Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

CPAC Attracts College Audience

Thousands of conservatives from across the country, Georgetown students among them, flocked to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in D.C.’s Woodley Park from Thursday through Saturday.

The largest annual gathering of conservatives nationwide, the attendees included everyone from well-known politicians and pundits to grassroots activists and ordinary civilians. 54 percent of attendees were college students.

“It was like a Star Trek convention for conservatives,” said Shawn Summers (COL ’12), an intern with the political blog and a CPAC press attendee. “It’s not a serious policy discussion, it’s a pep rally celebrating the party.”

This year’s convention was the largest ever with over 10,000 attendees reflecting the growing concern of the American populace with the actions of the federal government and the increasing national debt. According to Summers, the mood of the attendees was a mix of anger at the Obama administration and a sense of triumph following recent gubernatorial victories.

“The mood and expectation of those at the conference is that the Republicans will come to power again in the 2010 midterm elections and regain the White House in 2012,” Summers said.

Any prominent members of the GOP were present, including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and newly inaugurated Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. Former Vice President Dick Cheney made a surprise appearance during his daughter Liz Cheney’s speech.

Major events included speeches and panel discussions about foreign policy, economic issues, student activism and other topics. Panels titled “Saving Freedom from the Tax Collectors” and “Saving Freedom for Future Generations” featured well-known conservatives like Bob Barr, the 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate, and John Ashcroft, former attorney general for President George W. Bush’s administration. Georgetown University Law Center Professor Viet Dinh participated in a discussion titled “Debate: Does Security Trump Freedom?” and spoke about the balance between the two concepts cited in the title.

The Libertarian movement had a strong presence at the conference with many libertarian groups attending. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a champion of the libertarian movement, gave a speech on Friday to an enthusiastic crowd, according to Summers. In his speech, Paul addressed topics such as individual liberty, foreign policy and the Federal Reserve. He also provided his definition of a conservative.

“[To me] a `conservative’ means to conserve the good parts of America and to conserve our Constitution,” he said.

CPAC is known for the unofficial straw poll of potential presidential candidates taken at the conference each year. Rep. Paul won this year’s poll with 31 percent of support, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 22 percent, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with 7 percent and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty with 6 percent, according to The Washington Post.

Fox News host Glenn Beck delivered the keynote speech on Saturday, in which he called for conservatives to ally with each other in ideology and accused conservatives of relying on spending and big government.

“What is it that has caused the problem [in America]? And if you say Obama, it’s too simple of an answer because it’s not Barack Obama,” he said. “I’m so sick of hearing people say `Republicans are going to solve it all.'”

Beck attacked what he referred to as “progressivism” in his speech, and argued against Obama’s economic policies, warning that an “economic holocaust” would soon be on its way.

This year’s CPAC was particularly controversial due to the decision to invite GOPride, a conservative gay rights organization. Some conservative groups boycotted the conference in protest over the presence of GOPride.

– Hoya Staff Writer Glenn Russo contributed to this report

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