The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) kicked off this week with almost biblical symbolism: After they cancelled Young Pharaoh, they proceeded to wheel out a golden (calf) idol in Donald Trump’s graven image. Is the party doomed to wander through the political wilderness for 40 years? Do we need to invest in plague insurance?
Judging by recent events, the answer is...maybe. Day two of CPAC kicked off Saturday morning with a largely empty ballroom and no opening act. Sen. Marco Rubio, who was scheduled to appear, called off his scheduled speech, citing “an unexpected family issue.” Was the family emergency real or just political? (Maybe Rubio’s allergic to anemic audiences.) And why was Rubio given such an unenviable slot on the schedule to begin with? Was it mere coincidence, or a sign that Ivanka Trump is coming for him in Florida? My Magic 8-ball says to “ask again later.” But Richard Grenell, former acting director of the National Intelligence program, was bumped up a few slots on the proverbial dance card, and teased a run for California governor during his sparsely attended speech.
In a world where conservatism has largely become an outlandish, salacious, and outrageous bit of performance art, it’s weird that the main criticism of day two was that it was boring. Unlike past CPACs, day two seemed to offer more panel discussions featuring not-so-big-name panelists on the main stage. Where were the big A-list speakers? Where were Tucker, Laura, or Sean? Would you settle for, um, Pete Hegseth? (As always, the more exciting events seemed to be away from the main CPAC stage, where a line formed to take a photo with Marjorie Taylor Greene, and where Roger Stone was filmed busting a move.)