The CPAC conference is often dismissed as a conglomerate of only the most extreme fringes of conservatism, but many young Republicans still congregate at this King-making conference in hopes that their voice will get equal representation at the table.
At day 3, Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) invigorated the crowds with a hateful speech decrying President Obama's supposed mishandling of the September 11 attack to the American consulate in Benghazi — where four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed. She painted the president out to be apathetic and incompetent – ignoring the "crying screams of Americans." She then described a lavish staff of chefs, movie projectionists and dog walkers that were costing the taxpayers millions. When confronted by Dana Bash of CNN to account for her made-up numbers, Bachmann ran away and deflected the questions – the political equivalent of "nah nah nah, I can't hear you."
The only thing more tragic than the existence of politicians like Bachmann is how much we've normalized their presence in the political arena. Whether you blame super PACs, gerrymandering or bad media – there are a growing number of candidates who utilize fanatical voting blocks to secure their place in office. In turn, they imprison themselves in a beholden state of extreme ideology, desperate to avoid any impression that they've betrayed their insulated constituents.
When Bachmann famously summarized President Obama's trip to India as a $200 million "boondoggle" – she was again called out on her contrived statistics. Her response spoke to the core of the problem: "these are the numbers that have been coming out in the press."
There does exist a feedback loop in today's media, where anyone who publishing something online can be utilized as a source of "news" long enough for talking heads to disseminate the story. The original posters can be self-published nut jobs, anonymous bloggers or even a thinly veiled political strategist writing under pseudonym. Fact checkers correct most online fallacies soon enough, but by then politicians and pundits alike can play the babe in the woods - claiming they heard it "in the press." This tool has served many candidates well, in their efforts to slander; skew or outright lie their way into power.
But can this chaos go on for much longer? Will the online sources of news that prove themselves most reliable end up becoming the new authorities? Or will people continue to only flock towards opinions that correlate to their comfortable prejudices? The Republican Party's identity crisis speaks to the division among voters on this very issue.
On one end, aged conservatives still support the religious, pro-business, big military old guard – neocons that want money in politics, but government out of business. These politicians continue to claim government should be small, but also intrusive into people's sexual lives. On the other end, there is a growing movement of young libertarians and economically moderate Republicans who want an engaged leadership, willing to back a platform of innovative ideologies and pragmatic fiscal policies.
Who will win out in control over the GOP's future? Americans are not feeling as represented in politics as the company's who finance politicians, and want leaders who will take the duties of their public office seriously. Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Agro – powerful industrial monopolies have corrupted politics in their favor, and voters on both ends of the ideological spectrum are eager to see government reclaim a balanced regulatory role.
The simple truth remains, that capital always seeks a short-term profit as a measure of success, while government should be in the business of long term planning and social investment. The relationship between the two has to be balanced. If capital doesn't want government interference, then it has to stay out of politics. But with the Citizens United ruling, super PACs and millions being spent on lobbying – it is clear that Capital has massive influence in politics. Therefore unless we are willing to take a massive step backwards, and remove money from politics, voters need to start backing candidates who will demand a regulatory balance be re-established.