Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, joined Glenn on radio today to talk about CPAC 2017, the difference between nationalism and conservatism, and the mind-boggling shift with liberals newfound love for the Constitution and federalism.
Listen to this segment from The Glenn Beck Program:
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This is a rush transcript and may contain errors.
GLENN: I am honored to bring on the chairman of CPAC. Matt Schlapp. Matt is a guy who I think I told you a year or two ago, I had a kind of falling out with CPAC because it’ll they were welcoming in a lot of people that were not necessarily good for the Constitution and didn’t really like to have voices that pointed out that progressives can be Republicans as well.
Matt took over, I don’t know, a couple of years ago and has really done a great job with CPAC. He invited me to speak last year. And they invited me to speak again this year. This year, I can’t make it because of a prior commitment. We’re on our way to Bangkok, the night that CPAC starts. Otherwise, I would be there. Because this is a really important CPAC.
The conservative movement has to really come together and decide who they are, what are the principles. What are our founding principles? And do they still mean anything?
Ted Cruz is going to be there. Sheriff David Clarke is going to be there. Matt Bevin. Oh, man. Jim DeMint. Mike Pence. Don’t know if President Trump is going to be there yet. Matt Schlapp is joining us now. Hello, Matt, how are you?
MATT: Glenn, great to be with you?
GLENN: Good to be with you. Is President Trump coming?
MATT: You know, I’m hopeful that he’ll come, but I can’t say that we have confirmation yet.
GLENN: Okay. The theme — you and I talked about a few weeks ago about the theme. Explain the theme of this year’s CPAC.
MATT: We, the people, reclaiming America’s promise. We feel like two things, number one, like you throughout the last decade, we’ve lost so much of what we want America to be and what America is supposed to be. And number two, we think that activists need to be reminded of the principles of our founding. And our executive director Dave Schneider makes every intern memorize the definition of what conservatism is from — from a wide variety of viewpoints. And that definition, he believes is best said that conservatism is the philosophy that sovereignty resides in the individual.
It’s amazing, such a basic term — or basic concept, how far our government gets from that.
And so I know CPAC is fun. And I know people come to hear from great leaders like yourself, Glenn. And we were so pleased you could be there last year. And, you know, we were disappointed that the scheduling doesn’t allow you to be here this year, but we want you to know we want you back. We want you back as often as you can. Because you have an important voice. People want to listen to those voices. But they also need to learn, and they also need to be sometimes reeducated, re-indoctrinated about why we were founded because so many of our institutions and, you know, mainstream leaders don’t do that well.
GLENN: So, Matt, there is a — there is a disturbing trend around the world towards nationalism. Can you explain the difference between nationalism and conservatism?
MATT: Yeah. Yeah. You know, conservative — one of the things I thought you said great leading up to CPAC last year and in your remarks is, you know, you talked about this idea that there had been a pledge amongst the different Republican candidates. And you’ll say it more eloquently than I will, Glenn, but you talked about the fact that we still pledge ourselves to a party, right? We pledge ourselves to our ideals. We make a commitment to our ideals.
And I think conservatism obviously is something innate in the human being. And so if sovereignty resides in the individual, I think it’s important for people to understand who gave us that sovereignty, and that’s our creator, obviously.
And so when people get pumped up on Americanism or nationalism — I’m okay with those terms, as long as it means sovereignty and the understanding that we did come together to create a government and allow the government to have authority over us in certain areas because we’ve given it to them. I’m great with that concept of sovereignty.
GLENN: Yeah, if America doesn’t mean the place — you know, being pro-American doesn’t mean the place. You know, I love the American flag.
Well, you know, I think it’s nice. But I love what the flag stands for. I mean, America is an idea. And it’s the idea that we should be holding high, not the things that represent the idea, but the actual idea.
MATT: Yeah, I completely agree with that. And, look, and I think we are trying to reacquaint ourselves politically with what these terms mean. Because I feel like there are so many Americans that feel abandoned. And that can lead to good things and bad things.
When you feel abandoned, it can have you reevaluate what you think and strengthen you and those things that are important. And it can also lead you to bad places. And, you know, our country is searching. And I’m confident that we’re going to end up in the right place.
GLENN: So the Obamacare repeal. The — I had a senator write me yesterday and say — and he sent me a Politico article, and he said, “My gosh, this is frightening.” And it was how the G.O.P. is turning on itself. And starting to eat its — you know, eat its own. But there are real issues that are at stake here. You know, what — are we playing — are we playing games?
For instance, the G.O.P. that is turning against, you know, building the wall saying, “Look, we’ll build the wall, but you got to pay for it first.” How do you see this coming together, Matt?
MATT: Well, the legislative. Standing for borders, standing for Obamacare repeal, standing for free market health care in a rhetorical sense is the easy part, Glenn. You know that, right?
MATT: The hard part is: How do you bring this together practically?
GLENN: And doing it constitutionally.
MATT: Right. Right. Whatever that means anymore.
MATT: When the Constitution can mean almost anything. You know, it’s almost like a throwaway line, when people say “constitutionally.” But I know you don’t mean that. But, I mean, in our society today, it’s like we literally have to go back and read it to people and say, “And here’s what those words mean.” Right?
As you did last year in your speech at CPAC which was great. Because we have to make the old fresh again by reminding folks that all of these controversies actually surround the concepts that we’re the reason that we disagreed to a Constitution. And so when you look at the practical nature of all of the things Donald Trump and the Republican candidates who ran for president and all those senators and congressmen ran on, now they’re demonstrating, yes, we know as conservatives that they were right in what they said in eliminating — in repealing Obamacare. Cutting taxes and getting rid of the regulatory state and appointing constitutionalists to the bench. But now we have to be practical and actually do it in a way that works.
We’re not good at that, Glenn. So I don’t want to be — tell you that I think we have it licked and it’s going to be easy. I think it’s going to be really tough. And you get down to the point where, do you get 100 percent of what you want? Do you get 91 percent of what you want? Does the practical get you too far away from the principles that you are trying to uphold?
GLENN: Talking to Matt Schlapp. He’s the head of CPAC. Which CPAC happens — it’s starting next Thursday, right?
MATT: Yeah, it’s actually a week from today. Which, for those of us organizing, it is always a little scary, as you can imagine.
A week from today, Wednesday — next Wednesday, we start with our boot camp, which is training for our activists. We always have about over 1,000 activists that come together on the first day of CPAC, that just simply learn to be better activists.
But you’re right, the main program starts a week from tomorrow, the 23rd, and runs through Saturday, the 25th.
GLENN: Okay. So, Matt, have you noticed — I’ve really tried to take a page from Milton Friedman who did this so well, where he would sit down and talk to anyone. I mean, he was a regular guest on The Phil Donahue Show for a while.
MATT: He was.
GLENN: And he could talk to anybody. And he was just this reasonable guy who stood by what he believed. I think there’s a real opportunity now for conservatives to take this approach and ratchet things down because I’m shocked at the number of people on the left that are suddenly finding federalism as a really good idea.
MATT: You’re right because they’re seeing so much failure around them. Epic failure. And even they might be saying, “Hey, you know, maybe — you know, most mayors in this country are Democrats now.” You know, that’s a real shift over the last 20 years. So maybe they like the idea that some of these mayors get to make some of these decisions.
Now, maybe that’s not the way you or I or your listeners would view federalism. But anything we can do to get power and influence and money out of DC is a good thing. That being said, there’s a lot of bad things that happen at state capitols.
GLENN: Yeah. What I’m looking at is this weird opportunity that I’ve never seen coming, where we have a lot in common with some not necessarily leftists, but Democrats, to where — and, again, not the party. But people in the middle of the country are starting to say, look, I don’t want to be afraid of the president. Right. Right. We should rebalance back to the Constitution.
MATT: That’s right. Yeah, and separation of powers is the first doctrine, which talks more about the federal government.
MATT: But also the concept of the Tenth Amendment, where so many of these authorities don’t even belong here. How did they even get here? How did they get to DC? They don’t belong here. And one of the things we’re working on at ACU, is we love our conference, CPAC, but we’re operational 365 days a year, and we have this great project called the Family Prosperity Index, which is run out of our C3. It’s completely nonpartisan. And we’re looking at the health of families in all 50 states. We rank all 50 states on the health of families.
And you know what we do, Glenn? We don’t moralize or try to implement sermons into the public policy? We simply look at all the government data that comes out — by the way, the government tracks us, as you know, in every conceivable way.
And we take in all that data and put it into an index so we can actually tell states, you know, if they’re doing a good job with their families or not doing a good job with their families when it comes to public policy. And we’ve actually went to Rhode Island and talked to liberals who showed up. And they were shocked to know in Rhode Island, they spend about the most on their safety net programs, and the health of their families is about at the bottom of the pack. And even they were like, “Well, this is not what we want. We don’t want unhealthy families in Rhode Island.”
MATT: So you’re right. There’s a huge opportunity to kind of break down these barriers.
GLENN: Matt Schlapp. CPAC, which begins next week, February 22nd through the 25th in Washington, DC.
MATT: That’s right.
GLENN: You can get tickets at CPAC.org. I urge you to go. They have a great lineup this year. And I so appreciate, Matt, the invitation to join next year. If you have the dates, I’ll put it on my calendar for next year.
MATT: Really — we really want you there. We’re sorry you can’t be there this year, but you’re a busy guy. We’re all busy. You can’t be at something every year. But we want you back next year.
GLENN: You got it.
MATT: We appreciate your voice. It’s an important voice for the movement.
GLENN: Thank you very much, Matt. I appreciate it.
MATT: Thank you, Glenn.
GLENN: Grab your tickets at CPAC.org. And we’ll be telling you beginning next week why we’re going to Bangkok. But I’m going to Bangkok and the whole show is going. And we have something pretty aggressive that we want to announce. And we would ask for your help with. And we’ll tell you more about that beginning next week. And then we leave for Bangkok — is it Thursday we leave? I think we leave for Bangkok Thursday and we arrive maybe Tuesday. I mean, it’s —
STU: It’s actually —
GLENN: I’ve never gone to the other side of the earth.
STU: Yeah, that’s really far. Really far.
JEFFY: Really far.
GLENN: Yeah, it’s a long — satellite is a lot easier.
STU: I was looking at one of the flights. I sorted for shortest time on Orbitz just to see what it was. It was 14 hours to Tokyo, then another seven hours to Bangkok.
PAT: That’s only 21 hours.
STU: That’s long.
PAT: It’s not even a full day when you think about it.
GLENN: Right! Oh — oh, cry me a river. You don’t want to sit in the chair and watch TV for 21 hours. Actually, no, I don’t.
PAT: No. But…
GLENN: No, I don’t.