Before I get there, though, I wanted to point out an interesting link - that I found later - between the CPAC2012 and US public diplomacy. Rather, I should say, it's potentially deleterious effect on American public diplomacy, especially in the 21st century. Here's a quick look at an astonishing bouquet, a sample of events from the official schedule:
- "The Failure of Multiculturalism: How the pursuit of diversity is weakening the American Identity"
- "Is the “Arab Spring” Good or Bad for America?"
(Side note: I overheard one of the members of the Occupy movement express outrage over this title: "Why should we care? It's their Spring. Let them decide!")
- "Does Hollywood Still Embrace American Exceptionalism?"
- "CPAC Premiere of A City Upon A Hill: The Spirit of American Exceptionalism. [Starring Newt and Callista Gingrich]"
- "Islamic Law in America: How the Obama Justice Department Is Selling Us Out"
- "Why are U.S. taxpayers spending billions to promote abortion and homosexuality worldwide?"
(I won't even go into the abundance of Reagan-related events.)
And this is just a sample. Of course, one might say that this is typical conservative (Republican?) discourse, particularly during an important election year. Yet, just as they see military spending and staying truthful to the "real American values" as indispensable to national security, the conservatives should perhaps also consider the fact that in the globalized world of the 21st century (where America still wants to be a major power) a little modesty, understanding and inclusion can go a long way in enhancing that security. After all, marines and drones have proven to be a very ineffective tool in the "battle for hearts and minds" -- the primary theater of war over the past several decades (for the U.S., at least).
CPAC, of course, is a matter of domestic politics. However, in the age of Internet and satellite television, this separation between "domestic" and "foreign" has long been wearing off, especially in the U.S. Perhaps the Conservative rhetoric should be made aware of that...?
CPAC 2012 took place at Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. There was an abundance of police and security personnel, in anticipation of a big crowd.
By noon, on February 10, the protesters started gathering in front of the hotel. A big inflatable cat appeared soon after the Sheet Metal Workers' Union marched in. It held a cigar in one hand, and was gripping the neck of a worker with the other.
The crowd was diverse. Many had come from other towns - Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York, and even Miami - to join the unions and community organizations active in DC.
They were certainly very creative, too.
The 1% Tax Dodgers had come down from New York.
Others were lamenting the state of the housing market:
The youth had more to add:
And a special performance by the protesters from Philly:
A small group of students had apparently managed to get in to the conference hall, before they were escorted out by the police. Their protest was silent, yet they seemed to be saying a lot.
And of course, the protester of the day.
While this was going on for several hours, most of the CPAC attendees were advised against approaching the crowd. Yet, a few came down to engage, under the watchful eyes of the police.
This young gentleman struck me with his confidence about his future. I am not being cynical here.
This went on for a while, and as the protesters started leaving, CPAC attendees decided to reclaim the spotlight.
Many of the protesters were back in the evening, however. Although the numbers were much smaller (while the noon protest had gathered close to a 1000 people, there were only close to 150 later in the day), they were still pretty vocal. This is a group specifically protesting against Wisconsin's Republican Governor, Scott Walker, who introduced drastic cuts in the state budget and anti-labor union legislation when he took over his post in January 2011. The accompanying chant here was "Flush Scott Walker!"...
There were more members of the local Occupy Movement in the evening:
This was the only moment I witnessed when things got a little too heated.
The plan for the second day was to meet at the Malcolm X park and march to the hotel from there. The most (pleasantly) surprising part for me was that the police actually closed off the street to let the protesters walk (this would certainly not be the case in most of the other parts of the world...).
The weather was nasty - perhaps the coldest it had been in DC this winter - yet the protest had attracted quite a sizeable group. The security would not let them get closer to the hotel.
So they went to the back exit, braving the weather for several more hours, while the CPAC held a workshop on how to "take the Wall Street back" from the "Occupiers".
Meanwhile, across the street, there was a small group of young CPAC attendees, who had decided to stage their own counter-protest.
Can't read what the sign says?
You are not alone. Here is the scene after they were lent a better marker...
To be continued. Perhaps...
You can see more videos here, if interested.