In the midst of the sociopolitical and medical scare of the Chinese Coronavirus, thousands of Conservatives of various age groups convened for the annual CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in DC. It was a fun and, at times, chaotic event, but also happened to be my first time attending, so I thought I’d share the short story of my experience.
CPAC is meant for aspiring politicians, current politicians, young conservative organizations, and those looking for a range of dialogue about Republican and Libertarian ideologies. The theme of this year’s event was “America VS Socialism,” however, because of the current political zeitgeist, it was largely a celebration of President Donald Trump and the potential disaster on the horizon in the event of a Democratic Socialist (read: Communist) agenda from individuals like Bernie Sanders.
We checked into the Gaylord Hotel (snicker) and Convention Center late Wednesday evening and planned for a long day Thursday of speeches, socializing and collecting free swag. Unfortunately, unless attendees were checked through security early in the day pending an afternoon speech from VP Mike Pence, access to the Ballroom main events was essentially restricted. It was a bit frustrating, as no one seemed to know what was going on halfway through the day when crowds were unable to access the speeches, nor the event booths on the lower level.
While waiting around for access to be renewed, we watched as several young college-aged men in MAGA hats were accosted by media. I remember feeling bad for them. They seemed to have no idea how damaging the media can be to the lives of young conservatives when their faces and out-of-context comments are plastered all over social and insipid “comedy” programs like The Daily Show (who were also in attendance).
At some point, we found ourselves stuck in a room while the Reuters White House Correspondent, Jeff Mason slunk around like a snake asking us if we’d like to speak to the Press. “No thank you,” I responded after recalling slimy exchanges like this:
After a while of enduring annoying reporters, we retired to one of the hotel bars, crowded with similarly situated attendees, radio hosts and journalists whose access had been cut off by Pence’s visit. There was very little hope we’d get to see much of anything that day, until—after meandering about the hotel and VIP paddock—the flood gates were miraculously opened and we were able to catch some of the more entertaining events later in the afternoon.
Thursday evening, I was able to grab a quick dinner with a friend at a nearby bar. One of the niceties about the National Harbor location is that everything you’d be inclined to eat, see or do is within a short walking distance (or a quick Uber ride). The Turning Point USA Party, one of the key events during CPAC was sold out and packed to the doors of the Cadillac Grille, so I was unable to attend.
At almost the 11th hour, I discovered a free National File party going on that was a few blocks away and open to the public. The open bar and friendly atmosphere were only topped by the list of attendees; familiar faces like Owen Shroyer of InfoWars, Cassandra Fairbanks, Nick Fuentes of America First, and Gavin McInnes of Censored.TV to namedrop a few.
After the drinks flowed and a handful of awkward meandering conversations, with some of the genuinely kind but offbeat characters at the event, were had, it was announced that the party was being moved to the Trump Hotel. As it was getting late, I figured I’d retire for the night. I’d found what I’d been looking for and was satisfied with my mini-adventure.
Just then, I ran into Ryan Katsu Rivera, Gavin McInnes’ friendly and engaging producer. We struck up a conversation and he asked if I wanted to tag along with him and his friends to the Trump Hotel. Why not?
But first, we had to find McInnes, who had run off to another local bar to meet up with young conservative activist and Parkland survivor, Kyle Kashuv. Once we found Gavin and he suffered through several selfies with some shy and intoxicated fans, we all hopped in an Uber and headed to the Trump Hotel where the party would presumably continue.
Upon arriving at the Trump Hotel, we learned that the bar and lounge was at capacity and we couldn’t get in. Refusing to be deterred, we hurried to another local bar with a growing collection of CPAC attendees, Proud Boys, Groypers and more. Adrenaline, combined with the energetic atmosphere of the bar and jovial guests, truly took hold which led to a raucous good time with an amazing group of people. I even ran into some Philly friends which made the late night even more unbelievable. This is the side of CPAC that the press doesn’t see—and from what I can surmise, the best reason to attend the conference at all (or at least be in the DC area during the event).
The next morning, I was surprisingly not as hungover as I figured I’d be, and we were able to get an early start to the day. Fortunately, there were no super-high-profile speakers so the speeches were all accessible. It was a long day of various conferences, ranging from intriguing and riveting to dull and tepid. The highlights were Candice Owens who commands a room with her stoic and thoughtful cadence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose lighthearted and dad-like demeanor was a breath of fresh air (later that day, Pompeo would fly off to broker a peace deal with the Taliban—seriously), and Nigel Farage, whose pleasantly boisterous speech livened up and white-pilled the audience regarding what is sure to be a taxing election season.
We called it an early night after a little somewhat unimpressive pan-Asian cuisine from a local over-themed restaurant. After the unpredictable mess the previous morning, we were determined to get to the lobby before sunrise to increase the odds that we could not only see the next day’s events, but to get a half-way decent seat for the President’s highly anticipated speech.
By the time we entered the lobby at 5:30AM, the line of CPAC guests was already snaked around the lobby, but we remained optimistic that the large ballroom would be accommodating.
It was quite challenging to basically sit in one place from 6:30AM until the President’s speech around 3:30PM (which went til at least 5PM) but the growing anticipation, bolstered by passionate speeches from people like the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre kept us going.
After an amazing and hilarious speech from President Trump, we were utterly exhausted, but still had tickets to the annual “Night for Freedom” party being thrown by Mike Cernovich and old high school friend, Jack Posobiec, at the same venue I’d been to two nights before.
A Night for Freedom was a strange event, dotted with familiar faces, speeches, good drinks, and a weird debate between MemeLord Carpe Donktum and Anthony Scaramucci moderated by Michael Malice of Compound Media. By the end of the night, pockets of attendees were once again discussing taking the 15-minute voyage out to the Trump Hotel to continue the celebration, but we were completely beat and ready for bed.
The time I had at CPAC created a lot of memories. Though some of the conferences and speeches were a bit dull, the topics all melded together and stuck with me. Themes like the state of social media, the inevitability of 5G technology creating a dire global situation, and the need to sustain our western influence in East Asia made me realize how Trump’s credo of “Americanism NOT Globalism” is more significant than ever, especially now that a growing portion of the population seems to be invested in a Socialist takeover.
Sunday morning, the Gaylord Hotel felt like a ghost town. There were no young conservatives milling about the lobby, no familiar faces from the GOP or conservative media conversing at the bar. The atmosphere was like a wild fever dream had taken place over the preceding days and none of it was real.
As we ate breakfast, I noticed something across the room; a single man in a MAGA hat eating alone. Maybe it was all real. And if that’s the case, I can—and will—return next year!