CPAC From the Outside In

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 8.10.39 AMWhile I didn’t go to CPAC, this was the first year that I had “people” attending on behalf of media sites that I manage. That means that I was spending a fair amount of time collecting audio files from those that were attending, and setting them up for the public to hear. Otherwise, I was keeping track of press coverage in general of the event, as well as some other news that had come up shortly before the conference.

Even though I wasn’t there, I definitely did learn a few things from this experience, that will definitely guide how I deal with conferences in general, but particularly, future CPAC’s. Because we were new, and relatively disorganized, even though we run an internet radio station, we didn’t end up on radio row. That bothered me at first, but in hindsight? I don’t know if I will ever bother with attempting to have people radio row. I had a husband and wife team on the ground – Allan Bourdius, a host and producer, is becoming a broadcast pro, and managed to land interviews with highly sought after individuals. His wife, Missy, spent a fair amount of time mingling, and recording interviews with people that were in the “booths” from various organizations. Her coverage was close to “man on the street” – fun and spontaneous.

Next year, I probably still won’t attend CPAC, but I hope that I can end up with more than just two people there. I would be happy if I could have a handful of people like Allan, freely moving around, and landing interviews with speakers. It would be absolute perfection if I could have about ten students and activists wandering around with iPhones doing interviews like Missy did, not just on politics, but on fun topics. Missy focused on fashion, comparing style choices of liberal and conservative women. If I could have each of those young people out there talking about one topic with the masses – movies, TV, fashion, gaming, etc. – I would be ecstatic.

We’ve been saying for what seems ages now that we need to embrace the culture, or die. Living in the echo chamber of conservative political pundits, it’s too easy to get mired in just the politics, and forget about what “normal people” care about. As George Will put it, CPAC is the voice of conservative youth – that was how he trivialized the results of the straw poll, at least. That doesn’t make him wrong about which segment of conservatives is drawn to that event.

We are still relying heavily on Baby Boomers when it comes to crafting our messages, mostly because they are the generation that is most likely to turn out to vote. That’s traditionally been the case, and that probably will never change. However, that doesn’t mean that we can marginalize the youngest voters – the Millennials. We have to reach out to them, and most importantly, we have to learn how to reach the ones that aren’t already pulled into our world of political punditry. And that won’t be easy, primarily because that generation honestly doesn’t care very much about politics.  They also aren’t particularly religious, which is a huge part of the reason why libertarian-leaning conservatives have been screaming against social conservative agendas. Sure, it resonates well with the Boomers, but we’re killing our chances of embracing the ones that will make or break campaigns as the Boomers disappear.

So, next year, I’ll be more organized for CPAC. There will be more people on the ground, and while some of them will be focused on the speakers, more will be talking to the people. And those conversations won’t be all about politics. Even though it is a political conference, the fact is that I know I have to provide entertainment as well as political news and views, if I want to get Millennials to listen to this coverage. And that’s exactly what I want. I could whine about the fact that liberals have ruined our youth, to the point where they must be entertained in order to learn anything, or I can entertain the youth, with conservative messages mixed in with the “fun stuff.” I’ll take the latter – whining never solved anything.

If you have success stories, advice, questions, or feel-good anecdotes from the field in grassroots politics, I want to hear from you! Watch weekly for articles on being a political activist, and loving it. And please include your questions, stories, coverage requests, and tips in the comment section below.

Liz Harrison

Liz Harrison can be found at GoldwaterGal.com, Conservative Daily News, United Liberty, Misfit Politics, and Examiner.com. Liz broadcasts weekly on FTR Radio (with another Goldwater Gal contributor, Taylor Millard (@EyeDesertBlog). She also hosts Jabberwonky and produces a few shows on CDN Radio, where she is the director of programming. Ensuring the next generation of politically active conservatives, Liz and her husband James are raising a politically precocious 12-year-old son, who is "The Pint-Sized Pundit" on his mom's talk shows.

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