A Sea of White: Day Two at CPAC
On the second day of CPAC, all of the main speakers are white men.
And out of the 60 people who were scheduled to participate in Friday's official CPAC events, all but five are caucasian. The audience demographic isn't much different.
The conference doesn't directly address diversity, although there was a five-person panel yesterday, "Reaching Out: the Rest of the Story," that featured speakers of color and talked about race and the Republican party.
But it wasn't exactly advertised. The program described the event as a discussion of "how to bring conservative ideals of liberty, opportunity, and prosperity to non-traditional voting blocs AND teach party and movement leaders how to embrace them."
It was not well-attended:
And it didn't go much better last year.
Conversely, around the same time today, crowds packed into the ballroom for a talk on "Can Libertarians and Social Conservatives Ever Get Along," where Michael Medved declared the idea that any state has ever tried to ban gay marriage to be a "liberal lie."
I asked a few people walking around why they thought the conference didn't attract a more diverse audience.
A college student named Sarah laughed nervously and told me, "I don't know how to answer that, to be honest. If I give my honest opinion, I don't know if it's going to be politically correct."
Her friend wasn't as hesitant, saying, "Other diversities come in here and they want opportunity, they want change, and like, we aren't really about change, we're more of like, these are our viewpoints and our standpoints and we want to stick to them because they've been working for the last 200 years."
What were those viewpoints?
"I feel like the different views and the different standpoints and going back to the Constitution and how we're founded, and small government and there's so much to it, and having a Christian belief makes me want to stand for what the Constitution stood for."
One of the few African-American students in attendance, Rushad Thomas, was careful to emphasize that his conservative views were fiscal in nature.
"I really wish CPAC would be more friendly towards libertarians and groups that are not traditionally right-wing, people like Log Cabin Republicans, or GOProud, or conservative atheists," he explained. "I think its mostly just because the conservative movement is very inward looking, in a sense, and a lot of people see the growing diversity and open-mindedness in society as a bad thing, sadly."
In the CPAC Hub, a smaller room on the first floor of the convention center, near the Sarah Palin's Amazing America booth, is a chalkboard for the Center for American Racial Equality.
An older man from Florida is asking the group's director, Dwayne Carson, how he would react if a white politician used "inappropriate words."
"What would be your recourse, and I guess would you reprimand me or something like that?"
"Reprimand you for using tough words? Is that what you're asking? Well, you're entitled to your opinion. It is your freedom of speech," Dwayne says.
"There's a problem where individuals in this community—especially CPAC—they have to show up in the minority community," Dwayne explains later. "And I will say this, a lot of people, even Republican candidates, they're so afraid of coming across as racist that they decide not to show up."
One older gentleman, Dan, tells me he's attended almost every CPAC ever held.
"And I haven't met any in 30 CPACS, I have yet to meet a racist."
"Ben Carson's going to tear the place up tomorrow," his friend Robert interjects.
"For some reason, and I don't understand it—it's easy to blame Hollywood—but for some reason for African-Americans, it's unfortunate, they would almost see—and again I have no polling—but they would see this crowd as some sort of a klan rally, unfortunately. There's some sort of a breakdown in communication," Robert explains.
"Some of the most passionate conservatives I know are black," Dan shoots back.
"You've really hit on to something though. If you could get to the bottom and solve that one," Robert says, trailing off.
"You belong on Fox News," Dan says to me.
Robert replies, "She's got to wear a very short skirt though."
[image via Getty, screengrab via C-SPAN]