Although I consider myself a hard-bitten cynic/realist, a report by Daniel Dale in today's Star has left me decidedly dispirited. Dale, our Canadian expert on Trump who has followed the Orange Ogre very closely since the primaries, asserts that what used to be called 'mainstream conservatism', is now falling into line with Trump's diseased worldview:
This year’s CPAC [Conservative Political Action Conference], which ended Saturday, was less an indication of a battle for the soul of conservatism than evidence that conservatism is now what President Donald Trump says it is. With a conspiracist openly hostile to Muslims running the world, the gap between the kooky fringe and the centre of the movement has vanished. And on issues from Islam to trade to Russia, the centre has shifted to fall in line with Trump’s worldview.The demographic of attendees is one indicator:
Libertarians, seniors from liberal-leaning northern Virginia and suspiciously well-coiffed 20-year-olds seeking careers as Republican operatives make up a disproportionate percentage of the crowd.People who were never invited to past CPACs, indeed, were shunned, are now on the main stage:
Even there, there was no sign of a dissident movement. Trump had 15-per-cent support in the CPAC “straw poll” during the campaign last year. His approval rating in this year’s straw poll was 86 per cent.
Seven Breitbart figures appeared on CPAC panels. Not including the Breitbart man who now serves as chief strategist to the president.Consider some of the other invitees:
As Breitbart’s chief executive, Stephen Bannon used to antagonize the conference organizer, the American Conservative Union, by hosting a counter-event called “the Uninvited” for speakers deemed too incendiary on issues like Islamist extremism.
-Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim “security” advocate.
-Clare Lopez, who warned of a supposed Islamist plot to infiltrate Canada.
-Nigel Farage, the leader of the anti-immigration U.K. Independence Party and Brexit engineer.
It is said we are judged by the company we keep. If this year's CPAC invitees are any indication, mainstream, traditional conservatism is hanging out with some 'very bad dudes,' to use a Trumpism.
Perhaps what we are really witnessing is a fire sale of the American soul.