To conserve Paul’s legacy

Despite dramatic rhetoric from CPAC, substance won out in the straw poll.

The recent Conservative Political Action Conference was a chance for conservatives to find a message to rally around in upcoming elections. Speeches included the expected jabs at Democrats and bizarre but harmless attacks on President Barack ObamaâÄôs teleprompter use, but there was also a great deal of language used to evoke fear. Terms such as âÄúsocialistâÄù and âÄúgovernment takeoverâÄù have been thrown around for months and were used often in CPAC speeches. The message that freedom was under attack rang out loudly and repeatedly in speeches, and six of seven panels contained the phrase âÄúsaving freedom.âÄù We expect pundits to use this rhetoric, but it should be alarming that public officials holding and seeking office did. Our own Gov. Tim Pawlenty remarked, âÄúWe should take a page out of [Tiger WoodsâÄô wifeâÄôs] playbook and take a 9-iron and smash the window out of big government.âÄù Michele Bachmann mentioned the âÄúObama thought police.âÄù But not every conservative is buying this rhetoric: Texas Congressman Ron Paul won the conferenceâÄôs straw poll with 31 percent of the vote. Paul has a consistently conservative set of beliefs, unlike most of those seeking CPACâÄôs or the Tea PartyâÄôs seal of approval âÄî and not just on domestic issues like TARP. He criticizes the war on drugs and interventionist foreign policy, both of which are expensive and infringe on personal rights. Yet when he was announced as winner of the straw poll, the hawkish elements in the crowd booed. In the 2010 elections and beyond, the Republican Party should support those candidates who have real substance and policy ideas rather than those who are willing to dial up the rhetoric of fear and violence in order to win votes.