One of the major highlights of the political season every year, The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), took place this past week in Maryland. For readers who’ve never heard of this event, it’s a who’s who of who’s influential in the right wing of American politics.
Many high profile conservative speakers have taken the stage and delivered addresses at CPAC. They include: Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rush Limbaugh, just to name a few. Donald Trump has even spoken before, although he was conspicuously absent this year.
The event is known to draw a large contingent of college-aged conservatives, and I was able to interview one of them. Joseph Tronlone, a sophomore political science major who attended the conference for the first time this year, was more than willing to sit down and discuss his experience.
Matt Kass: My first question is how was the atmosphere at CPAC this year?
Joe Tronlone: It was a great atmosphere. It was my first time attending, and it was so much greater than I originally anticipated. Everyone was friendly, professional and I even was in an elevator with former candidate Rick Santorum.
MK: With as many candidates as there were running on the Republican side this year, did you find yourself talking to people with a lot of different preferred candidates or political preferences?
JT: I met many people who supported Ted Cruz. Many people saw him as the only true conservative. There were also a few liberty lovers in favor of Gary Johnson (the former governor of New Mexico, and a candidate for the Libertarian Party). But for the most part, almost everyone there held the same conservative values.
MK: Now, let’s talk about the obvious comb over on the elephant in the room: Trump. Out of all the people you talked to, what was the consensus you seemed to get when discussing him?
JT: Sadly, that everyone supported him because he speaks the truth. I would also like to note as a proud conservative, he is nothing close to one.
MK: As a follow-up to that question, did you seem to find a lot of people willing to vote for him regardless of their like or dislike of him if the alternative was a Clinton presidency?
JT: Yes I did. Many people like myself are totally against Hillary Clinton becoming president, and will vote for Trump, as he is the lesser of two evils.
MK: On multiple occasions, you’ve expressed your support for Rubio. Are you disappointed with his sudden turn towards negativity in the presidential primary as a defense mechanism against Trump?
JT: I am not disappointed. Trump is acting like a bully to all the other candidates and it’s about time someone stood up to him.
MK: Getting back to CPAC, of all the speeches you saw that weren’t given by presidential candidates, which one was your personal favorite, and why?
JT: Definitely Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the National Rifle Association. He had a great speech on gun rights and the protection of citizens while using guns. A quote that stuck with me is, “It takes a good guy with a gun, to stop a bad guy with a gun.”
MK: Along with a shot at winning the presidential race, what were the other big topics on the docket at CPAC?
JT: Truthfully [there was] nothing else, although there was some sadness when Ben Carson dropped out of the race.
MK: Also, What was the prevailing opinion of Governor Christie at the convention?
JT: I didn’t hear his name mentioned once.
Now, I don’t see eye to eye with Tronlone on a large amount of the topics that we discussed for the column. However, CPAC is a big part of the conservative presidential race. Allowing for the exchange of discourse and ideas as they pertain to the progress of our country creates a healthy political atmosphere, in which we can be civil and arrive at the best compromises. Regardless of party affiliation, or lack thereof, if we shut out the political opinions of those we do not like to hear from, ideological stagnation follows. I believe that a significant portion of the political gridlock our country is experiencing stems from this problem. It’s something we all need to fix, whether we are on the Left, the Right, or in the Center.