I left CPAC 2009 with a feeling that the conservative movement is stronger than ever, but the Republican Party may no longer hold the monopoly on the grass roots effort of the movement. Which is something that I suspected to be true for several years as more and more conservatives like myself left the party that abandoned their core base principles of smaller government, less spending and less government interference.
There seemed to be a huge Libertarian influence at the convention, with several Libertarian organizations such as the Cato Institute, Young Americans for Liberty, Campaign for Liberty and Ron Paul who gave a speech at the conference. One attendee told me the speech was powerful and the atmosphere inside the ballroom was electrifying. Paul had an impromptu book signing in the exhibit hall following the speech that was also well attended.
Saturday Afternoon I met and spoke with a volunteer for the Campaign for Liberty. She told me they were very happy with the impact they were making at CPAC. They held a “Tea Party” at Lafayette Park Friday afternoon with an estimated crowd of 200-300 people, which was pretty high for purely Internet activism.
On Friday night CPAC attendees squeezed into a crowded Hampton Room to see the Liberty Forum and others watched the forum on a screen in the hallway. The panel was made up of Ron Paul, Judge Napolitano, Tom Woods Bruce Fein, Mark Mix and Larry Pratt. The group defended free markets, civil liberties and non-interventionist foreign policy, with each speaker giving his unique perspective on limited constitutional government and individual rights.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Libertarian influence to me was the fact that Ron Paul finished third with 14 percent in the straw poll asking: Who would you vote for as the next republican nominee for president behind Mitt Romney with 20 percent and La. Gov. Bobby Jindal with 14 percent.
There is no doubt the Libertarian influence was one of the big stories of CPAC, even though the mainstream press didn't and will never mention it.
The Republican Party no longer holds the monopoly on conservatism. If the so-called leaders of the party elite are smart enough to recognize this, they will welcome Libertarians in just like they did with the Christian right in the 1980’s.