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Everyone here at CPAC knows of neurosurgeon and author Ben Carson, who about a month ago really "took it to" Barack Obama on the issue of religious freedom (by which we mean employer-provided insurance providing a minimal level of coverage for contraceptive care, apparently, or maybe something about taxes or something, I don't know) during the National Prayer Breakfast. Everyone here has heard of this episode, which apparently shook America or something, and he is a hero for it; in any event, it was news to me, and I had to look it up to even know what he was talking about. Yet another one of those things that demonstrates the vast difference between what the right and the rest of the country chooses to focus on.

Carson, however, is a masterful speaker, and has the crowd absolutely engaged (a good change from most of the rest of the Professional Generic Conservative lineup that started off the day.) Throughout his speech, an older woman near me keeps repeating things he says, adding her own emphatic commentary. It does feel like I'm in one of my old churches, at this point.

It's more than clear: there is a future here for Ben Carson if he wants it. As he announces his imminent retirement from neurosurgery, it's clear that he does.

The up-is-down-ism in religious conservative circles at the conference is truly a sight to behold. The true believers are certain, certain, that we are headed for a secular fascism that oppresses them. References to Hitler, and Stalin. They demand religious freedom—and laws that protect their religion, not the others. These are the exact same people that see Sharia around every corner, mind you, and if any Muslim demanded similar "religious freedom," and the righty crowd thought he might actually get it, there'd be bombs in his mailbox. The unapologetic message, here: It's only Sharia when it's the other guy's Sharia.

As an aside, the days here have left me with the impression (have I said this before? I forget, at this point) that it is the social conservatives, talking about social conservative issues, that are the most belligerent and, shall we say, the least engaged with reality. The anti-tax people are anti-tax, period. The pro-life people, and the anti-gay-marriage people, and the people yelling about Obamacare as a near-fascist assault on their moral freedoms: these are the people who are most disingenuous in their arguments, most prone to spouting Known Facts that have been disproven as Known Facts time and time again, and so on. And yes, that would be the Tea Party crowd.

It's a goddamn odd feeling to have the Ron Paul/Rand Paul crowd seem like the more reasonable people in any given room, trust me, but there it is. Maybe it's just a sign of how irredeemable the older crowd is, and how the younger crowd, in general, is not as devoted to being gullible.

Originally posted to Hunter on Sat Mar 16, 2013 at 11:36 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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