The Aldrich Alert
Gary Aldrich

A Publication of the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty

Conservative Activists Strategize

February 3, 2002

by Gary Aldrich - Volume 2, Issue 6

This article appeared on on Thursday, February 1, 2002.

To those who spent nearly a decade resisting the liberal excesses of an out-of-control Clinton White House, the Washington scene can take on an almost lonely air. The Boogie Man is out from under our beds, at least for now. Sometimes I miss the Boogie Man.

But this week is all about networking, as more than 4,000 gather near the nationís capitol today for the American Conservative Unionís annual Conservative Political Action Conference. There are 70 co-sponsors for CPAC this time, and for three solid days conservative activists will meet, talk, and plan strategies for the coming political season.

A few are complaining this year about a lack of significant participation by the Bush administration. What theyíre really trying to say is that theyíre disappointed that the president or vice president will not stop by, but Bushís top-level staff can be seen everywhere.

The political landscape is different than previous years, mostly because "our guys" are in the White House now. There is a real sense of relief knowing that this president will be focused on important matters of state, and will resist the more primitive urges that always come with power. Why? Because this president has character – while the last president was a character.

Still, there is much work to be done. The nation suffers from more than 30 years of drift toward socialism. You canít reverse that kind of damage overnight, and the administration is going to need lots of "grassroots" support to help make the necessary changes. Thatís why CPAC is so important.

In previous years, Republican presidents and vice-presidents visited CPAC and made speeches, attended VIP cocktail parties, and mingled with the activists. Last year, Vice President Cheney even agreed to a "photo op" with hundreds of attendees, a chore Iím sure any sensible man dreads. Still, he came and mingled, which was a clear signal to us "true believers" that the new administration appreciated all the hard work done by passionate conservative activists. Thatís good, because thatís who, in large part, put them in the White House.

And, the activist base needs to be hugged once in a while so that they know theyíre appreciated. Thereís no better place to do that than at CPAC, where waiting C-SPAN cameras can broadcast an administrationís key Cabinet member, or West Wing well-known, circulating among supporters and donors. The rest of the nationís conservative base is always tuned in, and can get that dose of enthusiasm that enables them to stay up late stuffing those envelopes and making those phone calls.

One might wrongly conclude that the absence of Bush-Cheney at CPAC means that there is an absence of leadership at the conference. One might even think that if the president and vice president had other things to do this weekend, then CPAC canít be very important this year. But, if anyone thinks that, they are so wrong about the way things really work back here in Washington, D.C.

The fact of the matter is, the conservative leadership is at the CPAC conference this year – just as they have been for so many years in the past. The conservative movement activists are not drones in some federal agency. The movers and the shakers for American traditions and values hardly ever take a post in anybodyís administration.

The reason most conservative leaders are outside the White House can be explained very simply: Real leaders donít want to work for somebody else – they want to run their own shops. And in those powerful non-governmental organizations are borne the important ideas that shape a nationís future.

When the nation is threatened by the bizarre conduct of any president – say, a Clinton – these NGOs become war-rooms that mobilize the millions of "troops," the "grassroots," needed to end the insult to our body politic.

And, when a friendly administration gets "off track," which sometimes happens, the NGOs give a collective "shove" to move them back to where they belong.

So, conservatives, itís OK to savor the victory of having Bush-Cheney in the White House. After all, you put them there. Itís OK to enjoy the contentment that comes from knowing you have righted a wrong. Itís also appropriate to believe – because it is true – that nobody from "our side" can ever win the White House without solid support from the very same people who will be attending CPAC over the next few days.

Matters discussed and decided at CPAC may not be immediately reflected in the actions of the current administration, but any Washington political pundit, any insider, any seasoned pol will tell you that the good seeds that are planted this weekend at CPAC will come to full bloom in the weeks, months and years ahead.

So, conservative activists everywhere: Donít dismay because top guys wonít be pressing the flesh with their enablers at CPAC. As long as there are meetings like the one CPAC is hosting this weekend, conservative ideas will be born, shaped, supported and implemented.

I also have it on good authority that President Bush appreciates what weíre doing. Thatís good enough for me. And, this year Mrs. Cheney will be along. Sheís a hero to conservatives everywhere.

This year CPAC has Dr. Laura! Sixty percent of Americans polled canít name more than four Bush Cabinet members, but everybody knows who Dr. Laura is! Whatís going on inside the White House is important. But just as important are the thousands of political activists who have assembled today to make sure the right people are elected.