The 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference has ended but the harsh debate between the Republican establishment and the Tea Party goes on. Though nothing remains static indefinitely. Things do change.
The venerated conference, for example, begun years ago in a room at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, has more of a corporate, insider feel than in the Reagan days. During the 70s and 80s, this meeting possessed a revolutionary “up the establishment” flair.
Some in the Tea Party complained that this year’s conference favored establishment incumbents, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.), rather than offering a platform to their conservative challengers.
Many attendees, however, still hailed from the anti-status-quo ranks. This was clear in the crowd’s reaction to one speaker’s attack on Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor. Sharp criticism of Snowden ignited a chorus of boos from the audience.
Those boos revealed the stark fault line between the Republican Party’s two factions. The insiders (a.k.a. neo-conservatives, Bushies, establishmentarians) are invested in maintaining national security, buttressed by corporate and state power. The outsiders (a.k.a. Tea Party, Reaganites, conservative movement, and populists) are focused on anti-state power, personal freedom and competition.