The hottest piece of swag at the Conservative Political Action Conference in DC is the beer koozie. You can pick up upwards of a dozen varieties wandering through the massive exhibit hall in the basement of the Marriott Wardman Park. You can even get a koozie from the anti-multiculturalist student group, Youth For Western Civilization. But it wasn’t the knick-knacks that drew me over to the group’s table in the basement exhibit hall, though—it was their logo, a black-and-white image of a flexed arm grasping some medieval piece of weaponry.
It looks like a battle axe, but I’m quickly corrected—it’s actually a war hammer. “It’s supposed to represent Charles Martel,” a volunteer tells me. That’s a reference to the eighth-century French leader and father of Charlemagne who turned back the Muslim invaders at the Battle of Tours. Martel is something of a hero to the group because they believe the same thing is happening today—American civilization (Western Civilization) is slowly being watered down into something unrecognizable. We don’t just need less illegal immigration; we need a lot less immigration, period.
“Mitt Romney is a soulless automaton with no principles—which is why he’s good,” says Kevin DeAnna, the American University graduate who founded the organization, suggesting that the GOP front-runner’s malleable core values might make him easily persuadable. “He’s not a closet leftist like George W. Bush.” No group benefits more from immigration than the 1-percent, another volunteer chips in, and Kevin quickly agrees. “When Occupiers come up to us—and I’m sure you can imagine they do—this is what we say to them,” he says. The 99-percent should be vehemently opposed to illegal immigration—as proof, he cites the early 20th-century labor organizer Samuel Gompers, who called for limits to immigration out of concern for the domestic workforce. Of course, Youth for Western Civilization’s alliance with the Occupy Wall Street crowd is probably short-lived; the same group has also posted articles on its website denouncing Nelson Mandela as a “bloodthirsty terrorist” who should have been hanged in the 1980s. (DeAnna tells me he wishes the Occupiers weren’t so caught up in political correctness.)
After wandering through the exhibit hall, I dashed upstairs, where an overflow crowd was gathered for a breakout session called “The Failure of Multi-Culturalism: How the Pursuit of Diversity is Weakening American Diversity.” As one speaker put it, “Europeans and their trans-Atlantic cousins are literally an endangered species.” Another speaker, Rosalie Porter, chairwoman of the anti-bilingualism group ProEnglish, lamented that the Civil Rights Act had ushered in an era of multiculturalism, in which Americans were distinguished by made-up terms like “Hispanic.”
Which isn’t to say that the entire conference is dominated by White Nationalists. But in a year in which the CPAC’s organizers blocked the LGBT group GOProud from co-sponsoring the event, their inclusion is a jarring reminder of the deep-seated biases preventing the conservative movement from actually becoming the Big Tent Republicans say they want.