The theme of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was "America's Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives" but it could have been "Down with the Establishment."
In their first gathering since the Republican defeat to Barack Obama in November, speaker after speaker attacked the "political elite," and "establishment Republicans" before a crowd packed with the Tea Party, college conservative groups and other conservatives just tired of losing.
Realizing that the Republican Party hasmto change its way of doing business as well as its image as comprised of old, rich white guys, this CPAC looked to the future with a new, younger and more conservative appeal that would win over more Americans and more elections.
Senator Paul stressed that true conservative principles of smaller government, individual responsibility and freedom will have wide appeal but today's GOP "is encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom. The new GOP, the GOP that will win again, will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and personal sphere."
"The Republican establishment is just plain wrong" Newt Gingrich told the audience "We stand today on the edge of a great future, but both parties are stuck in the past."
Donald Trump slammed the GOP and how they conducted, and subsequently lost, the last election. "When you watch someone who spends $400 million on campaigns with perhaps the worst ads I've ever seen" he said in reference to the Mitt Romney campaign "they did ads on Obama I thought were being paid for by the Obama campaign. When you spend $400 million and it's a failure and you don't have one victory, you know something is seriously, seriously wrong."
On Saturday, after a shout out to college republicans, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was exceptionally hard on the establishment. "Lets be clear we're not here to rebrand a party, we're here to rebuild a country."
In response to the Democrats' method of dividing the electorate into issues, Sarah said "We will never win at identity politics." Believing that conservative values will attract all voters, she continued "if we believe in the Declaration of Independence, All men are created equal, then there are no Hispanic issues, or African American issues or women's issues, there are only American issues. It is imperative to reach out and share conservative values. It's time to stop preaching to the choir and let's grow."
It has been the unspoken rule that a serious Republican candidate has to be accepted by the establishment to have a chance of getting elected. Palin's view on this was obvious."The last thing we need is Washington D.C. vetting our candidates, these experts who keep losing elections,"
Sarah then added "the architect should go back to the lone star state and put their name on a ballot" In an obvious reference to political adviser and pundit Karl Rove.
As I spoke with those in attendance at CPAC, it became apparent that to many conservatives from Tea Party groups to college Republicans, Karl Rove epitomizes the "GOP establishment" that has led to the movement's demise.
But, of all the speakers at CPAC, none were more plain spoken in that assessment than Media Research Center Pres. Brent Bozell.
Bozell went after Paul Ryan for proposing a budget that increases spending, John Boehner and other leaders in the House for not de-funding organizations like Planned Parenthood for conducting abortions and other organizations that receive federal funding.
Obamacare was at the top of his list that should lose funding. ‘You, like virtually every single other Republican elected to Congress solemnly vowed to rid us of Obamacare, which you can do simply by refusing to fund it. Why haven’t you done so?
“You’ve done nothing for over two years but give us excuses and more commitments that tomorrow, yes tomorrow, you’ll honor your promises" Bozell said. "Gentlemen, where promises are concerned, you are not what you promised to be."
“Do you want to restore your reputations as conservative leaders? All you need to do is honor your promises. They were good ones. Watch what happens next. You’ll be heroes" (http://bit.ly/ZAOM39).