CPAC’s sea of empty seats: Trumpworld celebs address half-empty ballroom as mainstream Republicans shy away

Establishment Republicans few and far between at far-right Trumpworld gala

John Bowden
National Harbor, Md
Friday 03 March 2023 23:12 GMT
Kimberly Guilfoyle met by half empty auditorium at CPAC

If the audience of CPAC 2023 was evidence of one thing, it was the increasingly rightward tilt of both the American Conservative Union which hosts the event, as well as the broader GOP activist base.

What could have been a massive “big tent” gathering of DC Republicans and their nationwide grassroots allies instead appeared to be more of a muted affair held to celebrate the glory of Donald Trump and his dominant but still incomplete segment of the Republican Party.

The split was evident in the crowd sizes at the event on Friday, when many big-name speakers including Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump Jr., and others were slated to speak. All of the above spoke to half-empty ballrooms which struggled to reach the same tenor and excitement of your average Trump rally.

A sparse crowd for Donald Trump Jr’s speech. (Andrew Feinberg/The Independent)

One reporter who attempted to get a manual crowd estimate at the address of Mike Pompeo, former Secretary of State and likely 2024 candidate, reported that he was angrily dismissed by CPAC event staff.

Attendance issues at CPAC can be blamed on the hard-right tilt that the GOP base underwent during the rise and subsequent presidency of Donald Trump. Republicans aligned with their party’s leaders on Capitol Hill were wholly absent from the convention center; the event instead was home to far-right heroes like Dave Brat, famous for knocking out the GOP’s then-majority leader, Eric Cantor, in a surprise primary victory, and a cast of circuslike characters wearing costumes which would appear more at home at one of the former president’s raucous campaign events.

Booths set up in CPAC’s general convention floor exemplified the far-right nature of the attendees as well. Groups like Moms for America, an anti-transgender group, and the far-right college group Young Americans for Freedom were present along side a cadre of novelty products including a “patriot”-themed mobile phone service provider. Organisations far more active in GOP campaigning like Club for Growth had no presence to speak of.

The size of the crowd was even mocked by America’s most noted white nationalist, Nick Fuentes, who made a brief scene on Thursday when he was kicked out of CPAC by event staff and the Gaylord hotel itself by management. Mr Fuentes would later go on to reveal that he posed for a picture with MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell before being removed.

The scene at CPAC. (Andrew Feinberg/The Independent)

“This is crazy. Totally empty room for Don Jr,” the avowed racist wrote on his Telegram platform.

The sparse attendance was roundly mocked on Twitter by detractors of the former president, including a 2020 DNC delegate, Victor Shi.

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