The District’s Occupiers are on the march. Even as city health officials and police began evicting Occupy D.C. protesters from their rat-infested McPherson Square campground, organizers were meeting, planning and preparing to confront and, hopefully, silence targets of their hatred they knew would be streaming into Washington this week.
Their targets are the speakers and attendees of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which opens Thursday and is expected to draw more than 11,000 conservative activists to the city for three days of speeches, parties and planning sessions. The annual CPACs are among the most important annual gatherings on any conservative’s schedule and are must-stops for politicos seeking conservative support.
All of the main GOP presidential contenders except Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who is off organizing caucus supporters, will attend. The contests for the most supporters between Mr. Paul, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum will be fierce. Mr. Romney will hope to close the sale with conservatives, Rick Santorum will argue that his recent minisurge makes him a more attractive potential nominee than Mr. Romney, and Mr. Gingrich will be, well, Mr. Gingrich.
The Occupiers are describing CPAC as “a gathering of bigots, media mouthpieces, corrupt politicians and their 1 percent elite puppet masters,” but what seems to have enraged them more than anything else is CPAC’s decision to invite Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to be keynote speaker for its Friday banquet.
Mr. Walker has been battling the Occupiers’ Wisconsin soul mates - names familiar to me from my long-ago days fighting their protests at the University of Wisconsin - since his 2010 election, and his subsequent decision to institute reforms that would severely restrict the power of the public-employee unions has raised their ire. However, every intellectually serious person knows that those union contracts are largely responsible for the fiscal disaster he inherited. Mr. Walker got his way, but not before Democratic legislators fled the state to postpone the inevitable, tens of thousands of union and student protesters swarmed in and vandalized the state Capitol in Madison, found their way to the governor’s home to harass his family and forced a number of his legislative supporters into recall elections.
Now Wisconsin’s Occupy types are trying to recall Mr. Walker himself, and their national allies are pouring millions into the effort to throw him out of office. These are people who simply cannot accept the fact that they don’t have majority support and their candidates lost an election. Polls in the state predict that Mr. Walker will survive. What’s worse from his detractors’ perspective is that his reforms seem to have pulled the state back from the brink of fiscal disaster.
CPAC’s organizers this year expect and are preparing for trouble - as are the D.C. police. The Occupiers have some experience in disrupting conservative gatherings in the District. Last year, they furiously tried to close down a conference run by Americans for Prosperity and injured an elderly attendee in the process. This year, they are bragging that they are coming to CPAC prepared “to physically assault” speakers and, presumably, attendees.
Press reports of their planning meetings reveal that they are preparing counterfeit credentials to get some of their people into the conference itself, and there is some reason to believe that their union allies may have moved early to reserve rooms for many of them in the main conference hotel. They are bragging that they will be joined in their effort to close down the conference by allies from the “AFL-CIO, SEIU, the National Nurses United, the Metro Labor Council” and various other groups.
CPAC organizers think the Occupy movement already has been largely discredited and that a high-profile, desperate attempt to close down CPAC will turn more Americans against them. CPAC has often invited those with whom it disagrees into the conference for political, economic and social-policy debates. But the Occupiers have made it clear that they are far more interested in shutting up those with whom they disagree than in discussing anything - even if they have to resort to violence to do so.
“These are desperate people hoping that by attacking us they can continue to draw media attention and support to their leftist allies,” one CPAC insider confides, “but we aren’t going to take the bait. We may instead simply enjoy the spectacle of a marginalized, discredited and collapsing movement.”
One can only hope he’s right, but those attending CPAC and those watching should realize that dying movements can be both desperate and dangerous.
David A. Keene is the former chairman of the American Conservative Union and a member of the board of the ACU, the National Rifle Association, the Constitution Project and the Center for the National Interest.