As CPAC begins in the nation’s capital later this week, the conservative movement has much to contemplate as it attempts to reestablish itself as a dominant force in American political life.
Actually, “relevance” may be a more reasonable short-term goal.
The timing of the yearly Conservative Political Action Conference could not be better suited for evaluating the strategies of the standard bearers of free markets and limited government as free-spending and nanny statist Obamaism runs amok with nary a media check or a legislative balance.
Attendees of the wonky three-day forum should pay close attention to what their ideological counterparts had to say earlier in the week at their annual get-together in liberalism´s capital, Hollywood.
On Sunday night at the Kodak Theater, where Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama debated each other in front of the same prideful crowd a year earlier, the political left convened to celebrate its progressive political agenda. The Oscars communicate post-modern, post-American liberal values more effectively than elected Democratic officials themselves. The liberal establishment understands this and uses the glamorous Hollywood elite and its incessant stream of left-leaning product and promotional vehicles as its proxy messenger.
This year´s cause celebre was not the ailing American work force or the heroic and underappreciated U.S. military, but an attack on California´s just passed traditional marriage amendment - as represented by the white ribbon worn by pliant celebrity throngs. Dissenters in the midst dare not wear their contrarian ribbons for fear of more punitive Proposition 8 backlash.
This year Gus Van Sant and his gay marriage public service announcement “Milk,” garnered eight nominations while Clint Eastwood and his objectively conservative box office titan “Gran Torino” got completely shut out. Except for the expected (and deserved) posthumous Heath Ledger best supporting actor nomination, the good-vs.-evil international sensation “The Dark Knight,” also was passed over by the Academy.
Last year, 31 million American voters watched. Perhaps a few million less will tune in this off-year in cinema.
But in Washington, thousands of activists, elected officials, pundits and members of the general public will attend CPAC from Thursday to Saturday. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican, will be speaking. Some of the event´s highlights will be aired on C-SPAN.
A.C. Nielsen doesn´t count that low.
The movie stars and the powerful creative minds congratulating each other Sunday night wield a greater role in shaping the political landscape than Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid combined. Maxine Waters, Barney Frank, Christopher Dodd and William Jefferson possess less power to sway the minds of the electorate than Brad Pitt, Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Kate Winslet and even the late Mr. Ledger (James Dean continues to sway the public imagination).
Yet the public relations protection received by elected Democratic officials from the Hollywood media collective - who incessantly mock traditional American values and attack by name their Republican counterparts - allows for the corrupt and the contemptible to pull the lever in perpetuity for any cause the Hollywood elite holds dear.
Unchecked, Big Hollywood´s lobbying power only continues to grow. Mr. Obama has David Geffen and Oprah Winfrey to thank for his presidency - ask Hillary.
In Charlton Heston´s last years, the Academy paid tribute not to his legendary cinematic achievements but to a Michael Moore documentary that portrayed the screen legend as a doddering fool. Alzheimer’s is known to have that effect.
Have you no sense of decency, Oscar? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
If “the medium is the message,” as Marshall McLuhan formulated 45 years ago in “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man,” then Hollywood-style liberalism is America´s current and future message. And conservatives have no one to blame but themselves for not investing their collective efforts in the pop cultural and the greater media experience.
Art, music, film and new media must be at the center of a reborn conservative movement. Hollywood should not simply be ignored, reviled and condemned by detached intellectuals, talk radio and elected officials caught in her crosshairs, but taken on head-on.
There are thousands of creative and business minds toiling in anonymity in Hollywood who want the conservative movement to bring them aid, cover, money and a mission to finally take on a generation of one-party creative rule.
The conservative student movement that in the Reagan-era 80s encouraged action in the legislative world must commit to heading to Hollywood to begin to change things in the creative world.
The millionaires and billionaires who feed the conservative think tanks and underwrite those who run for office need to join their high-rolling liberal brethren like Barry Diller and David Geffen and realize their political dollars are better spent making movies and nurturing the culture.
My biggest fear is that later this week I will be among the legions at CPAC rearranging the furniture. Instead, the conservative movement needs to think in revolutionary terms.
And the revolution must begin in Hollywood.
• Andrew Breitbart is the founder of the news Web site breitbart.com and is co-author of “Hollywood Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon - the Case Against Celebrity.”