The big annual conservative conference called the “Value Voters Summit” kicks off today in Washington and runs through the weekend. We’ll have photos from the event, and I hope to find time to swing by myself to sample the fare. Speakers at the event are a who’s who of conservative glitterati, including Michele Bachmann, Mike Huckabee, Gary Bauer, Tony Perkins, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Ed Meese and Phyllis Schlafly. (Sarah Palin is scheduled to speak but as we’ve seen lately, Palin manages to miss a lot of the events she’s supposed to attend.)
Republicans still operate like the old Hollywood studio star system, whereas Democrats would rather be caught dead than venerate their has-been leaders. But what jumped out to me about the VVS this year were the titles for the breakout sessions they’re having:
“Speechless - Silencing The Christians”
“Thugocracy - Fighting the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy”
“Defunding Planned Parenthood”
“Activism and Conservatism: Fit to a Tea (Party)”
“The Threat of Illegal Immigration”
“Obamacare: Rationing Your Life Away”
“Marriage: Why It’s Worth Defending and How Redefining it Threatens Religious Liberty”
“The New Masculinity”
“Wait No More: Finding Families for Waiting Kids”
“Turning the Tide in Your Generation”
The paranoia, the fear-mongering, the aggressiveness are all what we’ve come to expect from the right-wing apparatus. In the past I’ve tried to remind myself that the network of self-sustaining advocacy groups and all the parasitic for-profit outfits that feed off the right’s money-raising gravy train is separate from the official Republican Party. But as the party has shrunk and its remnants have become ever more beholden to the conservative base, that’s a line-drawing exercise that’s lost much of its utility. So in many ways what you see at the Value Voters Conference is the Republican Party of today: shrill, confrontational, and bordering on desperate.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.