James Manship, center, dressed as President George Washington, holds a pocket copy of the constitution while attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), at National Harbor, Md., Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
I was 26-years-old when I attended my first CPAC. I wasn’t yet the founder of Misfit Politics. I was still a fresh-faced young twerp filled with piss and vinegar in a suit I wasn’t quite comfortable in working as a contributor for an up and coming site called “Future Voices of America” that focused on young conservatives.
I made a lot of friends there. Friendships that I still hold to this day. Even then, however, I was under the impression that I was around a niche crowd. CPAC was still something of a 1980’s cosplay scenario where people quoted Reagan and conservatives buzzwords were said at least two or three times in every paragraph.
Not that there’s anything wrong with quoting Reagan, who should be quoted often. Still, there was something about CPAC that seemed stuffy. It was an awkward scene for a guy like me who never functioned well in the suit and tie world of DC politics. It was an experience that would later influence the creation of Misfit Politics, which would leave behind the sense of propriety I was receiving from the conservative movement and enter a more relaxed atmosphere of satire and mockery. Most of it was cringy, but we came out with some awesome stuff that Fox News couldn’t help but talk about.
It generated a small community. People recognized us and we recognized them in return, either through facial recognition or twitter handles. It was fun despite the fact that none of us knew what the hell we were doing.
Fast forward to CPAC in 2020. I’m now a 36-year-old editor at RedState who still carries around the methods and attitudes that made Misfit great, but the community has more or less dispersed. Many people I used to know don’t come to CPAC anymore. In fact, it took hours before I ran into anyone I actually recognized. Naturally, it saddened me. I watched as kids in their 20’s ran around with the same sense of excitement that I did, wearing suits that fell on them more awkwardly than not. I saw strangers, some dressed to the nines and others dressed like they were there to attend a weekend BBQ.
All of them enthusiastic. All of them complete strangers.
At first, I was saddened by this, but it quickly hit me that this is exactly what I wanted all along. The reason I started Misfit Politics and continued to do what I do long after I shut it down.
I wanted people who wouldn’t normally be caught dead in the DC scene feeling welcome in the DC scene. People whose eyes glaze over when the nitty-gritty of policy starts getting discussed and those who roll their eyes at buzzwords but love what they represent could all find a place here.
I’d like to say that this is all thanks to Donald Trump and to be sure, he does deserve a lot of the credit. However, if I’m going to point to the main source of credit, I’d probably have to point to the internet. It was the seedbed that fostered the rise of Trump. It was watered by people like Andrew Breitbart. It helped form the creation of groups like the tea party and allowed for normal everyday people like you and me to be heard, write articles, tweet our opinions, or make stupid videos that make people laugh.
Moreover, it made us brave enough to reach out and be seen. For so long, Conservatism has been pushed into the shadows by the mainstream media, which had dominated narratives and received very little in the way of opposition. Now, with the internet, their monologue has become a dialogue, and every claim they make is weighed and measured in the open thanks to thought leaders and citizen journalists who can be heard from coast to coast with just the press of a button.
CPAC showed me that in just ten years, the Republican party went from being a party to a party where everyone is invited and no matter who you are, you’ll find yourself a friend.
I have a lot of confidence in 2020 because of this. Not just because the Democrats have become the exact opposite of us in every way, including the fun, but because I truly feel like we’re the party of the people.