The event is known as the Conservative Political Action Conference, but the way Glenn Beck sees it, the name no longer fits.
“This is not a small-government, constitutional or American conservative event any more,” the Blaze founder and radio host told me. “This is dangerous populism and nationalism.”
As I wrote this week, CPAC has changed dramatically since President Trump's election, from a gathering where Trump believed he would be “too controversial” in 2016, when Beck was a keynote speaker, to one that embraces Trump's “America first” worldview. Exhibit A could be this year's inclusion of the far-right French politician Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, who addressed the conference on Thursday.
“I am not offended when I hear President Donald Trump say ‘America first,’ ” Maréchal-Le Pen said to cheers. “I want Britain first for the British people, and I want France first for the French people.”
Maréchal-Le Pen told The Washington Post last year that she considers herself “the political heir of Jean-Marie Le Pen,” her grandfather and the founder of France's National Front party. Marine Le Pen, Maréchal-Le Pen's aunt, was the runner-up in last year's French presidential election as the National Front candidate.
Maréchal-Le Pen ominously describes Western culture as under siege by Muslims.
“All I want is the survival of my nation — to be able to pass on not only my tangible heritage but also my intangible legacy,” she said in her speech on Thursday. “This young French generation is not encouraged to connect and love this culture-rich legacy. They are brainwashed with guilt and shame of their country. The result is the development of an Islamic countersociety in France. After 40 years of massive immigration, Islamic lobbies and political correctness, France is in the process of passing from the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church to the little niece of Islam. And the terrorism is only the tip of the iceberg. This is not the France that our grandparents fought for.”
Maréchal-Le Pen's rhetoric closely mirrors that of American white nationalists such as Richard Spencer, who dream of a whites-only ethno-state. Spencer similarly glorifies European “heritage” and contends that “white guilt” over past injustices has made the United States overly accommodating of minorities, eroding American culture and national identity.
Since CPAC brought Maréchal-Le Pen to this year's conference, “perhaps next year they will book Richard Spencer,” Beck said.
In Maréchal-Le Pen and France's National Front, Beck sees traces of the nationalist ideology promoted by the World National-Conservative Movement, a Russia-based alliance of political extremists that Beck describes as “the Nazi movement repackaged.”
Jean-Marie Le Pen has repeatedly dismissed Nazi gas chambers as a “detail of history”; Maréchal-Le Pen told The Post last year that she “disagreed” with her grandfather's characterization of gas chambers, but she also said, “He was right about a lot of things.”
“Even if [Maréchal-Le Pen] and others on CPAC panels are not involved with WNCM, the nationalist rhetoric is dangerous, as it softens the ground for dangerous radicals,” Beck said. “Americans, left and right, need to reject the radicals on both sides, but as a conservative, we must clean out our own house first. It is why I have taken such a strong and career-deadly stand over the last two years.
“The right, if they are not awakened, will find themselves in a very bad situation. Our country, left and right, will pay the price.”