Return to Main Political Parties page

Libertarians Invade the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference

by Jo Freeman
posted to SeniorWomen Web February 2010

Campaign for LibertyLibertarians packed the 37th annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which met in Washington D.C. on Feb. 18-20, comprising close to a third of the approximately nine thousand attendees. While libertarians have been present at past conservative gatherings, they haven’t been a major presence.

Led by the Campaign for Liberty, libertarians populated panels, passed out literature, led chants and generally raised the roof.

CfL is the reincarnation of Congressman Ron Paul’s (R. TX) 2008 Presidential campaign. After the primaries ended in June, he turned his mostly online following and remaining $4.7 million in contributions into an advocacy and educational organization with the goal of influencing public policy and changing the Republican Party.

Paul was the Libertarian Party candidate for President in 1988. He was on the ballot in 51 jurisdictions and received 432,179 votes in the general election. In 2008, Paul got 1,145,138 votes in the Republican primaries, but only 15 delegate votes at the convention.

Paul is CfL’s honorary chairman and guiding light; his son, known as Ronnie, is the official Chairman of the Board and his daughter is the Treasurer. CfL has an e-mail list of two hundred thousand supporters and 79,000 donors, who gave it 2.2 million dollars in 2008 and 8.4 million in 2009.

At the 2010 CPAC, CfL paid $15,000 for seven spaces in the exhibit hall that it filled with its ideological siblings and also paid the $25 student registration fee for dozens of young Paul followers. Sharing those seven spaces were

YAFAt the far end of "Liberty Row," but not a part of it, was the Young Americans for Freedom, a more classic conservative organization. Founded in 1960, it was a major vehicle for Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. The major difference between YAF and YAL is their approach to foreign policy. Formed to fight Communism, YAF stresses victory over co-existence with whatever it deems to be the resident evil in the world. Right now YAF believes the biggest international threat comes from "radical Islamism."

YAL’s values are those of its parent, which is committed to "the great American principles of individual liberty, constitutional government, sound money, free markets, and a noninterventionist foreign policy."

Before World War II, most conservatives believed the US should keep out of foreign entanglements. The Cold War changed this, leading traditional conservatives to pursue a strong national defense. President George W. Bush expanded that idea to include the policy of preventive war.

The Iraq invasion revived those conservatives opposed to military actions not required by an immediate threat. In a panel on "Why Real Conservatives are Against the War on Terror," four self-identified conservatives gave some very strong anti-imperialist speeches. Ron Paul also used strong anti- language in his Friday afternoon address to CPAC.

Ron Paul

It is "social issues" which often divide libertarians from other conservatives. At the 2010 CPAC that divide was most apparent around the presence of the newest gay organization, GOPROUD. GOPROUD broke off from the Log Cabin Republicans right before its national conference last April. CPAC didn’t blink at taking the $4,000 fee GOPROUD paid to be a full co-sponsor, despite some threats from other conservative organizations to stay away.

GOP Proud

Right before Ron Paul spoke, one of 18 young people invited to give two-minute talks used his time to denounce CPAC for "inviting" GOPROUD (sic – CPAC didn’t invite, it accepted the application) to be present. By the time Ryan Sorba stood up, the 3,200-seat ballroom was full of Ron Paul supporters waiting to hear their hero. They loudly booed Sorba until his time was up. Later YAF, which was listed in the program as Sorba’s affiliation, tried to distance itself from his rant. YAF has no position on gay rights.

The social issue which evoked no controversy was abortion, largely because it was never mentioned. Although the idea of personal liberty includes the right of bodily self-determination, and the largest libertarian think tank, the CATO Institute, does support a woman’s right to choose, none of the people sitting at the booths along Liberty Row would publicly support it. Nor were any pro-choice organizations present at CPAC. If there were any pro-choicers among the libertarians attending, they were mighty quiet about it. Ron Paul, a former OB-GYN, votes pro-life in Congress.

At the end of every CPAC, it announces the results of its straw poll, which always asks "who would you vote for as the next Republican nominee for President?" Paul supporters rejoiced that he got the vote of 31% of those choosing to participate in this poll, even though CPAC regulars booed the results. Last year he only got 13 percent, and in 2008, when he first appeared on the list, he only got 12 percent. Of course, CfL hadn’t mobilized Paul supporters to attend last year’s CPAC and in 2008 his campaign was focused on the caucuses and primaries.

The CPAC straw poll is not a good predictor of success in getting the Republican nomination. Mitt Romney, who came in second this year, got the most votes in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The fact that Ron Paul will need a lot of support from traditional conservatives to succeed in 2012 was reflected in the fact that GOPROUD was passing out stickers at its booth which said: "Draft Cheney - 2012." GOPROUD prefers Cheney’s foreign policy to that of Ron Paul.

Draft Cheney
Liberty Row

Liberty Row

Along Liberty Row

Phyllis Schafley

Phyllis Schlafley autographs posters

John Birch Society

When I asked the person at this booth when the John Birch Society got right
on race he told me that the JBS was never racist, just rightist.

Michelle Bachman

Michelle Bachman (R MN) was a featured speaker




©2010 Jo Freeman for


To Top
Books by Jo | What's New | About Jo | Photos | Political Buttons
Home | Search | Links | Contact Jo | Articles by Jo