April 24, 2024

For CPAC Attendees, ‘America Is Under Attack’

For CPAC Attendees, ‘America Is Under Attack’

In recent years, the far right has used the event to integrate themselves into the greater political establishment and influence a coherent identity for their movement. The conference focuses on elections as one of the key strategies for advancing their agenda further to the right.

Between Feb. 21-24, right-wing activists gathered in National Harbor, Maryland, where one speaker called for overthrowing democracy and others presented former President Donald Trump as the sole politician capable of rescuing America from crisis. One sponsor, an antigovernment organization called Moms for America, whose self-proclaimed goal is “to raise patriots and promote liberty,” ran an advertisement between speeches that described America as “under attack.”

CPAC featured an array of speakers and prominent attendees from international far-right organizations in El Salvador, Germany, Hungary, Argentina, Spain, Japan and the United Kingdom, in addition to Trump and other figures from the American far right. In a sparsely occupied exhibition hall in the Gaylord Convention Center, the venue that hosts CPAC, Hatewatch observed organizers from the far-right, conspiratorial John Birch Society handing out publications and membership applications.

Another vendor permitted attendees to play a pinball machine promoting various conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and attack on the U.S. Capitol. Multiple anti-abortion activists promoted their work. At different booth, one man attempted to sell Hatewatch reporters colloidal silver toothpaste, a fraudulent health product pushed by conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones.

“Welcome to the overthrow of democracy,” Jack Posobiec, a political operative and Turning Point USA (TPUSA) affiliate who has collaborated with a range of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other extremists throughout his political career, told a crowd on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

“We are here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get there all the way on Jan. 6. But we will endeavor to get rid of it, and replace it with this right here,” he said, before holding up what appeared to be a cross.

Amid a slew of sexual assault allegations against Matt Schlapp, who heads the American Conservative Union that oversees and organizes CPAC, the conference has struggled to maintain relevance and attract attendees. On Thursday and Friday, a Hatewatch reporter observed dozens of rows of empty seats throughout the conference hall. Even during Trump’s speech on Saturday, a small, standing-room-only overflow area in the main hall appeared only partially full.

‘It will be their judgment day’

Throughout the conference, speakers described the United States as a “captive nation” that is under siege from a myriad of perceived threats, including from the political left.

“For hardworking Americans, Nov. 5 will be our new liberation day. But for the liars and cheaters and fraudsters and censors and imposters who have commandeered our government, it will be their judgment day,” Trump said during his speech on the afternoon of Feb. 24, which began one hour after its scheduled start time.

In the end, he said, “Our country is being destroyed and the only thing standing between you and its obliteration is me.”

Other speakers also presented the country as locked in an existential struggle with the left. President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador, who once described himself as the “world’s coolest dictator,” encouraged “the next president of the United States … to do whatever it takes” to take back his country.

“He must be able to identify the underlying forces that will conspire him, that will conspire against him. These dark forces are already taking over your country,” Bukele said on Feb. 22.

Posobiec, the political operative and TPUSA affiliate, echoed the same theme during another speech he gave during the conference on Feb. 23.

“Our first order of business will be righteous retribution for those who betrayed America,” Posobiec said.

He also said: “They want to tell you the West is dead. I’m here to tell you: the West will rise again!”

Multiple speakers and commentators also portrayed the Jan. 6 insurrectionists as political prisoners. Organizers played a recording of the “J6 Prison Choir,” which consists of men who were imprisoned for their role in the attack on the Capitol, singing the National Anthem.

A legal aid fund for Jan. 6 insurrectionists, which has raised roughly half of their million-dollar goal, advertised their campaign in the exhibition hall.

Fearmongering about the border, immigrants

Multiple speakers at CPAC focused heavily on immigration and anti-immigrant rhetoric, presenting immigrants from non-white countries as a destructive force.

“All of a sudden we’re starting to like our prisoners and our horrible violent criminals because they’re nicer than the people that are flowing in,” Trump said on Feb. 24, warning that immigrants from Asia, the Middle East and Africa were “destroying the country.”

Stephen Miller, once a senior adviser to Trump whose affinity for white nationalist literature Hatewatch revealed in 2019, emphasized that a second Trump administration would build on the anti-immigrant policies that he enacted during his previous time in office. Miller reiterated a plan to deputize the National Guard to act as immigration enforcement. The administration, he said, would establish large-scale staging grounds where immigrants would be brought before being flown out of the country by federal law enforcement.

“You reassert the fundamental constitutional principle that you don’t have a right to enter into our sovereign territory to even request the asylum claim,” he told the audience, contradicting U.S. and international law, which says that people fleeing persecution have the right to seek asylum in the United States.

“The military has the right to establish a fortress position on the border and to say no one can cross here at all,” he continued.

Multiple speakers called for the largest deportation campaign in American history. Vivek Ramaswamy also called for the end of birthright citizenship, a constitutional right enshrined in the 14th Amendment.

Floundering attendance and extremists

The continued presence of once-fringe conspiracy-minded groups such as the John Birch Society, which was also listed as a sponsor for this year’s CPAC, is a “symbolic ratification of where CPAC has been the past decade,” Matthew Dallek, the author of Birchers: How the John Birch Society Radicalized the American Right, told Hatewatch in a phone call.

Arguably, so too is the presence of several known white nationalists and neo-Nazis who attended CPAC or mingled around the outskirts of the official event.

Hatewatch observed Jared Taylor, wearing an official CPAC badge, at multiple events over the course of the Feb. 22-24 conference. Taylor runs the white nationalist outlet American Renaissance, which portrays Black people as inferior and biologically prone to criminality. Multiple conferencegoers posted photos with Taylor on “X,” formerly Twitter, with him over the course of the event.

Ryan Sanchez, a former member of the white nationalist Rise Above Movement, and several other supporters of pro-Hitler livestreamer Nick Fuentes attended the event, according to attendees that Hatewatch reporters observed at the event, as well as a report in The Nation. Fuentes, who is banned from CPAC but has organized competing rallies and conferences in prior years near the venue, appeared to decline to host a similar gathering this year.

“Been hearing from groypers that CPAC is dead this year. Haven’t seen anything about it on social media at all either,” Fuentes wrote in a Feb. 22 post on the social media app Telegram.

Greg Conte, the former director of operations for the now-defunct white nationalist think tank the National Policy Institute, as well as a former chairman for the now-defunct pro-Hitler political party the National Justice Party, appeared at multiple venues near the conference with other white nationalists. The Nation, NBC News and The New York Times reported seeing Conte on Friday night at a bar near the venue. On Saturday afternoon, a Hatewatch reporter also witnessed Conte and a handful of friends, who were not wearing CPAC badges and confirmed they were not there as conference attendees, drinking at a bar in the Gaylord lobby.

On Feb. 25, Schlapp responded to the NBC News report regarding Conte, Sanchez and others’ presence at the event on “X,” formerly Twitter, falsely accusing supporters of a ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict in Gaza of being neo-Nazis.

Photo illustration by SPLC

Article originally published on www.einpresswire.com as For CPAC Attendees, ‘America Is Under Attack’