PHILADELPHIA — For conservatives who participated in the Heritage Foundation’s annual Conservative Members Retreat here, the 2012 elections are less about the “mundane” ins and outs of policy fights over immigration, spending and the deficit and even less about which of the four remaining Republican presidential candidates will be their standard-bearer in November.
For the most dyed-in-the-wool conservatives of Speaker John Boehner’s (Ohio) Conference, 2012 represents a grim showdown over the soul of America, 100 years in the making.
“There is nothing that unites conservatives and maybe Republicans in general than the abject nightmare of a two-term Barack Obama,” Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said Friday.
One of the more remarkable things about the retreat, which took place Wednesday through Friday, was the relative diversity of the Members attending. Slightly less than half of the 47 or so Members came from the freshman class. And while the retreat leaned heavily toward conservatives such as Franks and Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Louie Gohmert (Texas), other parts of the party’s conservative movement were in attendance. Even Boehner’s leadership team was well-represented, with Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) here.
In a business such as modern politics — ruled by calculation and pragmatism — the earnest ideological themes of the Heritage Foundation conference are all the more striking.
“The purpose of this is to re-energize folks to say, ‘The reason you gave up that career, the reason you gave up the attention you might have otherwise been able to provide for your family, the reason you believed it was important to run — those reasons are still important,’” Price said Thursday.
Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) — who in the past has sparred with Heritage’s political arm, Heritage Political Action — also said the conference was valuable.
“I don’t agree with everything, but the lawyer in me [says], ‘Learn as much as you can.’ And I’ve learned a lot here this weekend,” Rooney said. “When you have opportunities as this to get as much information that you can from really smart people, you take it.”
Franks made clear the ugly future that he believes the nation faces if Obama is re-elected.
“If Barack Obama is re-elected, I fear that Iran will gain nuclear weapons and our entire world perception and reality will change. I see us falling into sort of a European socialist construct that will be very difficult for us to extract ourselves from,” he warned. “Ultimately, I see almost a fundamental abrogation of the Constitution based on the Supreme Court nominees he will put forward.”
To lose the election means failing “future generations and our children profoundly.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.