Tea Party Co-Founder and Conservative Leader Michael Johns Defends CPAC
'Most influential gathering of the nation's conservatives'
For many years, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) carved out a role and image as the most influential gathering of the nation's conservative leaders and activists.
Few Republican presidents from Reagan through Trump reached the White House without first winning the hearts and minds of CPAC attendees.
But CPAC historically has been even more than this.
Throughout the late 20th century, it also commonly featured some of the best conservative intellectuals and strategists who offered CPAC attendees a path forward and an explanation of what, why, and how things should be done.
Then came the 21st century.
It's in these last two decades that some conservatives allege CPAC has lost its way.
It became a major for-profit conference, bringing in large sums of revenue from sponsors and attendees, and marketing and salesmanship started to become seemingly more important than the substance of the conference itself.
Bitter inside squabbles emerged over who should and should not appear at the annual event.
What once was an engaging, exciting, and enlightening annual conference began to take on more of an entertainment character, ditching experts for 15-minute personalities and sometimes diluting the conservative message in the process.
But as CPAC gathered in Dallas this past weekend, the conference's relevance was bolstered and reinforced by Michael Johns, one of the nation's most influential conservatives whose national leadership in the movement has been constant since the 1980s.
As the conservative movement has fragmented between those inside Washington, D.C., and the tens of millions who comprise the grassroots conservative base, Johns has proven a reliable voice in both worlds, serving in the nation's capital as a White House presidential speechwriter and Heritage Foundation policy expert but also emerging as one of the most influential grassroots leaders and spokespersons for the tens of millions of grassroots conservatives who comprise the movement.
Johns' day-one endorsement of Donald Trump in June 2015 immediately bestowed conservative credibility on Trump even as some laughed off Trump as unserious, denigrated him as unfit for the office, and alleged that he would violate his pro-life and other conservative positions.
Johns diligently insisted that Trump's MAGA agenda was essential, and he reassured fellow conservatives that he was confident Trump would not betray them.
In a hugely valuable overview of CPAC's history dating back to Reagan's "city upon a hill" speech at the first CPAC in 1974, Johns describes how CPAC has elevated conservatism and addressed the movement's evolving challenges through the decades in what Johns argues have been three vital transitional eras for the conservative movement:
The first, Johns says, was Bill Buckley's largely intellectual movement spanning 1955 to 1980.
This was followed, Johns argues, by Reagan's politically consequential movement of 1980 to 2016, during which conservatives proved that their ideas and candidates could win nationally, including the presidency.
The third and current era, Johns argues, is defined by a conservative refinement in which overlooked challenges confronting America's "forgotten man and woman," including immigration, global trade, and the threat of Communist China, are being properly addressed by Trump and the MAGA movement.
Michael Johns gives an impressive overview both of CPAC's historical and continued relevance but also of the role it has played in featuring these three distinct eras of modern conservatism.
His interview can be seen here: