News coverage of the Conservative Political Action Conference — CPAC — is often dismissive, sarcastic or just plain negative, dwelling on controversy and even creating it. Such coverage will get drowned out when this bodacious event roars to life on Thursday, drawing some 13,000 attendees who are thoughtful, enthusiastic and politically engaged. There’s some real passion here, and refreshing sincerity. This is an event that begins every morning with a formal presentation of colors. This is a crowd that is unapologetically patriotic, in touch with America’s founding values and eager to witness significant speakers who include White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, Sen. Ted Cruz and broadcast maven Mark Levin — and that’s just in the opening 90 minutes on Thursday morning. Another 155 speakers will follow in the next 72 hours, including President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
“Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as it is an attitude and a constant force — performing a timeless function in the development of a free society, and corresponding to a deep and permanent need of human nature itself. Conservatism is vibrant, thriving, developing, growing and shedding its old skin — and for that we can thank Donald Trump,” actor and Breitbart.com columnist Robert Davi — himself a featured CPAC speaker — tells Inside the Beltway.
He points out that the nation’s most basic tenets have been eroded for the last 40 years by a left-leaning media, culture and educational system. It will take some muscle to right that wrong, he says.
“Conservatism in itself is not a stabilizing factor without leadership that is fearless enough to combat and expose the chaos,” Mr. Davi observes. “This in turn galvanizes the American people and provides unity — which in itself is a stabilizing force.”
Among the many topics of discussion on the CPAC schedule: “The alt-right ain’t right at all,” “Conservatism is about ideas not identity,” “Recovering from Obama flu,” “Breaking out of regulatory prison,” “How the election changed and expanded the pro-life movement” and “If heaven has a gate, a wall and extreme vetting, why can’t America?”
Needless to say, the CPAC crowd has many more things to do than consider what the mainstream press has to say in the next few days. C-SPAN, incidentally, will offer daylong coverage of the events on Thursday, along with Mr. Trump’s speech and other highlights on Friday. See the CPAC site here
FOR THE LEXICON
— A Twitter hashtag created by the National Rifle Association for use during CPAC to herald the organization’s push back against Democratic and progressive foes of President Trump, particularly those seeking to “sabotage” his policy. “They lost a battle so they started a war. We fight back,” the group proclaims.
THE OSCAR DIVIDE
The Academy Awards bring out the partisanship between those who voted for President Trump and those who voted for Hillary Clinton. So says a well-crafted new Hollywood Reporter poll which finds that 68 percent of Trump voters say they “dislike” political speeches at the Oscars, while only 23 percent of Clinton voters feel the same. Two thirds of the Trump voters have stopped watching an awards show because the speeches became too political, compared to 19 percent of the Clinton voters.
“About the only area of agreement is that neither side finds Oscar acceptance speeches particularly convincing: Only about a quarter of respondents on both sides of the political fence said their opinion about an issue has ever been changed by an awards show,” the poll analysis noted.
MANAGING ‘THE CULTURE OF PROTEST’
One Oregon official in particular is bracing for complicated times. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has taken notice of vigorous protests against President Trump in his city.
“Portland has a strong history of activism and peaceful protest. But the message is being undermined because of ongoing tensions between protesters and police. We cannot afford for this type of conflict to occur when we have so much other work to do in this city that requires us all to work together. Upon taking office, I made it clear that I support the Constitutional right to assembly and free expression. I also set some common-sense boundaries that I would ask the police to enforce: no violence, no vandalism, no accessing highways or bridges for the safety of everyone involved, and no blocking of the regional transit system,” Mr. Wheeler said in a statement to his town.
“Finding and maintaining an appropriate balance between assembly and order requires constant evaluation and recalibration. Democracy can be messy, that’s a fact. But as of late, it’s been far too messy here in Portland,” the mayor continued. “Last week we saw video of protesters in masks surrounding commuters in their vehicles brandishing sticks. That isn’t good for democracy. Yesterday we saw images of a woman in her sixties injured during an arrest. That isn’t good for democracy either.”
Mr. Wheeler is calling on local law enforcement to “help create a more positive space for expression” and de-escalate crowd tensions.
“The culture of protest locally and nationally will be with us for the foreseeable future. Portland can and should be an example of democracy done right. To get there we have some work to do, and we have to work together,” Mr. Wheeler concludes.
DEMOCRATS READY TO RUMBLE
The Democratic National Committee has had to move its winter meeting to a larger venue to “accommodate increased public demand,” the organizers say. The three-day gathering in Atlanta begins Thursday and includes an election for chairman and other officials on Saturday. Of note: The big doings have been moved from one of the host city’s largest hotels to the nearby AmericasMart — one of the world’s largest trade show centers.
POLL DU JOUR
• 72 percent of Democrats say their biggest concern is that their party will not “do enough” to oppose President Trump.
• 58 percent give a positive rating to Democratic Party leaders.
• 57 percent of Democrats have a favorable impression of Republican Sen. John McCain.
• 50 percent have a favorable impression of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
• 37 percent have a favorable impression of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.
• 34 percent of Democrats approve of the job Democrats are doing in Congress overall.
Source: A Pew Research Center poll of 797 Democrats conducted Feb. 7-12.
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