This year’s Road to Majority conference, organized by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition and sponsored by a group of right-wing organizations, kicked off with a luncheon featuring Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, House Speaker Paul Ryan, a group of singing nuns, and a MAGA-spouting mother superior who gave the opening prayer.
The remarks by Cruz, Rubio, and Ryan were, not surprisingly, different versions of a victory lap, celebrating and taking some measure of credit for the number of right-wing judges that have been confirmed and the social and economic policies that have been advanced by President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress.
Cruz was the first of the congressional leaders; his litany of conservative victories started with right-wing judges and included the reinstituted global gag rule, the GOP tax bill, the embassy move to Jerusalem, and a “school choice” provision he fought to get into the tax bill. Ryan, who closed the session, talked repeatedly about the accomplishments that a “unified” government made possible and emphasized the importance of energized conservative participation in this year’s midterm elections to protect Americans from “far-left ideas.” Ryan said the tax cut plan was “moral legislation” because it allows Americans to keep more of what they have earned.
Rubio, introduced by a gushing Ralph Reed, gave a more formal speech than the others, starting with the end of World War II and the achievements of a “confident” American people and ending with what sounds like a campaign-theme call for a “new nationalism.”
Nothing is more American than the belief that all men are created equal. Nothing is more American than the belief that every human being is endowed by God with the inalienable right to life and liberty and to pursue happiness. This is the kind of new nationalism that we need. And this is the kind of new nationalism that we should insist immigrants embrace, not a nationalism of a race or ethnicity, but an American nationalism, built on the commitment to continuing the work of forming a more perfect union, a union of many races, many faiths, and many points of view, and to one people, committed to equality of opportunity, and protecting our God-given rights.
In keeping with the Trump-era GOP’s discovery of economic populism, Rubio’s speech criticized financial elites for outsourcing jobs to an increasingly muscular China and for denying Americans the dignity of good-paying jobs. He also sounded conservative culture-war themes:
Our institutions have been weakened by cultural elitism that seeks to replace the family and the values it teaches with government and laws that it passes, a cultural elitism that mocks, and even discriminates, against the norms, the customs, the ethics developed over 2,500 years of western civilization, weakened by a toxic brew of runaway secularism, irrational partisanship, and a grievance-based identity politics that has eroded the trust and norms needed to act together in pursuit of shared goals.
Rubio made a call for national unity, saying we should learn to work for the common good with people we disagree with. But he also took a shot at NFL players who have knelt during the national anthem as a way to publicize and protect police violence against people of color. He said that “pledging allegiance to our flag or standing for our national anthem” is “not about ignoring what our nation has gotten wrong, it is about honoring a 253-year-old revolution that continues to this day.”
A group of nuns filled several tables bearing the name of conservative Catholic activist Deal Hudson. The luncheon opened with a prayer by Mother Mary Assumpta Long, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of Eucharist, whose prayer included a number of trademark Trumpisms, including “fake news” and “political correctness.” She ended with this: “Lord, we really do love you, and with our president will work hard to make America great again.”