James Delingpole

I’ve seen the future of conservatism at CPac – and it doesn’t work

Come back Sarah Palin, all is forgiven

15 March 2014

9:00 AM

15 March 2014

9:00 AM

About the coolest guy I saw at CPac this year was this wild-eyed, middle–aged crazy wearing ‘statement’ spectacles, faded Levis and a badge on his immaculately cut, grey wool Timothy Everest suit-coat saying ‘2012 WTF?’ I was looking in the bathroom mirror at the time and the drugs were just starting to kick in. Not proper Hunter S. Thompson drugs, unfortunately. Just some imported Indian-made version of the anti-narcolepsy drug Modafinil, kind of a low-level, legal amphetamine, which I’d taken to ward off the effects of the truly Babylonian party at Breitbart’s Capitol Hill ‘Embassy’ HQ the night before…

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is not how cool I am, but how desperately, fantastically, magisterially uncool CPac is. CPac is the annual convention for American conservatives, held in a big conference hotel called the Gaylord in the Maryland riverside resort of National Harbor, about half an hour’s cab ride out of Washington DC. This is where you go to watch the future of conservatism. Well, I’ve seen it — and it isn’t working.

And it gives me no pleasure to say that, by the way. After two terms of Obama, the US is going to need a restorative shot of red-blooded conservatism at least as badly as Britain did (and failed to get) after the years of Blair and Brown. What I can’t see at the moment, though, is where it is going to get it.

Nor could anyone at CPac. The only keynote speaker who totally raised the roof was Sarah Palin, at the end. But that may be because, unlike the other headlining acts (Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, etc), she has the advantage of not currently being a politician angling for the presidency. She has decided there’s more fun and money in being a stand-up comic, lefty-baiting uber-troll and Tea Party kingmaker, all of which she does brilliantly. God, though, I don’t half wish she would stand. She has that thing which Reagan had but which no GOP presidential candidate has really had since: the ability to bypass the left-liberal media and connect directly with people, explaining what conservatism is really about — more liberty, less government mismanagement and interference — in a way which doesn’t sound doctrinaire or off-putting.

According to the kids at CPac — more than half the attendees are under 25 — the candidate of choice is Rand Paul. To get your free, red ‘I stand for Rand’ T-shirt at his exhibition-hall stall, you had to fill out a questionnaire stating where you stood on various libertarian issues (drugs, size of government, NSA surveillance etc). I got 190 Rand points out of a possible 200, so we’re definitely in the same camp ideologically. But though his speech — whose somewhat laboured homage to Pink Floyd’s (clunky, fifth-form political album) The Wall didn’t work nearly as well as Sarah Palin’s homage to Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs And Ham — went down a storm with the libertarian PaulBots in the audience, I have my doubts as to whether its chewy earnestness will play quite so well in the wider America beyond.

On the plus side, Rand Paul’s politics definitely reflect where young America is headed. For example, he’s pro-legalisation of marijuana (as were 63 per cent of the CPac voters), as I suspect — in the wake of the successful Colorado experiment — almost every state in the union will be by the end of the decade. And like his dad Ron, he’s against America spending money it can’t afford on being the world’s policeman (52 per cent of those polled at CPac agreed it was time America’s allies provided more of their own defence).

But this puts it him very much at odds with the hawkish tendencies of the traditional conservative mainstream (as represented, on this issue, by the likes of Rubio and Cruz). Which doesn’t augur well for a US conservative movement fully united in opposition to whichever candidate (Hillary?) the Democrats throw up for the 2016 presidential election. In America, as in Britain, conservatism has rarely looked more divided: neocons v. isolationists; libertarians v. SoCons; Tea Partiers v. Rino squishes. And, just like the People’s Front of Judaea and the Judaean People’s Front, they loathe one another even more than they do their natural enemies.

That new isolationist tendency may strike outsiders as odd, given that so many Americans continue to be so proud to serve and that the US military is still accorded so much reverence. But over a drink with a young ex-Marine called Andrew, I got the hint of an answer. He told me how incredibly ‘pissed’ many of his NCOs had been over news that Fallujah, the town over which so many of their comrades had shed so much blood, was now back in enemy hands. ‘They want to go back there, right now, and take it again,’ he said.

This is the real frustration of America’s military and its many sympathisers. And according to my new best buddy A.W.R. Hawkins — who besides being Breitbart’s NRA correspondent happens to be an extraordinarily erudite military history PhD  — it’s by no means a new thing. It dates all the way back to Vietnam.

‘You often hear that the lesson of Vietnam was that America’s military lost the will to fight,’ he says. ‘But that wasn’t the lesson. The lesson of Vietnam was that America’s military lost the will to fight in wars that it wasn’t allowed to win.’

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  • Melwoolf

    Oh, please. Vietnam was lost from no will to win? Maybe it was because there was something called a conscience not to use a nuclear bomb and those consequences (wonderful Nagsaki and Hiroshima as an example). No, I think that will to win was there but it may have killed many, many thousands more Americans – but who cares, right? It was the Vietnam demonstrations on behalf of middle class Americans that lost it. No one felt the war would achieve much – did it – after all those years? I don’t trust any Republican – they all look after their children who are not in the military (strange for such patriotic people?) Mr Delingpole, I do hope you are not going to be seduced by the American Right. As a expat I have a very long memory of the States and its view from here has evolved from loving and respecting many politicians to despair at 99% of our political leaders. But the Republicans are the worse. They divert financial attention to social issues or wars time and time again. Be careful and be cynical please.

    • Tom Tom

      Le Duc Tho told the US to use its atomic bomb. VietNam was a nationalist struggle and the US turned it into a re-run of Korea even using Korean troops. The fact is the original proposed site for an A-Bomb was Halle in Germany but VE Day came before it could be delivered.

      The American Right peddles its “Dolchstoss” mantra with less justification than Ludendorff did in the Weimar Republic. Clearly what the US political elite wants is a fully-fledged Oligarchy running a military dictatorship through Homeland Security as a revived RSHA

      • pdhan

        “the original proposed site for an A-Bomb was Halle”

        Do you have a source for that?

        • Weaver

          He’s confused. He’s thinking the target was the German centrifuges at Halle, I suspect. The rest of the post gives you some clue of his state of mind.

          In fact, the target was nominally Berlin, and had been from the inception of the project. Halle was too small, the German centrifuges too dispersed, and by the time Western planners found out about it they knew the German A-bomb programme was going nowhere fast.

          By early ’45 it became clear that the war in Europe would be over before the bomb was ready for deployment, so planning switched to the far east. The remainder of the story, and why Hiroshima and Nagasaki were specifically chosen as targets, is well deocumented.

    • Pip

      I don’t trust any Politicians, Republican or Democrat they are all corrupt, self serving, corporate puppets, the two camps provide the illusion of choice that perpetuates their office by hoodwinking the gullible and ignorant voters into believing they have control over Politics.

      • rtj1211

        They already are starting them: Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela to name but three.

    • rtj1211

      Mr Delingpole has been bought by the American right. His new job is funded by them. Very difficult to expect him to say: ‘my employer is an unprincipled arsehole’, isn’t it?!

      • global city

        why should he? Surely it is a convergence, rather than a sell out?

    • littleted

      The problems faced by the American military in Vietnam are illustrated by considering the basic terms of reference for the British task force sent to re-take the Falkland Islands. It was essentially to, “Take the RN and as much of the armed forces as you can to the South Atlantic, and kick the Argies off the Falklands.”

      If the American generals had be given a similar freedom to act against Hoh Chi Minh & co, and provided they weren’t encumbered by another MacArthur, the result would have been a victory in fairly short order, and a mega change in the world’s psychology.

      However, this can’t happen until the USA finally throws off its psychosis about imperialism, which prevents it from seeing anything through to the end. I can’t see than happening for generations.

  • Schadenfreuden

    The old Conservative dinosaurs are getting scared and I love it! They realise their ideology has failed and is in terminal decline, people are moving over to libertarianism in droves, bring it on. You old guard should be scared, you had a chance and blew it, now die quietly, there there deary.

    • Pip

      Libertarianism is the enemy of Socialism, Marxism and Political Islam and as such is our best chance of a better world. The change has started already in northern Europe and soon it will start in the USA and when it does expect to see the Elite and Political Class lie, connive and cheat even more (if that is actually possible in the USA) as they attempt to protect the status quo and themselves.

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      Be careful what you wish for, dreary.

    • balance_and_reason

      You really must be joking…..name one, just one, successful socialist state.

      • section9

        I’ve got it!

        Oh, wait… you said “successful…”

      • BarkingAtTreehuggers

        Germania of course. Every essential public service is publicly owned. The land, mineral rights, energy supply, schools, public transport infrastructure incl. trains, water supply, banks and building societies.

        • balance_and_reason

          I don’t think Eon and RWE would claim they are public sector entities, especially after the German state shafted them on the nuclear deal. Whilst I would agree that there has been a lot more consensus in Germany re industrial relations etc, (read the fact that the unions were either controlled or not stupid enough to shaft their entire manufacturing base to the detriment of manufacturing jobs for three decades.) It is a lot less socialist than we are with large privately held industrial concerns holding sway and religious conservatism a very dominant factor in politics. Their financial sector has been a disaster and the only national control is that forced by bail out of successive failure. They are too close to the old USSR for even the academics to ignore the utter failure of that doctrine and the misery it inflicted on countless millions.

          • BarkingAtTreehuggers

            We are looking at 800+ communally owned STADTWERKE here. You must look at the detail to understand that the world is not superficially black and white.

          • balance_and_reason

            I don’t think any conservative/libertarian would have any issues with small local scale(small may be a relative term) cooperative ventures. They tend to be focussed, specific and well managed….for all the reasons that socialist states are utterly incompetent and non functioning.
            Being picky, your expression was ‘every’….essential public service…’energy supply’…clearly not the case in Germany. Incidently Germany now uses more nuclear power than they have ever used before ( but in a sneaky underhand way…importing nuclear electricity from France.!!).

          • BarkingAtTreehuggers

            It is exactly that – ‘every’. There are 800+ communally-run energy providers in Germany. Who cares whether E.ON or RWE also own 30% of the British market?

            The citizens of Hamburg just bought out their energy provider. Stadtwerke Munich own a 30% stake in Britain’s largest wind park in Gwynt y Mor. THAT’S what a diversified market does – local communities decide how to source their energy needs. It’s called a Social Market Economy.

          • balance_and_reason

            Before you get too dreamy and frothy…just remember that German industry is currently in the process of rebelling and moving industry offshore as their power costs have gone through the roof. The german solar subsidy is far far more expensive to german industry/consumers/government than ours is…and thats saying something. Also 30% of Germany’s gas comes from….YES ….PUTIN….those guys are not perfect my friend.

          • BarkingAtTreehuggers

            German industry is exempt from subsidising renewable generation. It is in fact the German consumer that is the cow being milked (curious how they can afford 8x larger subsidies).

            Milk – isn’t that what you’d love to do also? Rich – isn’t that what you’d like to be also?

          • balance_and_reason

            It may not be the same structure but the fact, repeat fact, remains that German industry is moving manufacturing away because their power costs are so high….clearly the cost is being passed on in some other way.

          • BarkingAtTreehuggers

            Catch a return budget airline flight to STR — £50
            Hire a car for a day — another £50
            Allow for petrol and a light lunch en route — you guessed it, £50
            Now make your way to Lake Constance, do not take the motorway – every town you pass through will make products you will be familiar with. No one is moving that anywhere.

            The look on your face — priceless.

          • balance_and_reason
          • BarkingAtTreehuggers

            Ah, so now you admit no one’s going anywhere.
            Of course this issue will be resolved, like any other issue that threatens a significant income stream.

    • Extricate

      In Britain the only libertarian party is UKIP and the establishment is doing everything it can to smear and smother it. The genie is out the bottle though, the next generation of voters, brought up with the internet, are more naturally libertarian than any before them. Big state edifices will crumble over the next 20 years.

  • ohforheavensake

    James- it’s over. You’re part of a dying movement: and when you lift your head from the cosy little Breitbart bubble you work in now, you’re beginning to notice.

    • global city

      Yes, collectivism has been shown over and over again to be the future…..not!

    • section9

      Wait, you know, Obama is going the way of the Lib-Lab Pact of the 1970’s. You realize that, don’t you?
      He’s going to end up in a Jeopardy Category as “What Tony Benn would have been like had Labour been foolish enough to make him Party Leader.”

  • Curnonsky

    This is what happens when you try to churn out a piece with a head-splitting hangover, apparently. So a conference devoted to wonks, nerds and ideologues turns out to be full of boring people? And some of them are isolationists – even though they’re on the right?

    Well blow me down.

  • Sean L

    They want to ‘take Fallujah’ which was ‘back in enemy hands’. Since when was it supposed to be *theirs*? Who’s to say its native inhabitants don’t see the US as their enemy? Makes as much sense as people calling themselves ‘conservative’ who seek to liberalise drug laws and in doing so encourage illegal drug taking. Conservatism values social and political stability, recognising its inherent fragility. Those who play fast and loose with established norms in the pursuit of some illusory ideal of ‘freedom’ or ‘liberty’ threaten society and are bound to be the conservative’s enemy.

    • rtj1211

      Stability is fine if what is being stabilised is good for the majority. When it is not, it is pernicious.

      It all depends on what you seek to stabilise.

      Stabilising the military industrial complex isn’t quite as stable as you might imagine…….

  • drydamol1


    He inherited Australia’s News Limited from his father in
    1952 . He is the founder, Chairman and CEO of Global Media Holding Company News
    Corporation, the World’s second-largest Media Conglomerate .

    There are 15,500 Media Outlets in the World including
    Newspapers ,Magazines ,Radio ,TV and Publishers all owned by only six
    Corporations .Murdoch’s Empire reaches 25% of the World’s Population he
    personally owns Fox News the Wall Street Journal and the New York times as well
    as The Times, The Sun, The Sunday Times, News of the world (now defunct)and The
    Supplementary Times of Britain .His entire Web stretches the Globe .

    Rupert Murdoch was born in Melbourne Australia ,his father
    was a Peer of the Realm .He moved to the USA in 1973 and lost his Australian Citizenship in favour of
    becoming a naturalized citizen of the USA for Business Reasons. Although still
    controlling the Australian Media .He
    Backed Thatcher and then switched to Blair . Murdoch simply supports the
    incumbent parties in the hope of Influencing Government Decisions that may
    affect his ‘Businesses’ .

    He advocates more open Immigration Policies in Western
    Nations Generally . Europeans can buy European Union citizenship entitling them
    to live and work in Britain for as little as £150,000 under a scheme operating
    in Bulgaria Legally .Before being Elected David Cameron accepted free flights
    to hold Private Talks and attend Private Parties with Murdoch on his yacht
    .Murdoch’s Sun Editor Rebekah Brooks had daily briefings at number 10 each
    morning with Blair . He was famous for his Private Meetings with outsiders rather
    than organising Cabinet meetings .

    She is Cameron’s Neighbour and close friend they share a
    retired Police Horse together .Who has been running Britain from behind the
    scenes under Blair and Cameron .Blair the Traitors Face says it all today ,how
    will Cameron fair ? This post has only scratched the surface !


  • Chris Hobson

    Randpaul is filth

  • Wonder where he got that WTF badge…oh, wait……

  • mikewaller

    This is final proof of the bicameral mind. How else can you explain an article in which the sentences have been strung together quite neatly yet the author sees the appalling Sarah Paling as a significant politician?