New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was not invited to speak at the annual CPAC conference this year because he broke with conservatives on key issues over the past year, according to American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas.
Cardenas, whose group organizes the conference, wrote in an e-mail to National Journal that while CPAC was “proud” to invite Christie last year based on his record of balancing the budget and taking on teachers unions, Christie’s record over the past year is far less conservative.
“CPAC is like the all-star game for professional athletes; you get invited when you have had an outstanding year,” Cardenas said. “Hopefully he will have another all-star year in the future, at which time we will be happy to extend an invitation. This is a conservative conference, not a Republican Party event.”
For those new to all this, CPAC is the Conservative Political Action Conference, a yearly convention that basically serves as the rightwing crackpot prom. It's a big, boiling pot of extremists of every stripe -- racists, anti-abortion zealots, homophobes, talk radio hosts, birthers, people who see Communists behind every potted palm, gun nuts, Islamophobes, etc. For obvious reasons, I tend to refer to it as the Crazy People's Action Conference -- and it is poised to set the effort to paint a kinder, friendlier face on the GOP back to square one, if not into negative territory.
If you need any evidence of that, look at the Christie story. Chris Christie, deservedly or undeservedly, is hands down the most popular Republican in America. There is no question. If you want to drag the GOP back into national relevance, you sit down, you shut up, and you listen to Christie. Yet CPAC believes he's not worth listening to, because he hasn't had "an outstanding year." 70% approval is not an "all-star year." He lambasted House Republicans for blocking disaster aid after Hurricane Sandy and now he's embracing the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. The very things that make him popular with the general public make him unpopular with the hothouse lunatics at CPAC.
And the people who've had a great year, by CPAC's rigid and totally reality-proof standards? People like Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Allen West. Oh, and Mitt Romney. According to CPAC, Mitt Romney just had an excellent, all-star year.
Bashing the one remaining popular Republican in America is just the start. CPAC speakers will return to immigrant bashing, gay bashing, Muslim bashing, science bashing, Todd Akin-like War on Women frootloopery, accusations of Marxism toward Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular, painting the middle class as "freeloaders," Christian supremacism, etc. Seriously, just skim CPAC's history -- I'm not exaggerating in the least. And this year you can add gun control fearmongering. Believe me, it's just going to be worse. For Republicans looking to change the party's image in the public's eye, no good can come of CPAC. None at all.
The party can't change if the base doesn't change; since somewhere along the line, Republicans decided to lead by following. And the base is ready to listen to Frenzy McCrackpot tell them all about the coming dystopia, where gay atheists force Christians to have abortions in compliance with Sharia law, but they aren't interested in having Chris Christie tell them how to become popular and become a competitive party again.
Maybe Chris Christie could lead the GOP out of the wilderness and maybe he couldn't (personally, I think he's still leading by following, but at least he's following more people than just the 'bagger base). In any case one thing's for sure: the nuts at the Crazy People's Action Conference are dead set on leading the party deeper and deeper back into those dark woods.
[image via Bob Jagendorf]