Every year, the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) conference in Washington, D.C., serves as a litmus test for what will be accepted into mainstream conservatism. Judging by the 2018 lineup, it’s clear that the new era of far-right politics ushered in by the Trump administration has been embraced by the conservative movement at large.
Last year, Peter wrote about the ACU’s struggle after President Trump’s election to square mainstream conservatism with the far-right figures and agenda that Trump brought to the fore—resulting in a CPAC program where organizers both condemned the racist alt-right and invited some of its prominent defenders to speak. But this year’s lineup and agenda seem to suggest that CPAC has fully embraced Trump as the spearhead of modern-day conservativism.
This year’s lineup includes not only Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, but also a range of right-wing activists who harbor the same far-right agenda that conservative activists planned to stage a walk-out to protest at CPAC in 2016.
One eyebrow-raising speaker will be Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, niece of the far-right extremist leader of the French National Front party, Marine Le Pen. ACU president Matt Schlapp has already had to defend Le Pen’s speech, scheduled to take place an hour after Pence addresses the conference, from fellow conservatives like National Review senior editor Jonah Goldberg.
— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) February 20, 2018
It’s worth noting that Schlapp’s defense of Le Pen’s appearance is nearly identical to his defense of alt-right affiliate and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulous in 2017 before a video surfaced in which Yiannopoulous appeared to condone pederasty and his speaking slot was canceled.
— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) February 18, 2017
In addition to Le Pen, this year CPAC will host a myriad of media personalities who will likely use the platform to fawn over Trump, including Sheriff David Clarke Jr., Nigel Farage, Jeanine Pirro and Sebastian Gorka. On Friday, a series of speeches immediately following Trump’s address will be focused on presenting “The New Trump Doctrine.”
It is interesting that this year, Breitbart News—despite its never-ending praise for Trump—did not renew the sponsorship it gave CPAC in 2017 when Steve Bannon spoke. Despite this, Breitbart News London editor Raheem Kassam is scheduled to host a panel on national security and foreign policy.
This year, some panels carry uniquely Trump-tailored themes. On Thursday, Schlapp is hosting a panel about the “Trump effect” on national politics. On Friday, a panel featuring Fox News contributor Sara Carter, The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross and Washington Examiner’s Byron York is aimed at exposing the “deep state” conspiracy to undermine Trump—a frequent topic of the president’s Twitter rants and pro-Trump media figures’ talking points.
A last-minute panel will feature Jim Hoft, who owns the pro-Trump garbage hell website Gateway Pundit, which is currently smearing children who survived a school shooting last week, and other conservative voices who claim they have been censored from social media, including anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller and Project Veritas president James O’Keefe. As recently as 2016, Geller claimed that CPAC had rebuffed her attempt to sponsor the conference and host a panel.
This year, it seems that CPAC has found its identity and, after swallowing hard truths, has embraced the Trump takeover of conservative politics.
UPDATE (2/21/18): The Gateway Pundit reports that CPAC has canceled its planned panel. On the “Breitbart News Daily” radio show this morning, Pamela Geller said that CPAC had asked her to remove Jim Hoft, who has launched an assault on children who watched their friends die in last week’s school shooting in Florida, and that she refused. Geller said the reasons CPAC gave for Hoft’s removal were “absurd,” before defending Hoft’s ongoing attacks on the survivors.