It’s five full hours before former U.S. President Donald J. Trump is scheduled to speak at the world’s largest gathering of conservatives, but his fans are already lining the street leading up to the sprawling and posh Rosen Shingle Creek conference resort.
It’s Day 3 of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and there’s a discernible buzz in the air given Trump’s speeches have been few and far between since he lost the last presidential election.
There’s a jacked-up 4X4 truck parked haphazardly on the roadside emblazoned with an image of Trump.
Pop-up vendors line the street hawking merchandise heavy on stars and stripes and rife with Trump merchandise.
Their love of Trump is seemingly only matched by their disdain for current Democrat President Joe Biden.
One woman is waving a gigantic flag that says F—K Joe Biden.
There are plenty of other anti-Biden flags, hats and posters, including some with the popular slogan ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ a euphemism for the crude sentiment above.
The “Brandon” slogan went viral after an Alabama auto race. The crowd at the race was yelling the uncensored anti-Biden slogan as a TV reporter interviewed race winner Brandon Brown. Either unwittingly, or to cover the crowd’s obscenity, the reporter stated, “You can hear the chants from the crowd ‘Let’s go Brandon.’”
Inside the Shingle Creek convention facility, it’s markedly busier and more jammed on this day compared to Day 1 as people pop in and out of the main ballroom catching a rapid succession of well-loved conservative speakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Gov. Ron DeSantis, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Nigel Farage whose claim to fame was winning Britain’s Brexit vote.
CPAC is unlike most any conference you’ll experience. The main stage itself is always abuzz with a wide variety of speakers and panel discussions that move at a very fast clip, not unlike a U.S. talk radio show.
There are no punches pulled in satiating the red meat conservatives who’ve been flocking to CPAC since its inception in 1974. That’s obvious by the mere titles of topics, including a broadside at the aforementioned Biden “The Moron in Chief,” “The Government is Dangerous to Your Health,” and “Biden’s Breadlines,” among others.
This conference features a head-spinning variety of organizations, authors, podcasters, broadcasters, political action organizations, lobby groups, political candidates and more.
This is conservative nirvana.
In this 2022 conference, there’s the Tea Party Patriots Action, U.S. Concealed Carry Association, the Leadership Institute – “Training Conservatives since 1979,” We the People Wine, Save Our States, Liberty University, Freedom Foundation, Moms for Liberty, Paper.vote and Young Americans for Liberty, Atheists for Liberty and dozens of other entities.
This year the theme: is “Awake, Not Woke.”
Several regular attendees admit this year’s CPAC seems to have people more fired up than usual.
Hallway talk is full of opinions about election cheating, COVID lockdowns and vaccine mandates, Biden’s perceived weakness, porous borders, Black Lives Matter riots, George Soros-backed prosecutors, ultra-left school trustees, “woke” culture, big-tech censorship and disgust over the teaching of Critical Race Theory.
These folks can barely contain their excitement over their belief that the majority of Americans don’t support the kind of leftist policies that Biden and his ilk embrace – and might well turf numerous Democratic politicians in the 2022 mid-term elections.
Why are so many conservatives so high on coming to CPAC — and are especially engaged this year?
Well, said CPAC attendee Caleb Pascoe, it’s lonely being a conservative and the conference is energizing. “It’s the kind of conference where you realize you’re not alone. There are thousands of people who believe in the same things, the good, the true and the beautiful.
“And they’re nice people. You walk around and realize how genuine and loving and kind these people are, and they just want to defend what is right.”
The words freedom and liberty are seen everywhere at the conference. It’s little wonder then that Canada’s trucker “Freedom Convoy 2022” was on the lips of just about every attendee.
While some Americans might be hard-pressed to name three Canadian provinces or more than one or two former prime ministers, it seemed everyone here was galvanized by the trucker convoy and shared a strong dislike for current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The very mention of his name during keynote speeches drew a chorus of boos.
Why did so many Americans pay attention to the trucker Freedom Convoy?
“Because Americans care deeply about freedom,” said CPAC attendee Carl Jackson. He said there often wasn’t “enough fire” among Americans over lockdowns and vaccine mandates, and the Canadian truckers inspired him.
“To see the Freedom Convoy, it was finally something that was right in our face. People were looking at these truckers and saying, ‘Thank God. Somebody is standing up’ and it resonated. I just think the time was perfect.”
Attendee Randy Corporon concurred.
“The truckers … resonated so heavily with Americans because a lot of Americans feel we’re on a similar tipping point,” said Corporon. “They’ve really started what I think is part of a world movement.”
Secret service officials begin to swarm the conference centre in preparation for Trump’s appearance. Attendees and media trundle through airport-style security booths.
With the Village People’s disco hit song Macho Man blaring from a rumbling sound system, Trump takes the main stage pointing and clapping for the throngs of his adoring fans.
They hang on every word, cheer wildly, break into chants of “U.S.A., U.S.A.,” and give standing ovations while pointing smartphones at the stage to grab still photos and video.
Trump doesn’t disappoint the red-meat crowd. No punches pulled.
The border is porous and there could be up to 12 million illegal aliens annually coming into the U.S., he says.
“We’re not the United States. We’re considered a dumping ground for criminals.”
Biden is a hopeless failure, “weak and grossly incompetent,” says Trump, blaming him for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, among other sins.
He bemoans increased crime in cities saying “our Democrat cities are drenched in blood,” thanks to “radical left zealots.”
He says the “most dangerous people” are the ones who support Biden. “The radical left is trying to replace American with woke tyranny.”
The crowd eats up every word and gives an extended standing ovation at the end of the 90-minute fiery speech.
While Trump doesn’t commit to seeking the Republican nomination to run for president in 2024, he drops some enticing hints. Regardless, these supporters at CPAC have already given him their vote of approval.
This year’s annual “straw poll” of attendees lists several possible candidates for president. The ex-president trumps Florida’s beloved Republican governor in that poll. A full 59 per cent of those surveyed want Trump to be the Republican candidate in 2024. Ron DeSantis was well back, favoured by 28 per cent of people who cast ballots.
CPAC – red meat conservatives to the core.
Kerry Diotte is a Conservative activist who was a member of Parliament from 2015 to 2021 in the riding of Edmonton Griesbach. He’s a former city councillor and long-time journalist. For interview requests, click here.
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