Pro-Trump Activists Are Creating Their Own MAGA Alternative To CPAC

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Prescott Valley Event Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona. (Photo: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr)

Ali Akbar, a political operative in the self-described “New Right” movement, formally announced yesterday that a “team of 25 professionals” are working to create a right-wing political conference meant to be an alternative to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which has served as the primary gathering of the conservative movement for decades.

Akbar, with the help of a signal boost from pro-Trump pundit and activist Jack Posobiec, announced yesterday that the “American Priority” conference will take place in Washington, D.C. in early September. Akbar is organizing the conference with Alex Phillips, a conservative donor who owns a small telecom company in Virginia. Posobiec told Right Wing Watch that he helped announce the event, but otherwise is not formally involved in organizing it.

The group has also hired Lisa DePasquale, who directed CPAC while working for the American Conservative Union from 2006 to 2011, to help host the conference.

The invite list, although currently unknown, will likely include some controversial figures within right-wing politics, judging from a disclaimer on the American Priority conference website:

We welcome all Americans who want to “make America great again.” We refuse to play the media’s rules that a speaker should be barred and disavowed because their views don’t subscribe to group think, are considered controversial, or have said a gaffe in the past.

Our conference seeks to promote a dialogue about advancing the “America First” agenda, an inclusive set of ideas that does not disparage any person or group because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or religion. However, we welcome controversial thoughts in the marketplace of ideas and may host speakers that we or many participants disagree with on panels. AmPro does not endorse the entire contents or totality of any participant.

The Washington Examiner reports that far-right firebrand Ann Coulter and “dirty trickster” political operative Roger Stone were among some of the individuals Akbar was interested in inviting to the conference. Mike Cernovich, a former alt-right personality who has since disavowed the movement and gone on to promote the “New Right” movement, is the first announced speaker at the conference. The conference website says that potential speakers, including some members of the Trump administration, will be invited next month.

Akbar told Right Wing Watch that this year’s CPAC, despite its largely pronounced pro-Trump themes, had catered to “the admin, but not the MAGA movement.”

“MAGA personalities were not put on that stage, just a lot of government officials were and people spruced up their language a bit to stay in the good graces of the admin,” Akbar said, adding that many of this year’s speakers were from the “establishment guard” and were the “same people, different t-shirt.”

His conference, he said, will represent the populist wave among conservatives that organizers believed CPAC excluded and that there will be a “heavy emphasis on the America First theme.” Akbar also said that alt-right activists were not welcome to speak at the conference “because they’re not for America First. Ideologies like the alt-right and progressivism, which threaten America’s prominence, will have to organize their own conference.”

Akbar said in a Periscope live stream yesterday that the conference is open “for conservatives, for nationalists, for populists, for people in the center-Right, for libertarians, for people still finding their identity, for meme lords and even shit posters. We’re looking for people who are rejecting the status quo, people who are rejecting the media oligarchies, people who are rejecting Wall Street manipulation, people who say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Since Trump’s election, the so-called “New Right” movement has attempted to sever its public ties with the racist alt-right movement and to build new institutions, with mixed results. Posobiec and Cernovich founded a super PAC last year that folded after two months, but Cernovich has had more success with his series of “Night for Freedom” events that are meant to provide real-world networking opportunities for online activists in the movement.

The American Priority conference, scheduled to occur two months before the 2018 midterm elections, aims to reinvigorate the digital movement that supported Trump during 2016 in order to elect more pro-Trump candidates. Those efforts, Akbar said, include an open invitation for developers to participate in a “hackathon” to create digital campaign tools for the movement’s activists.

“The movement doesn’t have a conference anymore, and so we need one,” Akbar said.

In keeping with the larger conservative narrative about “fake news,” Akbar also plans to restrict media access.

He said, “Frankly, any press reporter who writes a hit piece on us is not getting a press credential.”