcoming an anti-immigrant organization run by a white nationalist. If there was ever a textbook example of political tone-deafness, surely this must be it, especially given the national outrage Arizona Republicans whipped up in voting for a bill that would have enacted Jim Crow-era laws against gay Americans.

A recent Public Religion Research Institute study reveals that nearly 7 in 10 (69%) Millennials (ages 18 to 33) favor same-sex marriage, yet the Republican Party is waging a war to discriminate against LGBTs in a dozen states. The GOP is alienating itself from average Americans in so many ways, but the party’s undemocratic and un-American efforts to suppress the voting rights of minorities surely ranks at the top of the list.

After they got hammered in the 2012 election, and with early polls indicating the GOP might be facing an even bigger wipeout in 2016, a moment of introspection might have revealed valuable insights to the party. Instead, party leaders seem hell-bent on continuing the trend of demonizing the poor, gays, atheists, liberals, Muslims, and women in an effort to appeal to its rabid Christian evangelical base.

A new Pew Research Poll shows how dramatically the Republican Party is losing touch with young people, with 50% of millennials identifying as independent, 27% Democrat, while Republicans only draw 17% support. This is a big deal. Eventually, the party will run out of old, angry, white, heterosexual, religious people. Middle-class Republicans may soon realize that conservative headwinds are blowing against them, too.

On almost every issue, the GOP is on the wrong side of history and popular opinion. A majority of Americans now favor liberal policies, whether it's same-sex marriage, women's reproductive rights, immigration reform, sensible gun control laws, tax code reform, the minimum wage, the role of government, and healthcare.

Bizarrely, and against all the points raised above, the GOP will dominate in the 2014 midterms, due in part to the Republican Party's gerrymandering efforts post-2010 midterms. They may even take the Senate. This short-term win will only serve to push the party further to the right and, in doing so, further away from where most Americans stand.

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