CPAC and climate change: The grassroots get it
By Peter Bryn
CCL’s Conservative Caucus made its first-ever appearance at the three-day Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) with a booth at the expo. Caucus volunteers George Kralovec and Warren Beeton joined me on alternating days.
Tabling at CPAC is critical to further three goals of the Conservative Caucus:
- Welcome in new conservative CCL volunteers.
- Affirm our seat at the table in the conservative advocacy community.
- Build relationships with fellow conservative organizations.
How’d it go?
Much will be written about the climate dissent present in some of the main CPAC sessions, as many “grasstops” in the conservative community still prefer to dismiss climate change rather than propose solutions to it.
However, among the “grassroots,” a variety of viewpoints were on display: free-traders debating economic nationalists, tough-on-crime conservatives debating liberty-minded criminal justice reformers, and, in our case, climate dissenters debating climate realists.
We chatted with about 150 of these “realists,” many of whom approached our booth with a puzzled look and asked: “Are you guys for or against climate change?”
When we replied that we see climate change as a risk that needs to be managed using a market-friendly approach, eyes would light up, heads would nod, and some thoughtful questions would follow. The reaction of many seemed to be, “Finally, someone from our side talking about solutions.” Few were aware of Carbon Fee & Dividend, though most were familiar with a straight carbon tax, and a few were even versed enough to appreciate the differences between dividends and a tax swaps!
Even among the few dissenters who approach us, we found ourselves having productive and friendly conversations. We hoped to send them away thinking, “I may disagree with those CCL people, but they were respectful and engaging.”
Goal 1: New volunteers
Polling consistently shows younger Republicans being largely concerned about climate change and their senior colleagues much less so. That divide was on full display at our booth. As George Kralovec noted, “I was inspired by the number of high school and college students that were interested in our message. They were anxious to let us know that they were concerned about climate change and wanted to do something about it.”
Goal 2: Affirm our seat at the conservative table
It is said that just showing up is half the battle. Indeed, having a table at CPAC is a big deal, and it created a great opportunity for our friends in conservative circles to associate CCL’s Conservative Caucus with conservative advocacy.
An unexpected highlight came with having a sign showing the Climate Solutions Caucus (CSC) members on our table. We encountered several constituents, three current/former campaign staff, and one aide connected with various Republican Representatives who are members of the CSC!
Each of these attendees lit up when they saw the sign showing their respective Representative. One campaign manager texted the member of Congress with a picture of us holding the sign. The congressman replied that he “really appreciated the shout out!”
There were a few random networking experiences—making a quick pitch to folks like Michael Steele (former RNC Chair) and Ramesh Ponnuru (Senior Editor, National Review)—as well as being interviewed on Hypeline News, a news source popular among conservative college students.
Goal 3: Network with peer organizations
As most CCLers who have tabled know, chatting up other exhibitors is a critical part of the experience. There were some groups present with which we already had a relationship—ALEC, College Republicans, American Enterprise Institute—but also some new ones we were able to meet—Turning Point USA, Young America’s Foundation, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Americans for Prosperity. Some of these organizations may never support our policy position, but we believe in having open lines of communication with them all.
Extra Credit Goal 4: Have a little fun!
We also got to have a little fun, including:
- Seeing President Trump address the crowd.
- Listening to Ways & Means Chair Kevin Brady talk about comprehensive tax reform.
- Watching Sean Hannity tape his show.
- Having Ken Bone stop by the booth next to us in his iconic red sweater.
- Meeting conference regular “Grizzly Joe” (at right).
How YOU can use this
I encourage all CCLers to:
- Shout it from the rafters: This is your opportunity to communicate with conservative friends, family, and members of Congress that CCL’s Conservative Caucus was at CPAC!
- Internalize the message: Our message won’t spread passively. It requires active promotion and repeating. If we want to truly reach more conservatives, we need to take our market-friendly climate policy to them in forums where they feel comfortable. The Conservative Caucus will continue to do this nationally at events like CPAC, but we need your chapter’s help with your local Republican clubs and the local party.
Will we be at CPAC 2018?
Absolutely! And with the experience of 2017, we’ll be even more prepared to be as effective as possible!