None of the young CPAC-goers I talked to told me definitively that they were undertaking a wholesale career recalibration in response to Trump’s rise. Instead, most seemed like they were hanging back, cautiously assessing the landscape, trying to stay flexible.
One attendee, who requested anonymity because he was manning a booth at the Hub and didn’t have permission to go on the record, said he’d noticed that some of his amateur blogger friends have begun to adopt a more Trumpian posture lately in hopes of making it big. For those aspiring stars of the conservative media considering a rebrand, there’s no lack of successful role models. Talking heads like Kayleigh McEnany, Scottie Hughes, and Jeffrey Lord went from relative obscurity to cable news fame during the 2016 election by emerging to fill the void of pro-Trump pundits on TV. Meanwhile, a new journal called American Affairs launched this week offering a platform for intellectuals seeking to defend Trump’s vision. And next year’s midterms are likely to feature a slew of primaries pitting orthodox conservative incumbents against Trumpian challengers. These are boom times for Trump’s brand of politics, and the savvy young strivers at CPAC have taken notice—even if they’re not all happy about it.
Daniel Tellez, a senior at Boise State, noted with a hint of dismay that the rising Trumpist faction of the party seems to have pushed his fellow libertarians back to the fringes of the movement. He doesn’t plan on altering his own politics—but neither does he expect the dynamics to change anytime soon. “As far as jobs go, I’d say that young nationalists now feel like the Republican Party provides an ideological home.”