'Jesus, guns and COVID denialism’: How CPAC’s Dallas gathering was an unhinged mix of ‘ and ‘voice-in-your-head stuff’
Lauren Boebert speaking with attendees at the 2021 Young Women's Leadership Summit. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

During its July 9-11 event in Dallas, the Conservative Political Action Conference featured a long list of GOP wingnuts — from former President Donald Trump to Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas to Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a QAnon supporter. Never Trump conservative Charlie Sykes analyzes the gathering in a July 12 column for The Bulwark, lamenting that it was full of "cray-cray voice-in-your-head stuff."

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has described Sykes as someone who "used to be conservative," which is wildly misleading but not surprising coming from Cruz. Sykes is still conservative, and The Bulwark is a right-wing website. But the Republican Party, as the CPAC event demonstrates, has moved so far to the right that a traditional non-Trumpian, non-extremist conservative like Sykes is now considered a RINO (Republican in Name Only) in Trumpworld and the 2021 GOP.

"In fairness," Sykes writes, "CPAC has never been mistaken for a gathering of philosophers; it was described as the 'Star Wars Bar Scene of the conservative movement' long before the Trump Era. But this weekend's confederacy of dunces, with apologies to John Kennedy O'Toole, was, nevertheless, a window into what conservativism has become."

Sykes adds, "To the extent that the right believes in anything these days, it seems committed to standing up for neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers on social media platforms, while pushing to fire school teachers and college professors who teach forbidden topics in schools. This is not to be confused with 'cancel culture,' which is now exclusively deployed to refer to virtually any criticism aimed at right-wing figures."

During his CPAC speech, Sykes notes, Trump described Ashli Babbitt — a Capitol rioter killed during the January 6 insurrection — as an "innocent, wonderful, incredible woman."

"Jesus, guns, COVID denialism, and nihilism coexist easily in this febrile new world," Sykes warns. "They are pro-life except when they are a pro-death cult. At CPAC, America is first — except for the cities, which are shitholes. Conservatives pose as defenders of the Constitution, while making excuses for an insurrection. 'Voter integrity' means making it harder to vote, and embracing every crazy conspiracy theory and Big Lie while supporting measures that will make it easier to nullify the results of future elections."