Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Political Science

First Advisor

Rogers M. Smith

Abstract

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is an annual event that brings conservative politicians, public intellectuals, pundits, and issue activists together in Washington, DC to discuss strategies for achieving their goals through the electoral and policy process. Although CPAC receives a great deal of attention each year from conservative movement activists and the news outlets that cover it, it has attracted less attention from scholars. This dissertation seeks to address the gap in existing knowledge by providing a fresh account of the role that CPAC played in the expansion and consolidation of the conservative movement during the 1970s. Audio recordings of the exchanges that took place at CPAC meetings held between 1974 and 1980 are transcribed and analyzed. The results of this analysis show that during the 1970s, CPAC served as an important forum where previously fragmented single issue groups and leaders of the Old Right and New Right coalitions were able to meet, share ideas, and coordinate their efforts. Through their discursive exchanges at CPAC, these actors united behind a common set of policy positions and political strategies. As they engaged with each other and shared their grievances, they also developed a stronger sense of collective identity rooted in opposition to a common enemy - modern liberalism.

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