CPAC-alypse 2014: Overdosing On Conservatism, A Contradiction In Terms?

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”  ~  Hunter S. Thompson

On this final, frenetic afternoon of the 3 day binge-orgy of conservative politics (an oxymoron if there ever was one) that is the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, there I was, poverty-stricken cheapskate that I am, trying to figure out whether I’d have to try sneak in to the main event hall, or cough up just enough clams for access to the last day’s central attractions/speakers.  Then I happened into the revelation that my status as a Clash columnist gets me a media access badge. Eureka.

So hello Clashers, your friendly correspondent here, typing at a table in the back of the 2014 CPAC grand auditorium.  I’m reeling a bit from the overwhelming intensity of my very first CPAC experience.  Now I’ll compose for you all a harmless little journalistic jag about my overall impressions of the whole thing.  I’ll try to be coherent, given the star-studded delirium which has overtaken me…

First of all, the complex where this thing is being held is mind-blowing.  Either that, or for some reason I’m just easily impressed. It’s at the Gaylord Hotel and Conference Center, a massive — truly staggeringly massive — sparkling new palace of vast halls and colossal glass atriums, restaurants, and magnificent, sometimes maze-like, breathtaking architecture overall.  It sits majestically astride the National Harbor complex on the Maryland side of the Potomac River, right on the lower edge of the District of Columbia.

So much for the extravagant (antithesis of conservative) setting.  The actual conference itself is another case of a mind being blown here–mine, anyway.  I can’t stop being reminded just a little bit of the late Hunter S. Thompson’s fantastic, deranged tales of bad craziness in places like Las Vegas and the Kentucky Derby.

Why do I say that?  It has to do with the freak-show which an event like this amounts to.  An event which attracts the most ardent,
enthusiastic, and eagerly ambitious hardcore of the conservative Republican elites has a certain edgy weirdness and over-the-top, pressure-cooker, non-conservative aspect to it.  The extremely dedicated of our movement are of course somewhat extreme, they aren’t (conservatively) non-extreme.

As a highly passionate amatuer, I’ve worked pretty intensely on various Republican political campaigns over the years, in local and national races.  I’ve been a party precinct captain and a state GOP convention delegate.  I’ve attended Republican parties, picnics, events and confabs of various types.  But I have to say that I’ve always been a little uncomfortable around large, boisterous groupings of the Republican professional political class–the types of people that get dressed up in power suits and power ties, and in skin-tight dresses and high heels, to go to these events, to “network” and hand out their business cards.

An event as huge as CPAC turns into a giant hardcore Republican job fair or meet market or something, with everyone on edge, trying to position themselves for maximum recognition, pictures of themselves with the rock stars of the conservative movement, hustling their next campaign consulting gig, whatever.  Whew.

Maybe it’s the intense energy of all the young Republicans (turns out CPAC is overwhelmingly comprised of them), the throngs and throngs of hundreds of college-aged conservative political animals all decked out in their best clothes, trying to make impressions on each other and on the older established pols who might hire them after graduation, frenziedly working their devices, and all of the romantic intrigues flying around among them that you can just sense, as they explore whether or not they’ll meet and/or woo their future mate at this CPAC thing.

I admit that I myself get a bit of a rush when various “rock stars” of the conservative movement are standing near me here at CPAC, in conversation with whoever, or pass by.  Or when I get a chance to make conversation with one of them, when I meet in the flesh someone whose books I’ve read, videos and news clips I’ve surfed and studied, and with whom I’ve corresponded only via the internet for months or years leading up to this stellar weekend.  But that’s sort of my main point.

It’s all “a bit much,” and those of us who profess conservative values, those of us of the grassroots especially, are not really about hustling for glitz, glamour, and a gala-supreme experience when it comes to advancing our values in society.  We are, after all, conservatives.

If we say we are conservative, shouldn’t we mainly act that way–not given to excess and extravagance?  But as binges and orgies go, in terms of Republican political happenings, CPAC is where it’s at.  It’s a blast.  Sarah Palin comes on stage in just a few minutes, for the final speech of the weekend.

Now that I think of it, I suppose that the whole point of being conservative in the first place is so that we actually have something stored up, in reserve, for when we do have to, choose to, have a blast.

Donald Joy

About the author, Donald Joy: Following his service in the United State Air Force, Donald Joy earned a bachelor of science in business administration from SUNY while serving in the army national guard. As a special deputy U.S. marshal, Don was on the protection detail for Attorney General John Ashcroft following the attacks of 9/11. He lives in the D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia with his wife and son. View all articles by Donald Joy

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