This was my first year attending the Conservative Political Action Conference, and as a libertarian, it was everything I hoped and feared it would be.
I knew to expect speeches and appearances from the usual crowd, a presence from all the organizations ubiquitous to the conservative gathering, and the traditional sea of white males filling the conference halls. Down in the exhibition room, most of the booths were interactive (to say the least). Older men dressed in colonial military garb brandishing Gadsden flags, Storm troopers flanking Darth Vader, and extremely attractive men dressed as GI Joes helped create a fun environment, but no group’s presence was stronger than that of the Young Americans for Liberty.
Young, liberty minded activists were out in full force at the conference, students from College Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom were there touting love for Reagan, some proudly brandishing Santorum stickers. There were students from Turning Point USA conducting their own straw poll while dressed in matching red polo shirts, looking like authentic insurance salesmen. But the YAL students came with purpose – and that was to see Rand Paul win the CPAC straw poll for the second year in a row. In number and enthusiasm, their presence could not be ignored.
This was the highlight of the conference: it offered resounding proof that libertarianism is the future of the Republican Party.
But, this was still a Republican convention run by fans of the establishment. Though many of the speeches given at CPAC called for stricter immigration laws and a reminder that gays are ruining the sanctity of marriage, nothing sent me into fits of rage – until I saw the women’s panel they held on Saturday in honor of National Women’s Day.
Four conservative women and moderator Tammy Bruce of the Washington Post sat on a panel called “Why Conservatism is Right for Women: How Conservatives Should Talk About Life, Property, & National Security” on Saturday, with the objective of proving that women have an integral role to play in conservatism. What they did instead was prove that there are still misogynistic women walking among us.
Right out of the gate, moderator Bruce emphatically stated that democrats are infantilizing our country with leftist policy, and this is why women are needed now more than ever in politics – “we know about babies.” Although the rest of the room was abuzz with chatter, this caught my attention the way a train headed toward you might. They went on to discuss the claimed “War on women” and the lack of women in the GOP, to which the panel concluded wasn’t a messaging problem, but a messenger one.
“If women in America think that Republicans and conservatives hate them, they’re not going to vote for us,” Kate Obenshain, author of “Divider In Chief,” stated. CPAC attendees are “at least 50 percent women,” she claimed. Too bad the actual percentage of female attendees was actually around 35 percent.
Then the panel shifted attention to the men in the conservative movement, imploring them to stop making misogynistic comments. “we cannot have any stupid comments this year,” Obenshain pleaded, while Crystal Wright of ConservativeBlackChick.com felt compelled to remind everyone that “It’s never cool to talk about rape and laugh.”
So while the panel felt the need to remind the men of the Republican Party to stop making rape jokes and to cut it out with talk of “spontaneous abortion”, they still hold there is no messaging problem within the party. They concluded that conservative values need no altering; the white men of the GOP just need to step aside and let the vast number of women in the party do the talking when it comes to women’s issues, which of course mean contraception and child rearing because “we know babies.”
In regards to this panel, it would have been better if they just left it out of the program. Bruce ended the panel by reminding everyone that women understand the issues that are at the core of politics: family and love. It was at this point that I excused myself to go question all of my life choices that led me to attending CPAC.
This cringe-worthy panel served only to show how inadequate the Republican Party is at representing women. As an unmarried woman who has no children (and probably doesn’t want them), I’m offended that these conservative women used the opportunity they had as panelists to reinforce the stereotype that the GOP believes a woman’s value lies in her maternal instincts and capacity to raise a family. These are remarkable traits to possess, as many women do, but some of us have talents elsewhere, and I am not sure why it is seemingly so impossible for the Grand Old Party to recognize and appreciate that.
When I heard that there was going to be a panel discussing women in the conservative movement, I was gleeful at the thought of watching powerful women shatter the glass ceiling that for so long has been shading the GOP from accepting women as political equals. Instead, I watched it thicken at the hands of so called “female conservative leaders.” If this is the best the GOP can do to represent my voice as a woman working within the conservative movement, then I guess I understand why the majority of women stay the hell away.