Of all the newsworthy events and speeches delivered at the Gaylord National Resort, the greatest take-away may be that the Vice-President of the United States is, effectively, the leader of the conservative movement. Pence may not be the President or the head of the Republican Party, but he was the most authentically conservative big-name speaker at this year’s conference.
While CPAC seemed to move away from its traditional defense of limited government conservative values, of religious liberty in public life, and a robust national defense, the Vice-President struck a chord of continuity. While many have declared the Reagan coalition of fiscal, social, and national security conservatives dead, Pence gave new life to the movement. Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway declared last Thursday “Tomorrow, this will be TPAC.” By Thursday night, however, Mike Pence proved that the C still belongs in CPAC, and that the conservative movement remains bigger than any one person.
Pence’s speech, like his prior speeches to CPAC, was reminiscent of Reagan in its tone and substance. The Vice-President threw-down the gauntlet on issue after issue dear to the conservative cause, ranging from religious liberty, to repealing Obamacare, and rebuilding America’s military. While laying-out a conservative reform agenda on all of these topics, he remained sunny in his optimism about America.
At a time that the Republican Party, and, by extension, the conservative movement, has become more of a confederation of folks who do not like Democrats, the Vice-President made the case for what conservatives support. He proved that he is the most effective spokesperson for the Trump Administration, and that he has the depth of policy knowledge to be a guiding force inside the White House. This depth of knowledge has its roots in Pence’s past life as a political talk radio host, where he honed his rhetorical skills before ever stepping-foot on Capitol Hill.
I said last summer something that I believe even more after this week: the single best decision President Trump has made this far as a candidate or Commander-In-Chief is to pick Mike Pence for Vice-President. When I watched Pence’s speech at CPAC, I knew that I was watching the future of the conservative movement in America.