NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., March 10, 2016 — Another memorable and lively Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has come and gone. Thousands of attendees—young college Republicans, older adults who still like a good political party, some members of Congress and their staffs—are finally recovering from their CPAC hangovers.
Some people might think that CPAC, being a conservative political conference, would be attended mostly by stuffy old white men who fall sleep before the sun goes down. That couldn’t be further from the truth. CPAC isn’t your grandpa’s Republican club meeting. Think instead of a cross between a political wonk-fest and Animal House—a buttoned-down, Brooks Brothers spring break on the Potomac.
Far from being old, this crowd definitely leans young. The fun and games aren’t all testosterone-fueled; the place is awash in estrogen, and girls just wanna have fun, too.
CPAC is put on every year by the American Conservative Union (ACU). For at least the last four years, it has been held at the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center in the quaint town of National Harbor, Maryland, right outside of Washington, D.C.
The four-day conference is highlighted by speeches by some of the most influential conservative politicians in America, punctuated by panel discussions featuring some of the sharpest media figures and political analysts on the right.
They spend four days explaining and debating the hottest topics of the current political season.
But we don’t live by politics alone. After night falls, it’s time to unwind. For a lot of people at CPAC, that means spring break conservative-style: all the fun, none of the property damage. Conservatives are nothing if not mindful of private property rights.
The ACU does a great job of getting conservative and libertarian millennials involved through its outreach to college Republicans and the hefty discounts it provides to them. The percentage of millennials in attendance is easily 40 percent of the total. And if many of the people at CPAC are college-age, another large group is young, single professionals who haven’t quite abandoned the habits of youth.
What happens when thousands of college kids and recent grads from all over the country are packed into a restricted, hotel, restaurant and bar-rich environment?
What happens at CPAC stays at CPAC.
The young men and women of CPAC find themselves surrounded by attractive, intelligent, vibrant young people who share their view of the world. Like many intelligent young people, they’re full of curiosity, ready to push boundaries, explore their independence free from the boundaries imposed by judgmental parents, neighbors and stultifyingly PC college administrators.
Being judgmental, like trashing an event venue, is a liberal sport, not conservative. At CPAC, grownups, including young grownups, debate opposite sides of issues like same-sex marriage and reproductive freedom without hurling invective at each other and issuing fatwas. And after the debates, they explore the practical applications of what they’ve discussed. Conservatives believe in individual liberty when third parties aren’t harmed, and at CPAC, those with the energy to do it are up to explore the possibilities of liberty.
With few people there to judge them and with most potential employers gone until the next morning, those attractive young men and women, who spend their days networking to meet people who can help them break into the political field, effectively let their hair down.
To say that many of these young men and women let loose come night time is an understatement.
While researching this article, this reporter visited Herrington’s Irish Bar, just a stone’s throw from the convention center, sometime between late night and sunrise. It was filled with college-age CPAC-ers from across the country. The number of gorgeous, uninhibited young women in the bar was about the same as the number of shots of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey being consumed.
The line for the men’s restroom was unexpectedly long, longer even than the line to the women’s restroom. When the door opened, the reason for the delay was immediately apparent: a goofy looking guy and a gorgeous woman, both dripping in sweat and arranging their clothing, emerged to the cheers of the crowd.
Just another long night at CPAC!
The parties and late nights are not always dominated by college Republicans. Members of Congress and their staffs can often be spied having their own alcohol-fueled fun.
The hotel bar at the Gaylord is the Belvedere. After the important speeches of the day, many recognizable individuals from conservative circles, including well-respected, conservative Congressmen, can be found There. Many are willing to engage in far ranging and interesting conversations.
If they can afford the $10 beers or $15 mixed drinks, this is where people start the transition from daytime, down-to-business conservative to the lubricated, more genuine self that will emerge as the evening progresses.
A previous CPAC, in the small hours of the morning at the Gaylord. A party has been thrown for a politician. In one corner of the $2,000 per night suite is a full bar, stocked with top shelf liquor. A line of people—many well-known, GOP power brokers—wait for drinks.
Outside, in the freezing cold, a group of people, including the guest of honor, have stripped down to their underwear to enjoy the hot tub. The congressman then exits the tub to provide an impromptu and wholly negative speech, in dripping underwear, on President Obama.
His speech is greeted with laughter and applause from fellow party-goers as inebriated as the politician.
According to an employee of the ACU, this year was different from past years for two reasons: First, the presidential candidates who attended required Secret Service protection, which resulted in much stricter security protocols than in past years; second, there was a high demand for media passes due to the wild race for the GOP nomination, which cut into the number of passes usually reserved for college Republicans.
Things should go back to normal next year, according to the same ACU employee.
Despite the slightly toned-down nature of this year’s conference, it kept the basic format of days filled the with riveting policy discussions and debates, followed by late nights and early mornings of heavy drinking and wild parties.
To outsiders, this conference might be seen as a boring, wonky experience that could only be enjoyed by hardcore politicos, and if that’s what you want, that’s what it is. But when the sun goes down in National Harbor for those three nights every year, the drinking, partying and gorgeous women take center stage, and it is truly a sight to see and an experience to cherish.
Photo Editor Note Note: None of the individuals pictured here have engaged in anything other than conservative politics and are pictured for illustrative purposes only.