“It’s so great to see everyone here, and it’s so great to see a packed house, too!”
It is approximately 11:15 AM in Washington DC, and investigative reporter Sara Carter is lying. The house is never crowded this early on the first day of CPAC, but even by those standards the Potomac Ballroom looks grim. The camera responsible for providing close-in crowd shots that CPAC likes to work into their livestream footage is working hard to stay away from the deserted wasteland of chairs in the rear two-thirds of this auditorium, but there’s nothing it can do to disguise the gap-toothed emptiness of the front section. I am beginning to understand the reasoning behind yesterday’s tersely-worded email that expressly forbade reporters from “roam[ing] in the Potomac Ballroom”—but they might want to reconsider: This anemic crowd needs all the extra bodies it can get.
This is my fourth CPAC, a bi-yearly gathering of conservative groupies, donors, political operators, long-shot candidates, and packs of teenage boys in crisp suits who wander the hallways in packs and talk to no one else. Get an autograph from Lauren Boebert, snap a selfie with Steve Bannon, listen to speech after speech about how the Democrats are coming for you and everyone you love. It’s a bacchanale, it’s an indoctrination session, it’s ComiCon for politics nerds.
Or at least, that’s what it usually is. But this year, CPAC feels like none of those things to me—or rather, those things feel as empty as those seats. The vibes are off. [Continue reading…]