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Last week I made the annual trek to Washington, D.C., to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

For those unfamiliar with it, CPAC is the largest yearly meeting of conservative political activists. We come from all across the country. It’s four days jam-packed with speeches, boot camps, networking and breakout sessions all held within a fun party atmosphere.

I know, I know, we conservatives have a reputation for being, well, conservative, but trust me, we can party with the best of them.

CPAC is the main time each year that the grassroots activists get to meet and mingle with the celebrity activists in the conservative movement. It’s usually highly attended by college-age volunteers new to the political scene, grassroots activists, media personalities, authors, politicians and the like from across the Republican and Libertarian spectrum.

While this was far from the first time I’d been there, it was the first time I had attended the CPAC with a Republican in the White House.

After eight torturous years of the Obama administration, you’d expect this year’s CPAC vibe would be one of excitement and celebration in anticipation of what the next four years will bring. After all, our side finally — finally! — has a Republican-held White House, a Republican-controlled Congress, and numerous Republican governorships.

But you’d be wrong – about the celebration and anticipation part.

Although the organization that runs CPAC, The American Conservative Union (ACU), has yet to release the official attendance figures, I won’t be a bit surprised to learn the numbers are down from years past.

Now granted, it’s not an election year, which means – as expected – most of the hardcore, seasoned activists stayed home. But as an attendee on Media Row, I sometimes felt there were more media than general attendees.

Gone were the Rand Paul-type hoards stuffing the Straw Poll for their guy. Gone, too, were long lines at security.

This year, the vibe was decidedly different. “Low-key,” “subdued” and “quiet” are just a few of the ways I heard other veteran attendees describe it.

CPAC itself was the same well-run and energetic event it always is. The difference this year was in the attendees themselves.

Missing in large numbers were the conservative Tea Party-type activists: the average American citizens who, fed up with the status quo, were engaged in the political process for the first time.

Why is that? Why would the most conservative of the party stay home from the biggest annual gathering of conservatives? The answer lies in President Trump himself.

There’s a certain amount of wariness left over from the recent contentious presidential race. Many conservatives are taking a wait-and-see approach to the new POTUS and his administration. Yes, our side won, I get that, but the wounds are still fresh.

And as President Trump basks in the success of his first speech to Congress, he’d do well to take note of conservatives’ wariness toward him because, in truth, he’s the one who created it.

It was his own frenetic and coarse no-holds-barred style of campaigning that created the wariness and, indeed, the anti-Trumpers on our side. Throughout the race, then-candidate Trump insulted and dismissed conservatives.

Since now-President Trump has yet to apologize for, or at least acknowledge, the wounds those insults and dismissals caused, many are finding it difficult to forget or even trust him. These wounds are the reason several people I know gave for not attending CPAC this year and for the wariness they still hold.

Even as our new POTUS promises to implement much of what they want, conservatives do not trust him. Frankly, after eight years of being disrespected by the left, the last thing they wanted or expected was to be treated that way by our own side.

Trump needs to address this wariness soon and bring conservatives into the fold. It’s time.

Simply saying “We won; get over it” won’t do it. That kind of dismissiveness smacks of the left, and no actual conservative believes being like the left is a recipe for winning.

If CPAC, conservatives, and the president want to continue winning, they must address this wariness. Otherwise, I fear CPAC attendance will be a portent of bad things to come for the Republicans for the upcoming 2018 midterm election as conservatives and anti-Trumpers stay home.

And just as in years past, Republicans absolutely cannot afford to lose in 2018 after all it took to win this last one.

Gwendolyn Sims is a project manager at a social media agency and a Santa Clarita Valley resident of 20 years.

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  • Gil Mertz

    Gwendolyn illustrates one of the main differences between conservatives and liberals. I appreciate her candid and honest review of Trump and I believe she’s right on. Open and honest reflection is a healthy exercise, even if the truth hurts. Meanwhile, liberals are still blaming the Russians for all of their failed policies, corruption, and humiliating loss in November.

    • charles maurice detallyrand


  • lois eisenberg

    “After all, our side finally — finally! — has a LYING Republican-held White House, a WIMPY UNDECEIVE Republican-controlled Congress, and numerous WORTHLESS Republican governorship’s.”

  • Ed Shalom

    In the past 2 days, the so-called President has fully demonstrated that his problems are not just policy conflicts, but that he is a seriously deranged person. God help America in getting rid of him before he goes insane.

    • Gil Mertz

      While I don’t question you as an expert on the seriously deranged Ed, normal people can decide which sounds more plausible:

      A. That Hillary Clinton lost the election because of an elaborate conspiracy with the Russian government, despite not one shred of evidence.

      B. A serial liar like Barack Obama who abused the IRS to target his enemies, used taxpayer money to influence the election in Israel, and secretly sent millions of dollars in cash to Iran, condoned wire tapping Trump.

      • charles maurice detallyrand

        Nobody cares about Clinton Gil. And yup, all this stuff about Trump is just made up, big ole bad obama was out to get Trump lol.

        • Gil Mertz

          As usual Chuck, you’re way off point, but did I write anything about Obama that wasn’t true? Nope.

          • charles maurice detallyrand

            Were there wiretaps surveilling Trump during the election? Does the president order wiretaps?

          • Gil Mertz

            New York Times, January 19, 2017

            WASHINGTON — American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.

            Someone ordered the “intercepted communications” Chuck. Now that we have a real Attorney General in office, I’m hopeful we will track down the source. So yes, there WERE wiretaps surveilling Trump during the election according to the New York Times, the leftist’s bible.

            Having dismissed your assertion, care to defend the other things I listed about Obama’s pathological lying, the IRS scandal (which they admitted), the intervening in Israel’s election, or the millions in cash Obama sent to Iran or do facts just not matter to blind Obama loyalists?

          • charles maurice detallyrand

            The FBI investigated the IRS scandal and found no evidence of “enemy hunting”, look it up. The United States did fund a group in Isreal but stopped payments (in November 2014 I believe) prior to the beginning of their election — look it up don’t trust a single blog’s assertment or lazy reporting based on that blog. And yes Obama sent Iran cash, as part of a settlement that they were quite certain to receive anyhow. You’re aware of the settlement right? Certainly better than Reagan sending them rockets and such…

            So one of those wiretaps was denied by the court, another seems to have been granted but for a location in philadelphia? Is it your belief Obama ordered these wiretaps, he got involved in an active FBI investigation? You realize there are very specific rules prohibiting such things right? You actually believe Trump, who provides no evidence, who won’t even ask the FBI if there were any wiretaps that he was targeted or the Trump tower was targeted? And if you do believe it, wouldn’t that mean that a court deemed it necessary?

          • Gil Mertz

            As to the IRS, Lois Lerner “admitted” they were targeting conservative groups. When put before Congress, she took the Fifth. When asked for her computers, they all crashed – at the same time – and couldn’t be recovered. Imagine that? Obama pretended to be outraged and swore he would fix it. What did Obama fix? The only thing that changed was Lois Lerner was given a nine-month, tax-payer funded leave of absence before Eric Holder announced no charges would be filed. If the press had spent just a “smidgen” of time investigating this troubling development as they have spent on the Russia conspiracy theories, people would have been in jail.

            We’re agreed about the Obama administration sending money to Israel, regardless of when the payments stopped. And you’re OK with this?

            And on what basis do you conclude that Iran would have “received the cash anyhow”? And the Reagan slap was hilarious. Surely the world’s leading sponsor of terror wouldn’t use these millions for rockets, would they? Obama loyalists are so incredibly naive.

            As to the wiretaps, the New York Times reported there were “wiretaps” and they were “reported to the White House”. Is this yet another Obama gaff that he found out while watching TV? Seriously? No, I don’t think Obama is stupid enough to order the wiretaps and Trump is a fool to make such an accusation. But to suggest Obama didn’t know about it is just as foolish.

            Chuck, expecting you to question Obama is like asking a Christian to question God.