Strange as it sounds, CPAC is actually a pretty bizarre place for a conservative. Walking around the cult gathering conference this year, it wasn’t obvious that most of the attendees shared the same core principles that typify conservative thinking. This feeling was exacerbated by a speaker list that included Marion Le Pen, David Clarke, and Judge Jeanine Pirro, among others. Quite tellingly, one of the most common words that were used by the people I spoke to when describing this year’s event was “fringe.”
However, for 22 minutes on Thursday afternoon, the hodgepodge right-wing crowd got to see Ben Shapiro put the “conservative” in Conservative Political Action Conference. Walking out to the song “Turn Down for What,” Shapiro drew raucous applause from the capacity crowd and delivered an absolutely exceptional speech.
The first 15 minutes were typical Shapiro: the dangers of political correctness, tribalism, social justice, white privilege, and the stifling of free speech were all covered in his famously lightning-fast speaking style. It’s worth mentioning that “typical Shapiro” is probably the best conservative rhetoric in America right now, so the fact that he was giving his garden-variety speech was more than enough to satiate my cravings for liberty and freedom.
But in the last five minutes of his talk, Shapiro found a gear he rarely reaches, if ever. His emotions began to crescendo as he launched into a passion-filled sermon regarding the importance of truth.
“President Trump likes to attack the media. And some of the time, he’s right. He’s the hammer, and the media are the nail, and that’s great. But when President Trump complains that anything negative anyone has ever said about him isn’t true, or when President Trump says he had the biggest inauguration crowd in history, or when the president says there were good people marching in Charlottesville, that is not him waging an effective war against PC. It is nonsense, it is immoral, and it actually helps those who push PC.”
After a day full of speakers breathlessly pimping Donald Trump’s faultless conservatism, Shapiro was the first to rebuke the president. Somewhat surprisingly, this part of the speech drew some pretty strong applause, which can not be said for all the anti-Trump sentiments that were expressed over the weekend.
Shapiro later emphasized the importance of not saying things with the sole intent of pissing off the left, saying, “You don’t need hot takes to melt snowflakes. A little well-placed truth does it every time. That means that our job is just to spout facts.”
Shapiro subtly condemning alt-right tactics whilst simultaneously galvanizing the right wing was effective, but he had yet to reach the speech’s climactic moment.
“If we stick with truth and decency, we will win. We’ll win because the human soul does yearn for truth, and does respond to decency. We will win because America was built on truth and decency. And most of all, we’ll win because we sure as hell can’t afford to lose.”
CPAC didn’t instill a deep sense of faith in me that the conservative movement was in great hands. But at that moment, with Shapiro extending his arms to a crowd giving him a standing ovation, a fire inside of me was rekindled. His speech was only 22 minutes in the middle of a 72-hour conference, but it was enough to remind me what I was fighting for. More importantly, it reminded everyone present why it’s so damn important to never give up that fight.