CPAC Attracts the GOP’s Worst Elements — But Van Jones Still Went

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Van Jones (Kasey Baker)

nly hardcore political junkies, like me, pay attention to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC,) held last week. I watch the annual wingnut fest every year to see how Republican neo-fascists try to outdo themselves in howling at the moon. It used to be funny, but now they’re running not only the Republican Party but the entire government — which explains the current political chaos.

Since I’ve been following CPAC, I’ve noticed it attracts the dregs of the right-wing. White supremacists, Islamophobes, homophobes and anti-Semites, basically the alt-right, before that term became hip. A few years ago, a young white man stood up during a CPAC seminar and said he wanted to go back to racial segregation. He also said slaves should have been grateful for receiving free room and board. Ironically, this was in a seminar about how to increase diversity in the GOP!

This year’s CPAC also attracted several extremists. “Among those spotted was Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist podcaster who lurked around the edges of CPAC like a vulture. Faith Goldy, a white nationalist who ran for mayor of Toronto in 2018 — getting 3.4 percent of the vote — was also present. Patrick Casey, the executive director of the far-right group Identity Evropa, tried to get into CPAC before being informed that his pass had been canceled,” said ThinkProgress writer Luke Barnes.

The conference’s organizers have been embarrassed by the extreme elements CPAC attracts and have tried to clean it up. But this is nearly impossible because ever since Democrats passed the Civil Rights Act, racial extremists have flooded to the GOP. They’ve been embedded in the party for at least four decades, stewing and trying to find ways to implement their policies. And while the Republican Party condemns them on the surface, they never truly want to push them out. They tolerate them because they need their votes. Why do you think Iowa Rep. Steve King still has a job?

But in spite of CPAC’s spotty past, liberal commentator Van Jones still decided to attend the event. He was part of a panel on criminal justice reform where he sang the praises of Trump’s recent efforts. Jones’ point is debatable. A NewsOne article stated the Trump administration still utilizes private prisons and has rolled back many of President Barack Obama’s prison reforms.

I question why he would even attend a conference with CPAC’s history. Jones is like black conservatives in the GOP. How can you sit at the table in a party that welcomes white supremacists? Jones, who used to be on the far left, seems to be currying favor with Trump administration officials. He recently conducted a fawning interview with princeling Jared Kushner. “You have like the dopest job in the world,” he gushed. He didn’t say anything about Kushner’s ties to Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed Bin Salman who was linked to the torture and murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The conference’s organizers have been embarrassed by the extreme elements CPAC attracts and have tried to clean it up. But this is nearly impossible because ever since Democrats passed the Civil Rights Act, racial extremists have flooded to the GOP. They’ve been embedded in the party for at least four decades, stewing and trying to find ways to implement their policies. And while the Republican Party condemns them on the surface, they never truly want to push them out. They tolerate them because they need their votes. Why do you think Iowa Rep. Steve King still has a job?

However, Jones was lambasted online for his recent CPAC appearance.

“Van Jones thinks there is a way to collaborate with hateful a**holes,” said a Twitter user known as The Hoarse Whisperer.

Zerlina Maxwell tweeted: “BLM been out in the streets getting tear gassed and tackled but Van Jones thinks it’s a great idea to go to CPAC of all places to credit CONSERVATIVES for criminal justice reform?”

I agree with their criticism. Jones only debased himself by appearing at CPAC, a conference that regularly features white supremacists. He’s also doing himself no favors by hob-knobbing with Trump administration officials. This will only backfire on him. The Trump White House is full of grifters, Cult 45 members and racial extremists who would back the president even if he burned a cross on the White House lawn.

This is not the time to reach across the aisle. You can’t reason with people who are not based in reality. Even after Trump’s two-hour, expletive-laden CPAC rant, Republican operative Matt Schlapp refused to admit Trump was a frequent liar. The president told 100 lies in two hours during his CPAC speech.

After Michael Cohen’s damning House testimony, where he listed several Trump crimes, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, (R-Calif.), said he didn’t think the president’s hush money payments to silence porn star Stormy Daniels were impeachable offenses.

The GOP is currently going through a civil war between sane Republicans and Trumpists — and the sane Republicans are losing. This leaves the lunatics in charge of the asylum.

Democrats don’t have any business sitting down at the table with Republicans until the sane ones regain control of their party and put the adults back in charge.

Manny Otiko writes about race, politics and sports. He has been published in Salon and LA Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @mannyotiko.

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