From its groundbreaking “Rainbow On The Right” event to new president Lawson Bader’s leadership of a panel of think tank presidents, the Competitive Enterprise Institute enjoyed an enormously successful stay at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
The “Rainbow” event, which focused on how to grow the right-of-center movement through outreach to gay voters and others, drew so many people on Thursday night that latecomers spilled out of the room into the hallway. Moderated by CEI Founder and Chairman Fred L. Smith, Jr., the crowd heard an eloquent and monumental talk from Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director and co-founder of GOProud, a group of gay conservatives.
It also heard from Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large at National Review, online political expert Liz Mair, CNN contributor Margaret Hoover and Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post. The “Rainbow” event was the third that day to feature CEI policy experts. Earlier, Iain Murray, CEI’s vice president for strategy, spoke at a panel on the subject of the Europeanification of America, alongside His Excellency Vytautas Landsbergis (former President of Lithuania), Derk Jan Eppink MEP, and U.S. Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and Tom Price, R-Ga. The speakers considered ways in which America was becoming more like Europe and why that was a bad thing. Topics included bureaucratic centralism, the welfare state and intrusive tax regimes.
Click the photo above to watch a video of the “Europeanization of America” panel.
In his contribution, Iain, a native of Great Britain, outlined how his homeland had gone from looking very like America to looking much more like Europe in a very short period of time. He gave two warnings to the Americans in the audience – don’t abandon federalism by letting Washington dictate everything, and resist giving regulators moral authority over matters that ought to be responsibility of individuals in a free society. In the Q&A he quoted James Madison to illustrate the latter point – “There are more instances of the abridgment of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
An hour or so later, Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and the Environment at CEI, took to the podium on a panel entitled “Re-Energizing America.” He spoke alongside Rep. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who is planning a run for the Senate, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., a longtime ally on energy and environment issues, and Peter Ferrara of the Heartland Institute.
Ebell warned the group about the lack of transparency emanating from the Environmental Protection Agency and Gina McCarthy, who has been named to take over the EPA. He also discussed the administration’s war on coal and its efforts to establish a tax on carbon.
On Friday, CEI Senior Fellow Angela Logomasini took part in a panel televised on CSPAN entitled, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Plastic Water Bottles, Fracking, Genetically Modified Food and Big Gulp Sodas.” The panel focused on nanny state regulations on consumer products and drew a lively crowd.
Finally, on Saturday morning, Bader led a panel entitled, “In the Tank: The Smartest Guys in The Room,” that included the presidents of the Big Four right-of-center think tanks in Washington – CEI, the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Bader led a conversation that turned on how to communicate to a new generation that seeks better answers to society’s challenges than we’re now getting from political leadership and on how the tanks might best work together.
But nothing made a splash to equal that of the Rainbow panel. It brought national and even international coverage as a landmark effort to reposition the right on acceptance of gays. As Bader said in an op-ed that appeared in the Daily Caller: “The right seems to realize our ideas work, but some of our attitudes needlessly turned off millions of voters last fall. Many in our movement genuinely want to find ways forward — as both our panel and the diverse panels on immigration this year demonstrated.”