EXCLUSIVE: This year's Conservative Political Action Conference kicks off Wednesday centered around what organizers described to Fox News as an “America vs. Socialism” theme that aims to hammer away at the leftward drift of the Democratic Party — and especially its presidential field.
The annual conservative gathering, held just outside the Washington Beltway, will feature speeches from President Trump and a host of conservative figures, all to “make the case against socialism,” CPAC hosts said.
“America vs. Socialism — it’s a little provocative if you think about it, because even the Democrats are stumbling on this question of, 'Are we a capitalist country or are we a socialist country?'” Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU) which puts on the event, said in an exclusive interview.
The conference, which lasts through Saturday, targets sensitive political territory for the Democrats, whose internal battle over big-government policies was on full display at Tuesday night's primary debate in South Carolina. Front-runner Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, took heat from rivals over his praise of Cuba's Fidel Castro and the eye-watering price tags on his proposed policies.
Amid these messy internal divisions, Republicans are eager to make Sanders the face of the opposition.
“People will criticize us, and say, ‘well, can’t you be a good American and be a socialist?’” Schlapp said. “You could be well-meaning and think you’re helping America by pushing socialism, but we actually think that what you’re doing is destroying the very foundational concepts behind America.”
Schlapp warned that Democrats like Sanders wants to “transform America.”
“Transform is an important word in that, they’re not saying make America kinder and gentler, they’re saying transform it — keep some of the parts we like, but change everything else,” Schlapp said. “We reject that’s what America needs and we reject that America can continue to be America if we throw away most of our fundamental values.”
Schlapp told Fox News that the conference will focus on how “conservatism is more relevant now than ever,” saying that the belief “values the individual human being and tries to undergird each one of our God-given rights — the right to life, the right to private property, the right to chart the course for our own individual life.”
“We will focus at this conference on how socialists believe the opposite,” Schlapp added. “They actually believe the federal government is entitled to do whatever it needs to do in an attempt to transform society.”
The annual conservative gathering will feature speeches and presentations from Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Republican lawmakers, White House officials and others from Trump’s reelection campaign.
Aside from socialism, Schlapp said the conference will focus on the Trump impeachment effort and what he called a “disgusting path from 2015 forward to stop Trump, lie about Trump, and eventually attempt a coup against Trump.”
“We’re going to go through all of the chapters of this disgusting and repulsive nonfiction bestseller,” Schlapp said.
Fox News reported earlier this week that CPAC will consist of a five-part program that will attempt to turn the tables on Democrats involved in the Russia collusion investigation and the impeachment of the president. It will feature Republican lawmakers who helped to defend the president including Reps. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
As per tradition, the conference will include a straw poll, which will ask attendees to assess the president’s performance.
CPAC 2020 happens to conclude on the day of the South Carolina primary, the last early-state contest before Super Tuesday.