CPAC called out — for not being conservative

As Donald Trump prepares for his first major post-presidency speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the event is being called out for not being conservative.

Former George W. Bush official Michael Gerson laid out his argument in his latest column for The Washington Post.

"Asking Conservative Political Action Conference attendees for their views on conservatism is like asking arsonists to lecture on fire safety. For decades, the fondest hope of the kind of agitators attracted by this annual event has been a Republican president who shares the breadth of their grievance, the depth of their anger and the fervor of their conspiratorial delusions. In Donald Trump, they finally found their man. He will be welcomed this year — as he will be for the rest of his life — as the god-king of Crazy Town," Gerson wrote.

"Views espoused by an extremist at CPAC merely reinforce the views of other extremists. Views declared from behind a lectern with a presidential seal on it are at least partially normalized. If we believe that moral leadership can improve a country, it follows that immoral leadership can debase it," he explained.

He offered an example.

"Many Americans have an uninformed or mixed opinion about undocumented migrants. When an American president compares such migrants to vermin, slanders them as rapists and criminals, shatters their families at the border, and condemns their children to cages, Americans are given permission for dehumanization. Other GOP politicians are given a green light for demonization. White supremacists are confirmed and emboldened in their hatred. Not just the politics of the country but also the character of the country are poisoned," he wrote. "This is one reason that right-wing populists can never be true conservatives. If intellectual conservatism means anything, it means one generation has the moral duty to cultivate humanizing beliefs and habits in the next. Conservatives do not believe that human beings come pre-wired for character. Children must be carefully taught to know what is right, informed by millennia of reflection on the matter. They must be instructed to do what is right through example and habituation. No form of traditional conservatism would urge people to follow their destructive passions or indulge their baser instincts."

He worried about the message CPAC is sending.

"By a conservative standard, what should we make of the activists and participants at CPAC? It is worth noting that many who attend each year are young. What moral messages is an older generation transmitting to the next?" he asked. "From Trump's deification they will learn that civility is for losers, that compassion is for suckers, that misogyny can be fun, that strength requires brutality and that racism makes for good politics. They will learn that deadly incompetence, based on lies and lunacy and costing countless lives, means nothing. They will learn that the Constitution can be shredded in the pursuit of raw power and that populism must be rowdy enough and transgressive enough to break a few windows and kill a few policemen. Call this what you will, but it has nothing to do with conservatism."