Notes from the convention that wasn’t.
On the C-List at CPAC
Once you go CPAC, you never go back.
Caitlyn Jenner strides through the brightly lit CPAC exhibition hall like the Tanned Colossus of Malibu, towering over the scrum of media and sycophants who surround the reality star. As Jenner stops to give interviews, fuzzy boom mics hovering above, the buzzy entourage swirls: sweaty cameramen, harried PR people, a gruff security detail, starstruck fans. Jenner is ushered this way and that by a slim, annoyed blonde wearing a white microdress who has an even slimmer chance of being the next First Partner of California.
Fans run up for selfies, and Cait obliges them. As I shake hands with the Olympic legend, who has a grip stronger than you’d expect from a seventy-something boomer, even one who was the winner of the 1976 Olympics Men’s Decathlon, we discuss our mutual archnemesis, California Governor Gavin Newsom.
“Gavin is throwing all kinds of stuff at me, you know. So much BS, as usual. We just have to keep fighting. We’ve got to win.”
And with that, the Malibu hausfrau is hustled away from the fawning peasants and up to what I can only imagine is a woefully inadequate suite at the Dallas Hilton Anatole.
A star is born—that way.
It’s true: everything really is bigger in Texas. Everything except the bottoms of the ladies’ swimsuits at my hotel pool, that is. (It’s past time to put the cheeks away, girls. We must return—to regular bikini bottoms.)
But nothing has ever been big like the Dallas Hilton Anatole is big. It is an extravagantly ugly, aggressively bricked complex with long passageways to nowhere and inexplicably filled with Mahatma Gandhi-themed art. Once inside the CPAC arena, the vibe is like a sleepy 80s Trekkie convention, only for clean-cut DC types and MAGA grandmas in head-to-toe stars-and-stripes loungewear. No Klingon speakers, as far as I could tell.
I started my tour in the exhibitor hall, where you get to stroll rows of booths. Picture a sweaty country fair, only you’re indoors on an acre of wall-to-wall blue carpet. Instead of funnel cakes and pie, you get booths selling pink Trump baseball hats encrusted with rhinestones.
Most of these booths were sponsored by amateur right-wing television shows or podcasts I’d never heard of. Who even knew Mike Lindell TV was a thing? I wanted to interrupt their live shot and yell, “I bought your pillows! Very fluffy!” but I managed to maintain decorum.
Booth after booth featured two men in identical suits recording themselves on camera, talking. Who were they? No clue. What were they discussing? No one cared. If they had fans, they were not on the scene. Never has so much content I didn’t want to watch been produced in real time.
You couldn’t hear what any of the interviews were about or what anyone was saying, but I’m guessing they were all discussing the shortage of camera-ready pancake makeup onsite. No doubt Caitlyn had commandeered vast reserves of the stuff for her weekend appearances.
Outside the exhibition hall in a lobby of sorts, Fox Nation had established a forward base of operations in a huge TV studio. I watched the great Tammy Bruce discussing matters I couldn’t hear with other Fox personages I didn’t recognize. For diehard Fox viewers, no doubt this is very exciting. Trump’s former doctor Ronnie Jackson breezed by, looking dapper in pancake makeup, ushered through the crowd by a few pretty young assistants.
The best part of the experience was seeing fairly large numbers of young, good-looking people bustling around. Attention, single people in your twenties: if you are seeking politically active, preppy fellow conservatives for dating purposes, I urge you to buy a ticket to CPAC when it comes to your town. It was almost shocking to see so many fit, non-obese kids, not a green or purple hair among them. You will have to catch one and wipe the pancake makeup off to be certain, but I sensed tremendous vitality and fertility from this crowd. It seemed very sad to not be able to corral all of them in a room away from the boomers and podcasters and let them exchange numbers. CPAC babies: we must will you into existence.
Perhaps I’m biased, but my favorite booth was the Claremont booth, where if you were lucky you could have the full Claremont Experience and meet American Mind editors Seth Barron and James Poulos in person, maybe even get a book signed.
I did encounter a few other luminaries: Jesse Kelly, who is magically tall, even taller than Caitlyn Jenner, Tucker regular Jason Rantz, author Kurt Schlicter, and more. I sadly missed wild man Nick Fuentes, who got kicked out early along with his adolescent geek squad.
Next door was the hangar-sized ballroom that served as the main stage, where VIP guests rotate on and off for mini-panels. Ah, this was where the real pancake makeup people were! Real content! A stage! Applause! But when I visited, the vast room was only a third full. But it was nice and cool and dark and I was happy to sit and listen to speakers I dimly recalled from week three of the Trump administration complain about the socialist agenda. The socialist agenda! The radical left! Yes, yes! What are we going to do about them? Pray tell me, what is our plan?! I must know!
They were about to reveal all….when I realized my iPhone had gone missing. The Russian hackers had found me!
Long Live King Trump
Let’s be honest: the entire event was a pre-game tailgate party before the main event: Trump himself delivering the final speech of the weekend. It was a classic—he played his greatest hits, but also treated the adoring crowd of thousands to some hot new tracks like the recent Twitter thread by a brilliant anon who explains in riveting detail why Trump supporters understand better than anyone in America the nefarious mendacity of our elites. Trump read the thread live!
From Tucker’s lips to Trump’s ears, and may it ever be thus.
CPAC is Whack
Despite the collective star power at CPAC, including appearances by Amanda Milius and Inez Stepman and other friends of The American Mind, CPAC Dallas was somewhat lackluster. It’s a TV-driven event for Fox News superfans, and that’s it. It undersold tickets this year. Perhaps that’s because July in Dallas is a tough sell, but, let’s face it, it’s the content. I don’t want to walk around endless booths watching obscure interviews for obscure podcasts I don’t listen to. For candidates, it’s a huge missed opportunity to meet and greet potential supporters. Only Caitlyn seemed to be putting in the legwork to do that. Where were all the other 2022 candidates? Totally MIA.
It’s also a tired format and offers nothing novel in the way of experiences or content. The most fun you could have had was to get your photo taken in front of a life size cardboard cut-out of Joe Biden sniffing your hair. A lucky few managed to snag tickets to the Hot Gulag Summer party, where, so I hear, much mirth was had and gulag cuties made merry.
Let the boomercons have their MAGAfest, but for anyone who doesn’t own an American flag track suit or a rhinestone belt buckle, it’s time to forge a new event. One that’s more than a C-list collection of rightwing randos. One where attractive young people can mingle with based singles, sans pancake makeup.
One where engaged citizens can actually hear ideas for saving America, get inspired to keep fighting, and return home filled with hope and motivation— and maybe even some digits.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.
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