Cockburn just got back from the second annual National Conservatism Conference in Orlando, Florida. The ballroom of the Orlando Hilton can hold more than a thousand people. A little snowbird tells Cockburn that Yoram Hazony, the event’s organizer, was in panic mode in the days before the summit. Not enough people had paid for the $315 ticket or $2,500 VIP pass. It seems even DC politicos had better things to do on Halloween than listen to Josh Hawley scream about porn.
Cockburn hears that every right-wing organization in attendance received emails from Hazony begging them to help ship out more people. In the end, the official turnout was 700 attendees — though a hundred of them were the ladies and gentlemen of the press, and most of them were on a freebie. That man of the people and paragon of conservatism Michael Tracey was a permanent fixture on all three nights in the hotel bar, a hot date on his arm.
That was it as far as sex went. Cockburn was expecting the usual conservative conference, a three-day frenzy of hookups and minibar-busting boozing, but the Natcons had gathered for a policy orgy. What was lacking, besides decent food, free drink and casual sex, was debate and dissent. The breakout rooms seethed with frustration, not all of it political.
Peter Thiel, the billionaire patron of populist dissidents, set the keynote on day one. He called the United States a “braindead one-world state,” guided by fake consensus in its ruling institutions. “We have all sorts of individuals here. I hope they will not agree with one another. I hope we will have incredibly vigorous debates. This is needed if we are to course correct in this country.” Thiel then gave a shoutout to bitcoin before exiting the stage.
The only heated moment came when Reagan-era dinosaur Michael Pillsbury called Michael Anton a coward for not wanting to risk nuclear war if China invaded Taiwan. A Navy officer in the crowd asked the speakers what he should tell his men if they were worried about dying in a possible war with China.
“You should tell them to follow their orders,” Anton responded.
“Michael Anton is a pussy. Please quote me on that… wait, don’t!” a conservative journalist told Cockburn after a few Moscow Mules.
Cockburn staggered off looking for a good time, but found himself in a breakout room chaired by white-shoe lawyer and Human Events owner Will Chamberlain. The conservative filmmaker Amanda Milius was wearing an orange floral headscarf, so Cockburn realized this was a culture forum. The last thing Cockburn heard before he passed out was three different people using the Breitbart mantra “Politics is downstream from culture.”
By dinnertime, Cockburn was both sober and hungry. The small print of the email confirming Cockburn’s press credentials revealed that “press will not be provided with meals.” Cockburn pushed on regardless into the dinner, and nabbed a table that was empty apart from two bottles of wine. Curtis Yarvin, the conservative blogger known as Mencius Moldbug, waddled on down to the table, zoomer groupies in tow. “I wasn’t invited to speak,” Yarvin said as he poured himself a second glass of red and worked on his steak. “This place is not the Claremont Institute.”
The main event that night was Senator Josh Hawley, mourning masculinity and lamenting the prevalence of porn. The jokes went over well with the crowd, but they sounded too rehearsed. Hawley lacks the natural charisma compared to Tea Party rivals like Ted Cruz. Cruz spoke energetically the next morning, arguing that nationalism should not push the GOP towards protectionism, isolationism or big government. A dissident like Thiel would agree, but Cruz won few converts in the crowd. He didn’t seem to care, and continued delivering boomer one-liners while sweat poured from his forehead and stained his wrinkled clothing. At one point, his tight-fitting blazer rolled up his back folds, forcing him to pull it down as he screamed, the Democrats “are the real racists!”
“This is so retarded,” a DC lobbyist put his face in his hands and sighed.
Marco Rubio was supposed to speak before Cruz, but his flight got delayed. Instead, Rubio spoke via a video message that no one watched.
Cockburn retired to the hotel bar with the other hacks. Senate wannabe J.D. Vance was rubbing elbows with Chris Pavlovski, the CEO of Rumble. Vance and his mentor Thiel are both investors in the alternative video platform. Cockburn overheard the words “$20 million valuation.” Across the room, Rod Dreher was rehashing his recent public spat with Sohrab Ahmari.
“For the love of God, I wish he would stop criticizing his colleagues,” mused a colleague as he downed his third cocktail.
Cockburn heard the American Compass was throwing a party in the hotel restaurant with an open tab. He despatched the steak and potatoes and three glasses of red wine while pretending to listen to a pimply 19-year-old bragging about his number of Instagram followers. The rest of the night is somewhat blurry. At one point, Cockburn found himself eating candy corn by the handful out of a plastic container near the hotel pool. Later, the research director for American Compass, Wells King, gave Cockburn a long lecture about how we needed to restore the American middle class through protectionist trade policies and support union workers. This isn’t what usually happens to Cockburn in Orlando, but then, the Natcons have a woman problem: not many of them are on board with the Natcons.
Cockburn hears that The Spectator‘s very own Douglas Murray had an eventful discussion with Dave Rubin, Yoram Hazony and Sohrab Ahmari. Cockburn was in no condition to witness the spectacle, but it’s said Murray pushed back against Ahmari’s social-conservative position on homosexuality.
Cockburn crawled out of the Orlando Hilton before dawn with his tail in between his legs for the 5 a.m. flight back to the kind of swamp where oranges don’t grow and the sun never really shines. When he looked in his swag bag, he noted that his souvenir cup and notebook were made in China.