Article by Miranda Devine, courtesy of the Daily Telegraph
Photographs by Jose Luis Magana
It was a festival of deplorables at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. And the Aussies in attendance took copious notes on how to bring the populist revolution back home, writes Miranda Devine.
When Aussie deplorables hit CPAC, America’s biggest conservative confab, last week, they came away with lessons from the Trump revolution which should put the wind up lefties and wet Liberals back home.
The key lesson from the US President and an emboldened new generation of firebrand Republicans is that being a happy warrior with brass cojones wins more battles than being a fence-sitting appeaser ashamed of your beliefs.
For Brisbane geologist Bryson Head, who grew up on a farm in Chinchilla, and works in coal exploration, the highlight of the four-day conference outside Washington, DC, was “being in a room with 13,000 people who would do what it takes to defend my right to free thought, speech and liberty.”
This year’s theme “America Versus Socialism,” hit home.
“As an Australian, it’s good to see so many other people around the world face similar challenges in promoting free speech and fighting socialism.”
Head, who has worked as a fruit picker, machinery operator, and shed hand, was part of a small group of Australians led by Andrew Cooper, founder of the Australian CPAC, which launched last year in Sydney, much to the horror of Labor Senators Kristina Keneally and Penny Wong, who branded it a ”hatefest” and tried to get a speaker banned.
Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine and wife Elizabeth Henderson, Queensland tech entrepreneur and Shark Tank star Steve Baxter and think tanker Daniel Wild, from Australia’s Institute of Public Affairs, were in Cooper’s entourage.
They were feted with invitations to Trump Hotel with Don Trump Jnr and a Ronald Reagan gala dinner, selfies with vice president Mike Pence and Nikki Haley, MAGA hats and Trumpy bears to buy.
When Cooper took the stage on Saturday, he had a captive audience of about 6000 people who were there waiting six hours for Trump to speak.
Suddenly, on a giant screen behind the stage, footage rolled of Kristina Keneally railing against CPAC in parliament last year.
“It was rather shocking to see the legislature in Australia wanted to ban some of us from coming”, said CPAC leader, American Conservative Union (ACU) chairman Matt Schlapp, who thinks America’s constitutional protection of free speech isn’t “quite as acceptable” in Australia.
“The left attacked us on the floor of parliament, the bureaucrats threatened me with jail,” said Cooper, “because they’re scared of CPAC”.
But “Keneally was the greatest marketer of CPAC ever.”
President Donald Trump kisses the American flag after speaking at Conservative Political Action Conference. Picture: AP Photo/Jose Luis MaganaPresident Donald Trump kisses the American flag after speaking at Conservative Political Action Conference. Picture: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
Cooper told the audience the “Quiet Australians” who voted for the Morrison government are mirrored in America’s “shy Trump voters”.
“This is a platform on which those quiet voters can be turned into noisy voters”.
Lyndal Maloney, a Brisbane businesswoman who describes herself as “just a mum of four from the ‘burbs”, said she was moved to help Cooper launch CPAC last year because, “I felt I had to do something about the political correctness and freedom of speech issues that were a huge concern in Australia.”
Similarly, Baxter says, “If CPAC showed me anything it is that you have to … fight them until hell freezes over and then fight them on the ice”.
CPAC, held in a gigantic resort just outside Washington, has been running since 1974, when Ronald Reagan gave the first keynote address. Where once the audience booed Trump, these days the President is the star attraction and it’s never-Trumpers like Mitt Romney who are booed by “Trumplicans”.
It is a carnival of hucksters, ”Deplorable Lives matter” T-shirts, “Socialism Sucks” buttons, Trumpy populist nationalist, evangelical Christians, conservative celebrities such as Ivanka and Jared, NRA gun nuts, preppy libertarians, Fox News contributors, Gen Z students, closet never-Trumpers, and even a giant drag Queen named “Lady Maga”.
Who said lefties have all the fun?
Young conservatives spent their time flirting, imbibing cocktails with names such as “‘Epstein Didn’t Tequila Himself’ and even proposing marriage on the conference floor.
Among the favourite events for the visiting Aussies was
– Trump’s speech boasting of “defeating the radical socialist Democrats, the fake news media, the crooked politicians and the hate-filled left-wing mob,” when he bobbed down behind the podium to mimic “Mini-Mike” Bloomberg.
– “Blexit” founder Candace Owens who slammed Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders as “the best racist on the left … To every single one of you race hustlers who have extorted Black pain … who have blindfolded the Black youth against seeing the opportunities that lay beneath their feet … I say this to you: There will be a Blexit, a Black exit.”
– The “Anti-Greta Thunberg”, Naomi Seibt, an impressive 19-year-old German “climate realist”.
– “FBI Lovebirds: UnderCovers,” a play whose dialogue consists entirely of text messages between disgraced former FBI agent Peter Strzok and his FBI lawyer lover Lisa Page, who denigrated Trump and his “smelly Walmart” voters while spying on his campaign. Trump, who has acted out the text messages in his rallies, is such a fan he asked the Irish filmmakers, Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer and actors Dean Cain and Kristy Swanson into the Oval office for a 45-minute meeting before the play debuted.
“He said he’d be my understudy,” said Cain, who played Strzok as a sleazy trickster.
Cooper knows a bit about dirty tricks, after he and other prominent speakers, such as Tony Abbott, at last year’s Australian CPAC were required to register as “agents of foreign influence” by the Attorney-General’s Department, on the suggestion of Labor’s Mark Dreyfus.
The sordid episode shows how frightened the left is of CPAC’s happy warriors.