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The Logic of CPAC

All you need to know about why Chris Christie, GOProud, or anyone else isn’t invited to CPAC is that the American Conservative Union’s annual conference is a pep rally. Cognitive dissonance—as opposed to mere cheer contests between different Republican 2016 contenders—would defeat the purpose. Years ago the conservative movement was a place for intense debate, but now that it’s won and triumphantly proclaims every Republican presidential nominee or congressional boss a conservative in good standing, the time for debate is over. Celebrate and march forward—and keep writing checks, please, so the socialists don’t take over.

That all sounds harsh, but movement conservatism is so tied in knots about imaginary menaces and battles never to be won that the appeal of a single weekend of solidarity without the usual sense of crisis should be obvious. CPAC is a place where Republicans are ready for their comeback, where the war on terror is being won (or will be once that comeback takes place), and where Donald Rumsfeld is a defender of the Constitution. Why begrudge a man his fantasy?

about the author

Daniel McCarthy is editor at large of The American Conservative. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, The Spectator, The National Interest, Reason, Modern Age, and many other publications. Outside of journalism he has worked as internet communications coordinator for the Ron Paul 2008 presidential campaign and as senior editor of ISI Books. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where he studied classics. Follow him on Twitter.

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