Although much of the attention is on the main stage at each year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, it’s the side events where the real kookiness occurs. These events can give CPAC organizers and attendees a headache as they try to walk the line between accepting certain groups under the umbrella of the conservative movement, but also trying to make it clear they don’t want to associate themselves with some of those groups’ more questionable qualities.
Take for instance a session on the dangers of multiculturalism, that included participants from the website VDARE, which has been labeled as a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Rep. Steve King was one of those who had to walk the fine line. When questioned about the Southern Poverty Law Center’s description of his fellow panelists he first reacted by going on the offensive. “I wouldn’t be sitting up on a panel with anyone from the Southern Poverty Law Center,” King told reporters. “I’m not in a position to judge people in the fashion they seem to be so free to do.”
However, King then danced a delicate series of mental pirouettes. He explained his respect for VDARE’s top dog, Peter Brimelow, while holding back from a full-on embrace. Brimelow, he said, was not someone he’d met before the panel, though he had read his books.“I just remember I’ve read his books and I put his name in my memory, and I just remember that his rationale was a rationale that I could track and I’m glad we have his voice,” he said in response to a journalist’s question about the pair’s relationship.
Meanwhile, CPAC seemed to keep their distance, with a spokeswoman directing the Daily Caller’s Alex Pappas to the sponsoring organization for comment and pointing out that it wasn’t organized by the American Conservative Union.
The host of the event was officially the group ProEnglish, and their executive director, Robert Vandervoort. CPAC opened itself up to criticism in giving him a platform as well, given that he “was also the organizer of the white nationalist group, Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance” according to the Institute for Research on Education and Human Rights.
Still, at least they got some thanks. Vandervoort praised the leaders of CPAC for “for standing up to the leftist thugs who wish to shut down this conference and our freedoms of speech and assembly.”
The panel discussion itself focused on the idea that multiculturalism and making accommodations for non-English speakers so they can do things like vote or get a public education, was a terrible thing for America to do.
Dr. Rosalie Porter, chairwoman of the board of ProEnglish and a former bilingual teacher who now thinks of bilingual education as an “insane idea,” said that part of multiculturalism is “the idea that every culture is equally valid, and one must never be judgmental and one must not say anything critical about a culture.”
Brimelow said bilingualism was “about the distribution of power in the society” and “the determination of the elites not to press immigrants to assimilate.”
King was late for the panel and wasn’t even on the program, but he blended right in when he showed up, calling English the language of “success” and asking why the left was “obsessed” with multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism has even infected Republicans in the House, according to King. He recalled how an unnamed Republican leader wouldn’t let him be the floor manager of a bill he sponsored to make English the official language of the United States because he wasn’t an immigrant.
“I wanted to bring it up in the House, I was in a perfect position to do so, I had all the co-sponsors, I had worked it, I had earned it and the timing was right politically, and the answer that I got was ‘we’re looking for someone who is an immigrant or the son or daughter of an immigrant to be the floor manager of the bill’,” King said. “And the answer that I gave that unnamed leader was ‘I don’t think much of your affirmative action plan to select floor managers of bills.’ And so there’s a fear of criticism.”