Conservative Political Action Conference
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC; // SEE-pak) is an annual political conference attended by conservative activists and elected officials from across the United States and beyond. CPAC is hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU). The first CPAC took place in 1974.
|Conservative Political Action Conference|
|Dates||February/March/July (dates vary)|
|Location(s)||Hilton Anatole, Dallas, Texas, U.S. (2021, Second Conference)|
Hyatt Regency Orlando, Orlando, Florida, U.S. (2021, First Conference)
|Most recent||July 9–11, 2021|
|Organized by||American Conservative Union|
The conference was founded in 1974 by the American Conservative Union and Young Americans for Freedom as a small gathering of dedicated conservatives. Ronald Reagan gave the inaugural keynote speech at CPAC in 1974. Like the conference's speakers today, the presidential hopeful used it to share his vision for the country—"A Shining City Upon A Hill," words borrowed from John Winthrop.
The 2010 CPAC featured co-sponsorship for the first time from GOProud, a gay conservative group. GoProud is credited in the media for initiating talks with ACU to invite Donald Trump to speak at CPAC 2011. The 2011 CPAC speech Trump gave is credited for helping kick-start his political career within the Republican Party. Christopher R. Barron, co-founder of GOProud who would later not only endorse Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, but also launch LGBT for Trump, said he "would love to see Mr. Trump run for president".
In 2014, CPAC extended an invitation to American Atheists, which was immediately withdrawn on the same day due to controversial statements by AA's president David Silverman, who declared his group was going to "enlighten conservatives" and that "the Christian right should be threatened by us". The 2015 CPAC featured Jamila Bey who became the first atheist activist to address CPAC's annual meeting. The 2016 CPAC featured co-sponsorship for the first time from the Log Cabin Republicans.
Richard Spencer, a figurehead of the alt-right and a white supremacist, entered the lobby of the Gaylord National Hotel on February 23, 2017 in an attempt to access CPAC. Organizers of the conference ejected him from the hotel as soon as his presence was discovered, citing his "repugnant [views which] ... have absolutely nothing to do with conservatism or what we do here" as cause for rejecting his admission to CPAC. ACU's Executive Director Dan Schneider castigated Spencer and the alt-right in a main-stage speech, calling them "garden-variety, left-wing fascists," and saying that the alt-right "despises everything [conservatives] believe in".
Media members across the political spectrum, led by progressive journalists and opinion columnists, salvoed the intrusion as yet another attempt by hateful groups, like the alt-right, to conceal their bigotry within a legitimate philosophy. Opinion columns in The New York Times, and articles in Mother Jones and Rolling Stone voiced concern about the 2017 interview of ex-Trump Adviser Steve Bannon and ex-Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus with ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp, advocating for the American Right to reject the tenets of the alt-right (e.g. homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, racism, etc.).
Milo Yiannopoulos invitation
In December 2016, CPAC extended an invitation to conservative blogger Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the event, despite his history of controversial views on feminism, racial minorities, and transgender issues. The invitation was canceled when the Reagan Battalion re-posted a video of 2016 and 2015 YouTube videos in which Yiannopoulos is heard making comments defending sexual relationships between adult men and 13-year-old boys, citing his own sexual experiences at that age with a Catholic priest.
Sacha Baron Cohen interruption
In February 2020, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen attended CPAC dressed as a Klansman and later as President Trump while filming his movie Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. After interrupting the event as Pence was speaking, he was escorted from the premises.
In 2020, CPAC hosted its main event during the COVID-19 pandemic despite the public health risks. On Saturday, March 7, 2020, ACU confirmed that an attendee at the 2020 CPAC later tested positive for COVID-19. Senator Ted Cruz, Representatives Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Doug Collins, and Mark Meadows had direct contact with the unnamed carrier, and announced their self-quarantine.
In 2021, CPAC hosted its main event during the COVID-19 pandemic despite the public health risks. The previous customary venue for CPAC, (Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center) in National Harbor, Maryland was subject to public health restrictions in Maryland, issued by Republican Governor Larry Hogan, which restricted gathering sizes to a maximum of 10, to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, the conference was relocated to Orlando, Florida, which had removed all prior pandemic-related limits on gathering sizes. The event was still subject to Orlando mandatory mask-wearing rules. Notwithstanding those restrictions, numerous attendees chose to not wear masks during the event, despite frequent announcements by the event's organizers and hotel staff, requesting attendees to comply with the local mask-wearing mandate. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis characterized the state's resistance to pandemic gathering-size limits as comporting with the state's status as "an oasis of freedom." The conference's theme, "America Uncancelled", sought to highlight alleged attempts by social media companies, the Democratic Party, U.S. universities and progressive organizations to censor conservatives' public expression of their political views. The conference's main event was a closing address by former U.S. President Donald Trump, his first public address and political speech since leaving office. Trump spent significant portions of the speech criticizing his successor, Joe Biden. The speech received significant media coverage in anticipation of Trump's announcement of his post-presidential political activity.
A second 2021 conference was held in Dallas, Texas from July 9–11, 2021 at the Hilton Anatole hotel. The theme of the conference was immigration policy and border security, in the context of the ongoing migrant crisis at the U.S. Southern Border.
Golden Trump statue
In 2021, a golden statue of Donald Trump, titled "Trump and His Magic Wand", was installed by an artist named Tommy Zegan. It was ridiculed online and compared to the golden calf of the Old Testament. Terms such as "golden calf" and "Moses" trended on Twitter, and it was called a "perfect metaphor for the state of the GOP" by Zach Beauchamp, a senior correspondent at Vox. It drew further comment when it was revealed to have been made in Mexico.
Controversy over the statues' origins began when Tommy Zegan first claimed the statues were made in Mexico and his business partner Jose Mauricio Mendoza contradicted that claim, stating that all the statues molding were done in China.
Annual straw poll
The annual CPAC straw poll vote traditionally serves as a barometer for the feelings of the conservative movement. During the conference, attendees are encouraged to fill out a survey that asks questions on a variety of issues. The questions regarding the most popular possible presidential candidates are the most widely reported. One component of CPAC is evaluating conservative candidates for president, and the straw poll serves generally to quantify conservative opinion.
|Year||Straw poll winner||% of votes||Second place||% of votes||Eventual Republican nominee|
|1974–5||Polling irregular?||Gerald Ford (1976)|
|1976||Ronald Reagan||77.2||George Wallace||14.6|
|1977–79||Polling irregular?||Ronald Reagan (1980)|
|1981–83||Not held (Ronald Reagan's nomination presumptive)||Ronald Reagan (1984)|
|1985||Not held||George H. W. Bush (1988)|
|1986||Jack Kemp||n/a||George H. W. Bush||n/a|
|1987||Jack Kemp||68||Pat Buchanan||9|
|1989–91||Not held (George H. W. Bush's nomination presumptive)||George H. W. Bush (1992)|
|1993||Jack Kemp||n/a||n/a||n/a||Bob Dole (1996)|
|1995||Phil Gramm||40||Bob Dole||12|
|1996||Bob Dole||26||Pat Buchanan||24|
|1997||Not held||George W. Bush (2000)|
|1998||Steve Forbes||23||George W. Bush||10|
|1999||Gary Bauer||28||George W. Bush||24|
|2000||George W. Bush||42||Alan Keyes||23|
|2001–04||Not held (George W. Bush's nomination presumptive)||George W. Bush (2004)|
|2005||Rudy Giuliani||19||Condoleezza Rice||18||John McCain (2008)|
|2006||George Allen||22||John McCain||20|
|2007||Mitt Romney||21||Rudy Giuliani||17|
|2008||Mitt Romney||35||John McCain||34|
|2009||Mitt Romney||20||Bobby Jindal||14||Mitt Romney (2012)|
|2010||Ron Paul||31||Mitt Romney||22|
|2011||Ron Paul||30||Mitt Romney||23|
|2012||Mitt Romney||38||Rick Santorum||31|
|2013||Rand Paul||25||Marco Rubio||23||Donald Trump (2016)|
|2014||Rand Paul||31||Ted Cruz||11|
|2015||Rand Paul||26||Scott Walker||21|
|2016||Ted Cruz||40||Marco Rubio||30|
|2017–18||Not held (Donald Trump's nomination presumptive)||Donald Trump (2020)|
|2019||Donald Trump||82||Mitt Romney||6|
|2020||Not held (Donald Trump's nomination presumptive)|
|2021 (1)||Donald Trump||55||Ron DeSantis||21||TBD (2024)|
|2021 (2)||Donald Trump||70||Ron DeSantis||21|
Overall, U.S.Senator from Utah and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney holds the record of winning more CPAC straw polls than any other individual, with four. Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and Rand Paul follow with three consecutive wins each, followed by Ron Paul with two wins. Of these five, the Pauls are the only two to win more than one straw poll, yet never appear on a Republican presidential ticket in any election (although Ron Paul did receive one Electoral College vote in 2016). Despite his former popularity, Romney was not invited from CPAC in 2020 because of his vote to hear additional witnesses in the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump and was also not invited to the 2021 CPAC after having voted to convict Trump on one count in his second impeachment trial. CPAC's chairman had said he could not ensure Romney's "physical safety" at the 2020 CPAC conference.
Australia's first CPAC was held in August 2019, with guest speakers including former prime minister Tony Abbott, Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage, former Breitbart editor-in-chief Raheem Kassam and NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham. Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker and Craig Kelly MP were at the event. There have been calls for Kassam to be banned from coming into the country before the event.
The 2020 conference started on November 4. Canadian alt-right YouTuber Lauren Southern was initially scheduled to appear, but her invitation was rescinded by the organizers.
The first CPAC in Brazil took place between 11–12 October 2019, in the city of São Paulo, attended by leading conservative names from U.S. like ACU chairman Matt Schlapp and his wife Mercedes Schlapp, Utah senator Mike Lee, Fox News especialist Walid Phares, and Brazilian names like Federal deputy and the President Jair Bolsonaro's son Eduardo Bolsonaro, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo, and the Prince Imperial of Brazil Bertrand Maria José de Orléans e Bragança and others.
The first international CPAC was hosted in Tokyo on December 16–17, 2017 by the Japanese Conservative Union (JCU) in conjunction with the American Conservative Union (ACU). JCU and ACU have continued to co-host J-CPACs every year since. Participants have included notable lawmakers and conservatives from the U.S., Japan, and around the world. They include ACU chairman Matt Schlapp and executive director Dan Schneider, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, U.S. Representatives Bruce Westerman, and Paul Gosar, Fmr. METI Minister Akira Amari, Fmr. Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, Fmr. Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, Fmr. Taiwanese Finance Minister and WTO ambassador Ching-Chang Wen, journalist Sara Carter, then-SEC commissioner Michael Piwowar, Asia expert and commentator Gordon G. Chang, to name just a few. Hong Kong localist activist Andy Chan Ho-tin attended Japanese CPAC 2019 by video after he was arrested in Hong Kong on his way to Tokyo to make a live appearance.
The first CPAC in South Korea (KCPAC) took place between 3 October 2019, in the city of Seoul. They include ACU chairman Matt Schlapp and executive director Dan Schneider, Fmr. acting United States Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, Fmr. Deputy National Security Advisor of the United States K. T. McFarland, Asia expert and commentator Gordon G. Chang, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, Founder of the New Institute Andrew Crilly, Fox News Contributor Sara A. Carter, Professor of law at Handong International Law School Eric Enlow, Professor emeritus at Yonsei University Kim Dong-gil, Fmr. public security prosecutor Koh Young-ju, Co-Chairperson KCPAC Annie M. H. Chan, Fmr. Prime minister of South Korea Hwang Kyo-ahn, Liberty Korea Party members of the National Assembly Kim Jin-tae and Chun Hee-kyung and Min Kyung-wook, Director of the International Strategic Research Institute Kim Jung-min, Director of Korea Institute for Crisis Management Analysis Huh Nam-sung, Fmr. Director of Korea Institute for National Unification Kim Tae-woo, Founder and former Chief of Pennmike Chung Kyu-jae, Lawyer Chae Myung-sung, Leader of Dawn of Liberty Party Park Kyul, Leader of Truth Forum Kim Eun-koo.
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