Letter from CPAC

Journey into A New Kind of Dissidence

Forgive my recent silence. I’ve been occupied with the presentation by Maine State Representative Heidi Sampson of our Clean Elections Bill to the Legislative Council. This took place last Thursday, and it would have been the first step in the journey of the bill from draft bill to law in that state, had the Council voted to endorse it. Instead, after a spirited presentation of the bill by Rep Sampson, the Council voted, incredibly enough, not to endorse it; meaning, our Clean Elections Bill, which would, recall, ensure paper ballots, same-day voting, Voter ID, no ballot harvesting, proactive requests for absentee ballots, the ouster of NGOs from the voting process, same-day voting and public counting — is now dead in Maine.

The vote tally was shocking: a straight party-line vote, Democrats, six opposed, to Republicans, four supporting. I am stunned that any elected official in America wanted to go on the record as having stood between a voter in Maine, and his or her vote being counted accurately; but six have done so, mortifyingly, all Democrats; this has really happened.

In All His Glory: The ... Smith, Sally Bedell Buy New $14.99 (as of 01:32 UTC - Details) I have felt that this bill’s journey in every state will illuminate who and what is standing against clean elections; it does have the side effect of smoking out enemies of ethical voting practices and revealing their motivations.

The fight to pass this bill in Maine is not over; Rep. Sampson is “termed out,” meaning she cannot run again; but she is handing the bill to a successor for the next legislative session. We will keep eyes and voter pressure on Maine. I have to believe that voters of every party in Maine, want their votes counted accurately.

Brian and I then flew this past week to CPAC (the “Conservative Political Action Conference” organized by CPAC Chairman Matt Schlapp, and usually hosted three times a year) at the kind invitation of Steve Bannon’s WarRoom’s production team.

When we reached the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, Maryland, a fairly recently-developed part of the shore alongside the Potomac opposite Alexandria — I felt a bit disoriented. National Harbor looked like Disneyland — “walkable” “city” streets, lined with slick restaurants and themed bars aimed at conventioneers and tourists, but with none of the grit or eccentricity of a real city. A massive, blue-illuminated Ferris wheel spun slowly at the edge of the dark, slow-moving water.

We entered the Gaylord at the peak of CPAC, to an atrium thronged with happy visitors. My first, ignominious reaction to the scene, for which Brian rightly chided me, was: “This is not my culture.”

There was a buzz, from the moment we entered: a joyful vibe. After we checked in, changed, and ran down to join the festivities, we were struck by how pleasant and positive almost everyone was to us, and to each other. As someone reported to me the desk clerk had said, “I know they won’t approve of me saying this back in Southeast DC, where I come from, but you all are nice.”

Many attendees wore bright colors — the men in white or chino slacks, and what looked to me like golf shirts; or were more formally dressed, in dark blue suits with ties and white shirts. Many of the women wore dresses — solid color blocks of orange, and white, or dresses of deep red, or patriotic blue. A number of women had long wavy flowing locks (or extensions), and wore nude or beige, very high, high heels. I sort of respected this fashion, since it seemed as if it intended to sport a defiant femininity, in an era of “What is a woman?” and Maoist fashions for women outside of that subculture.

The center of the hotel is a vast glass atrium with a wall of glass overlooking the harbor; it is an updated version of the hotels that had been trendy when I was a teen in the 1970s, with glass elevators and atriums, the steamy scent of plants overhanging the balconies, and artificial waterways separating bars from cafes on the ground level.

The Gaylord Hotel was a chic-er, fresh version of that style — with two entire colonial-style houses, that were actually shops, enclosed by the atrium on the ground level — but it aimed for that same visual impact for the out-of-towners. You could live for three days without leaving the resort: a market offered coffee and breakfast wraps and poke bowls and comfortable chairs; a steakhouse for later in the day, provided old-fashioned martinis; and the centerpiece of it all was the two levels of ballrooms showcasing CPAC stages.

The first night, Brian and I joined AJ Rice and Drew Allen— two men who represent cancelled voices or alternative and conservative voices as publicists at Rice’s PubliusPR.com; the men represent politician Kari Lake (cheated, she argues, of her victory as Governor in Arizona by 35,000 unaccounted votes); economist Peter Navarro (recently sentenced to four months in prison for contempt of Congress); Harvard lawyer Alan Dershowitz (cancelled, he maintains, by the Left, since he defended President Trump); and had been representing Tulsi Gabbard (who left the Democratic Party after arguing that it had become an oligarchy, and racist). Disclosure, PubliusPR are also my publicists.

We met Drew and AJ’s friends at the steakhouse; these included Jason Sheppard, founder of WimKin.com, a censorship-free social media site. He described the obstacles, including being targeted with harassment, that he endured as he sought to protect free speech for the users on his platform.

I listened to the young men describe the battles they fought daily.

I thought about AJ and Drew connecting innumerable influencers’ voices, including those of silenced authors and marginalized candidates, via dozens of platforms, many of them new ones, to millions of audience members; I mused about WimKin’s millions of visits; I considered their colleague Gray Delaney, my publisher at All Seasons Press, who would arrive the next day, and his fight to publish suppressed voices.

These were men in their thirties or early forties, leading a new generation altogether; with brushed or spiked haircuts; dark jackets; t-shirts, and jeans, and leather sneakers. They were not like the dinosaurs of my generation and older who were running legacy culture, tech and PR. They were not the Establishment.

All of these new leaders had enterprises that were punching, culturally, above their weight, in the sense that all of their enterprises were startups, or are tightly staffed; they are not funded by huge PR or publishing or tech conglomerates. Canary In a Covid Worl... Risch, Dr. Harvey Best Price: $24.98 Buy New $27.50 (as of 01:32 UTC - Details)

I had just finished reading In All His Glory: The Life and Times of William S Paley and the Birth of Modern Broadcasting — and I felt I was seeing a modern version of what the book describes as the emergence of the networks of radio in the 30s and 40s, and then of television in the 1950s. Paley too, in his day, had been a brash young man with a vision, and only a handful of outlets, when radio was new. I felt, in listening to the young men plan and joke and analyze and argue, as if I was looking at the future of what will be someday perhaps one half of America’s culture and communications.

They spoke with focus, and planned their strategies, even as the drinks continued to arrive.

I was seeing, I realized, one of the nodes of a new America in the making; a new set of related cultural and telecommunications nerve centers being incubated, developed and extended, by talented, stubborn young men —who simply would not go along with censorship, or with the “othering” of ideas.

They had the ferocity of young men expressed in a new way, in a new generation; but I heard also something familiar and timeless. There was a color and sound in that ferocity that I recognized from my travels to police states around the world; it was the color and sound of dissidents in a community of dissidents; in an actual, not a metaphorical, cultural war.

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