What happens at CPAC 2013 will divide the past from the future. Conservatives will chose between nostalgic pleasantries or a dynamic horizon. Conservatives will consolidate one way or another. In my view, conservatives will choose the future and they will choose Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape O'Rourke says he will not 'in any scenario' run for Senate MORE and Sarah Palin.


There is a division today in what is called conservatism, although it should be called something else. It has been forming for several years and will come to clarity and decision in CPAC 2013. The new directions — states’ rights, sound money and constitutional government — of what might be called the gnarly conservatives will come to clash with traditional or what might be called "nice" conservatives (“the establishment”). The nice: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Dr. Ben Carson. The gnarly: Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent.

Since last week, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has moved from participant to key speaker at the CPAC conference. Cruz will take leadership, and a rising conservative movement will begin to form and will run the century.

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin writes this morning: “The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is taking a lot of guff, rightly so, I think, from conservatives over excluding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and groups like GOProud from its gathering. When the newest conservative hero, Dr. Ben Carson, tells you you’ve screwed up, maybe it is time to rethink the strategy of systematically shrinking the tent.”

And there you have it in a nutshell: Rubin, The Washington Post’s establishment conservative commentator, the National Review, which she cites as collateral reinforcement, and Carson.

What happened is that the delightful Dr. Carson said recently that Christie and GOProud should be invited to CPAC 2013. Overnight, it brought him to new status as poster boy for the conservative establishment — bad news for Bush and Christie. Carson is sure to get the nod now, pitched as the anti-Obama and the new voice of establishment Republicans in 2016.

But does Carson’s dog hunt? Does he shoot grizzly bears and cook them and eat them like Sarah Palin? Carson is a genuine individual, and it is unfortunate for him that he has been commandeered by the old school and the nostalgicos, just as new directions are arising. When I wrote about him here a few weeks ago (“Ben Carson: A star is born,”), after he first appeared in public, he drew six viewer comments. And my essay on Ted Cruz, when he first appeared in Washington (“Ted Cruz: The Sarah Palin phenomenon,”), drew 126 comments.

Cruz and Palin are enormously popular outside the Beltway, especially to those in the Heartland. They have been torn apart by Hollywood and the liberal press and the Beltway pundits, while the conservative establishment gleefully sits to the side hoping they will be destroyed, like St. Paul, holding the coats.

But a door has opened and it will not be closed. The traditionalists, same as Cruz and Palin, will be judged by their work. (“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.” Revelation 3:15)

History turns in an afternoon and on almost imperceptible details. The ice suddenly thaws and breaks at Odessa, Bob Dylan switches from a wooden guitar to an electric one at Newport. Exiles return, the swell and the mediocre suddenly fall into the sea, and nothing is ever the same again. CPAC 2013 could be that moment.