Boebert Watch: Back at CPAC

Lauren Boebert clings to three things: guns, sex-offenders and the Big Lie.
Lauren Boebert clings to three things: guns, sex-offenders and the Big Lie. YouTube
Despite a strong argument that any Republican who wants to appear sane should skip the Conservative Political Action Conference 2023, Lauren Boebert is all in.

The annual event is taking place back in the Washington, D.C., area this weekend, after having relocated temporarily to Florida in 2021 and Texas in 2022 (those new venues weren’t just conservative strongholds; they were also friendly to CPAC's refusal to follow COVID protocols). As in past years, it will attract thousands of Republicans who'll gather and talk about how much they hate Democrats.

CPAC’s “About Us” web page defines conservatism with this: “Conservatism is the political philosophy that sovereignty resides in the person.” Problem is: These days, that person is Donald Trump.

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This is what serves as the entirety of the GOP platform in 2023.
This has never before been so clear as it is in 2023: CPAC is the pro-Trump conference, and Trump himself is the headliner. Two senators get second billing: bearded Trump toady Ted Cruz and surprised-skeleton-in-a-suit Rick Scott. Third billing includes both representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado’s own Lauren Boebert, who’s probably still fuming that MTG got her name before Boebert’s on CPAC’s list.

No real surprises here; this has been the Trumpian court of fools for years now. The surprise is who is refusing to hold their noses and show up this time around. Trump’s own former vice president, Mike Pence, isn’t coming. Neither is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Both of these guys are running for president in 2024 (they haven’t announced, but we all know it’s happening), and DeSantis, especially, is a political-fame whore who can’t wait to get in the spotlight. Still — they’re not coming. Why? Because they’ll be running against Trump, and they understand that CPAC has become just a big Trump re-election party.

Other big names not appearing? Both Republican leaders in Congress: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel. And a host of others — enough so that who’s not going to be at CPAC has actually become a bigger story than who will.

Lauren Boebert’s rise in the Republican ranks can be traced through her level of appearances at CPAC. In 2021, she was still a relatively minor figure on the deep-red right, railing rather incoherently about the First and Second Amendments in a way that a child might: incompletely, without a deep understanding of the concepts, and seen only through the prism of their own experiences. In 2022, she was one of five faces emblazoned on the advertising banner online, though she still wasn’t a featured speaker. In 2023 she is, most notably hosting a “women’s breakfast” on the final day of the conference, when people can pay $75 to relive the Shooters Grill experience that ended when that Rifle restaurant and publicity stunt closed its doors for good last summer. As evidence that the universe has a sense of humor, it will be replaced by a Mexican restaurant.

Boebert’s 2022 appearance at CPAC was the focus of one of her early potshots at what she considers to be internet censorship, something she’s still trying to make a thing today with her ELON act — both a poor acronym and a grossly evident suck-up to Twitter profiteer Elon Musk. About a month after CPAC 2022, she took aim at YouTube, claiming in Karen-friendly ALL CAPS that “two entire days of CPAC were just ripped off the website — including my speech.” As a Newsweek article on the unnecessary hubbub pointed out, Boebert didn’t seem to know what she was talking about. Clips from CPAC — including her speech — were still up and available, and it was “not clear whether the congresswoman [was] referring to footage posted on her own YouTube channel or on another page.”
Joining Boebert in the insufficiently considered condemnation of YouTube was CPAC Chairman Matt Schlapp, a highly connected conservative operative who might be one of the reasons several high-level potential speakers are avoiding CPAC 2023. Schlapp is currently at the center of a sex scandal involving a male aide on the Herschel Walker senatorial campaign, who accuses Schlapp — in great and specific detail — of groping him.

It should come as no surprise that Boebert is unbothered by such claims of sexual assault against her allies. She’s the constant companion of Representative Matt Gaetz, the O.J. Simpson of sex crimes, sidestepping federal charges for disgusting behavior everyone pretty much accepts that he committed. And then there’s Boebert’s husband, Jayson, who showed his penis to a minor in a bowling alley, after which Boebert married him anyway. Based on her choices past and present, sex offenses are clearly not a deal-breaker for this Colorado congresswoman.

Also not a deal-breaker? Commitment to the Big Lie. At CPAC 2023, election denial is virtually the price of a ticket to the stage. Any event that invites a figure like Arizona’s Kari Lake — a woman who definitively lost the gubernatorial election in 2022 according to vote counts and the courts, but who still will not concede — is unconcerned with anything approaching either truth or integrity. To make matters worse, Lake is headlining the Ronald Reagan dinner, which just goes to show how perverse and twisted the Reagan legacy has become for today's GOP. It’s all about sheer Trumpian power, of kneeling before the great orange would-be-dictator.

That’s CPAC 2023, and that’s Representative Lauren Boebert. If that makes you a little sick to your stomach, Colorado, in the words of white-bread pestilence Tucker Carlson, you’re on to something.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen

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