A veritable carnival of characters turned out this week for the movement’s biggest annual confab, the Conservative Political Action Conference at the swanky National Harbor resort just outside Washington.
In the cavernous convention center, Trump superfans in 10-gallon hats mingled with student rabble-rousers and an army of wonks from the swamp’s countless conservative think tanks.
“What brings me here is my love of America and my inspiration and enthusiasm for President Trump,” declared a strapping 6-foot drag queen who identified herself only as Lady Maga. “I would like to defy the narratives that all conservatives and Trump supporters are bigoted, homophobic people.”
The conference, sponsored by the American Conservative Union, is a must-stop for GOP up-and-comers with national aspirations. California Gov. Ronald Reagan spoke at the group’s inaugural conference in 1974. President Trump has addressed the group every year since he took office in 2017.
Also making an encore appearance were Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, who shopped a fake #MeToo allegation against special counsel Robert Mueller two years ago. CPAC refused credentials to the duo — but that didn’t stop the conspiracy theorists from holding an impromptu press conference in the hotel lobby to insist they had incontrovertible proof that the Roger Stone jury had been biased against the Trump ally.
Organizations given the cold shoulder by CPAC put on two rival conferences: one featured Nick Fuentes and his white nationalists; the other was thrown by NeverTrump conservative holdouts, like Bill Kristol and Rick Wilson.
Joining journos once again in the media filing center were 12-year-old Phoenix Legg and his chauffeur/dad, Matt. Now on his fourth CPAC, Legg was in town after hitting a prayer breakfast in South Carolina. As in years past, he was decked in his trademark gray suit and matching fedora.
“I like giving the news through the eyes of a kid and since I’m a kid sometimes people are more willing to talk to me,” said Legg, who has become a mini-legend with the confab’s crowd.
And, of course, no CPAC would be complete without CPAC Central, the area where conference sponsors hawk their ideas and products. Big ticket brands like the NRA and Turning Point USA were joined by smaller shops, many pushing products bearing President Trump’s name or likeness.
“This is handmade from cotton,” said Steve Merczynski, beaming over several Trump hammocks he was selling for up to $1,500. “I wanted to produce this as a gift for President Trump because I was so disgusted with impeachment.”
Michael Trollan wasn’t charging anything for his “Heathen Patriot” buttons. The board chairman of Atheists for Liberty seemed pleased — maybe a bit surprised — that the crowd had been largely receptive.
“We’ve only had two people pray for us,” he said. “An older gentleman said I wish I had more time to save you from hell.”
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