If the Conservative Political Action Conference can be expected to accomplish anything more than angry bellowing, it is to reliably embarrass every decent and sane conservative in America. Sometimes the problem is a conspiratorial extremist co-sponsor, like the John Birch Society; sometimes the problem is a certifiable kook giving the keynote address, like Glenn Beck; and sometimes the problem is just vicious bullying of gay conservatives, who have been officially expelled from the conference.
But now the annual Washington showcase of the far right is plunging toward new depths of disgrace, by featuring "white nationalists" among its speakers.
To explain the perils of multiculturalism and (nonwhite) immigration, the CPAC organizers have invited several avowed white nationalists — who will spew their bigotry in the same conference hall that will host speeches by Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul (and has already been visited by Herman Cain, who complained about the damage being done to the nation by "stupid" people).
According to reports by People for the American Way and the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR), the CPAC contingent this week will include Peter Brimelow, the notorious race-baiting activist who founded VDARE.com, an anti-immigration website that has long been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate site. Brimelow's website regularly publishes the work of white supremacist and anti-Semitic writers.
Joining Brimelow on at least one panel will be Robert Vandervoort, identified by CPAC as executive director of ProEnglish, a group advocating "English-only" policies — but Vandervoort is also the former organizer of the "Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance," another white nationalist hate group that is affiliated with the same racist authors who appear on Brimelow's website. Their panel is called "The Failure of Multiculturalism: How the Pursuit of Diversity Is Weakening the American Identity."
Actually, Vandervoort was slated to appear on two panels at CPAC, including one titled "High Fences, Wide Gates: States vs. the Feds, the Rule of Law & American Identity," where he will be joined by Republican politician Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state. As IREHR recently reported, Vandervoort "was at the center of white nationalist activity during his time in Illinois." His "Chicagoland" outfit often held joint activities with the local chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the group that directly succeeded the White Citizens Councils of the anti-civil rights era in the South and Midwest. In their own nod to diversity, Vandervoort and Kobach's panel will also include two Latino Republican legislators from Florida, Rep. David Rivera and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
Questioned about the invitations extended to such unsavory figures as Brimelow and Vandervoort, a CPAC spokeswoman told Buzzfeed that the American Conservative Union, which operates CPAC with a coalition of other right-wing groups, accepts no responsibility for their presence. "CPAC is proud to have more than 150 sponsors and exhibitors this year," boasted Kristy Campbell, the CPAC flack, in an email. "This panel was not organized by the ACU, and specific questions on the event, content or speakers should be directed to the sponsoring organization. Cosponsors and affiliated events do not necessarily represent the opinions of the American Conservative Union."
But CPAC did decide to bar participation by the gay conservative groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans, and to remove the tainted John Birch Society as a co-sponsor. The gays bother them and the conspiracy nuts humiliate them, but evidently they feel no imperative to shun the white supremacists.
Joe Conason is the editor in chief of NationalMemo.com. To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.