Anyone interested in who Americans have had to contend with for a long time will be able to find out more these days at the Gaylord Harbor National Resort and Convention Center just outside Washington D.C. find it. The US conservatives will meet there for four days. Speeches and discussions will take place in rounds such as: "No Chinese balloons over Tennessee", "Beat the left at your own game - how to exploit postal voting" and "Parents with pitchforks". These panels at the CPAC conference sound like satire, but they are on the agenda.
Until a few years ago, the annual meeting was still a serious rendezvous for conservative politicians. No Republican with serious ambitions passed the CPAC, where presidential candidates were bagged and buried. In 2020, it was the election year, Donald Trump stood on the stage, walked to the obligatory US flag after his speech, hugged it, kissed it insistently and breathed an "I love you, baby" into the air. Since then, the quality of the event has not necessarily increased.
Even conservative voices complain that the CPAC is increasingly degenerating into a pure tribute to the ex-president. Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel quipped: "The conference begins with a 21-gun salute and the oath of allegiance to Donald Trump."
The gradual loss of importance can also be seen in the fact that well-known Republicans are playing truant on the CPAC. Ex-Vice President Mike Pence and the third most powerful politician in the country, Kevin McCarthy, speaker of the House of Representatives, will definitely not be there. Ron DeSantis, Florida Gov. and possible presidential candidate, has appointments with major donors this weekend.
The well-known TV presenter Sarah Elizabeth Cupp, also a Republican, described the "Conservative Political Action Conference" as a joke. The CPAC is more of a platform for Trump than for conservative debates, "a cartoonish display of his buffoonery," Cupp said on her show Unfiltered.
In other words, conservatives who are avoiding the Washington meeting are also avoiding the ex-president – who will, of course, be present. He will give the closing speech on Sunday at 5:25 p.m. American flags have so far only been hoisted virtually this year.
Participation in the event is not exactly cheap: Anyone who wants to visit all days and panels from Wednesday to Saturday pays 300 dollars. The graduation day alone costs $150 and those willing to spend $15,000 will receive the "Platinum Package" with VIP service and access to the "Star Lounge". The list of speakers shows who will be there next to Donald Trump – even if the important officials are missing, a few celebrities have announced their presence.
Among others, Nikki Haley, Trump's ambassador to the UN and now presidential candidate, will speak. As does far-right thinker and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, top US arms lobbyist Wayne LaPierre, British far-right and Brexiteer Nigel Farage, former Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro, conspiracy theorist and MP Majorie Taylor Greene, and half the Trump family.
The show of right-wing America is also overshadowed by allegations against organizer Matt Schlapp. An unknown Republican accused him of "touching" his genitals during a trip to a hotel. He is now demanding nearly $10 million in compensation. Schlapp rejects the accusation and has his lawyer say: "The false accusation by an anonymous person causes unbearable suffering to the Schlapp family."
Many U.S. conservatives and institutions have skewed to the right in recent times, but with such a staff, it is hard to imagine a White House-eligible head of state springing from the loins of these Republicans so quickly.
Sources: Jimmy Kimmel on Youtube, "New York Times", CPAC.org, ABC News, CNN, "Slate"