Issues and anxieties at the Conservative Political Action Conference
For decades, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has been a required stop for Republican presidential candidates trying to win over their party’s most engaged activists, and this year’s gathering includes every remaining contender — except for front-runner Donald Trump, who abruptly canceled his planned Saturday appearance on Friday.
The conference is an annual temperature check for the right’s mood, and right now, there’s a lot of concern about the world and the presidential race. Photographer Larry Fink documented the event for MSNBC this year, and he asked attendees what frightens them most when they think about America’s future and how they think their favored candidate will address their fears.
While CPAC felt like the proverbial circling of the conservative movement’s wagons, particularly as compared to the personality-focused presidential race, answers from attendees ran the gamut. One attendee, Jack Sinko, said the direction of American foreign policy and the possible election of another Democratic president are issues that spark serious concern for him.
He added that conservative candidates should focus more on energizing people, rather than making them ”feel like they were being talked down to all the time like they are by the current establishment.” “I think that the current establishment — Rubio, not so much Cruz, but how Jeb Bush was — can take some real pointers from people like Trump,” Sinko said.
Overall, though, he described the conservative movement as a “politics of kindness.” “Now we have to figure out how in the world can we affect the politics of kindness,” Sinko said.
A few people at CPAC identified nonpartisan issues as those that made them most afraid for the future of America.
“Something that makes me fear for the future of America is our government sucks at spending and the special attention they have been paying to the lobbyists and special interest groups,” said CPAC attendee Jessie Fox. “But something that my candidate of choice could do is … be more conscious of how they are spending the people’s money.” He added that he wanted a candidate who would listen to the citizens rather than special interest groups.
Meanwhile, another CPAC goer identified crony capitalism as a problematic issue, and another added that “government interference into the market” was distorting supply and demand and expressed concern over how the government spends taxpayer dollars.
MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin contributed to this article.