The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was held in Orlando, Florida, this past weekend. Its agenda and attendees made it clear that it was no longer conservative politics as usual. At “CPAC: America Uncanceled,” MAGA hats and patriotic gear were everywhere, and some of the speakers were ordinary people who have fought creeping government overreach in the past year due, in part, to the pandemic.

The agenda this year was largely devoted to fixing the broken political system unearthed by the past year and the 2020 General Election. The conference is the largest annual gathering of conservative activists and leaders. Election integrity, Big Tech censorship, the rise of socialism, China’s influence, and citizen activists standing up on a local level against tyranny were featured subjects at the conference. Revered Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh was remembered in a beautiful tribute. President Trump spoke for his first time in a public forum since Jan. 6. Masks were required in all spaces, and attendees were given daily temperature health checks.

One of the best speeches was the one delivered by South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem. Hers was a call to action, reinforcing that “America needs conservatives.” Her down-to-earth “Lessons Learned From My State” talk about Covid and its effects on the economy and the people of the U.S. was received with great enthusiasm. She said, “Covid didn’t crush the economy. Government crushed the economy.” She reminded the audience that South Dakota is the “only state in America that never ordered a single church or business to close.” 

There were 12 segments devoted to protecting election integrity alone. Many recognize that besides moving away from Republican In Name Only (RINO) politics, local action, precinct strategy to revamp the Republican Party from the bottom up, and continuing to push for information on the alleged fraud in the 2020 election are the only ways Conservatives will win in the future. Most people who attended or spoke seemed to understand that, without some wins on election integrity cases, the American people will be less likely to show up in future elections. Some of those wins may be coming soon in Arizona and Michigan.

There were many attendees and speakers devoted to communicating the “We the People” message. If 2020 taught those who care about the greatness of the American Experiment anything, it is that we must honor the examples of the Founding Fathers and realize it is the job of every American to protect and preserve the principles that make ours one of the freest nations on the planet.

UncoverDC met with Arizona state Representative, Mark Finchem who is taking his First Amendment freedoms seriously because of how he has been treated by the Arizona Democrats. Finchem, Electoral College Elector Anthony Kern, and Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) were fallaciously and maliciously accused of participating in criminal activities on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021. He told me he has lost his means of income and has been maliciously attacked, “saying they messed with the wrong guy.”

Taking matters into his own hands, he has applied for 501(c)(4) status to start his new Guardian Defense Fund. The Fund’s mission is “to defend champions of free and fair elections from false and defamatory attacks, and to challenge Big Tech Censorship in the courts.” He says that just a $10 donation to the Fightback Network by every Trump voter would help him protect everyday citizens to fight against defamation and reputational damage. The fund’s first legal challenge has already been filed against Charlene Fernandez, who filed a false and defamatory referral against Finchem and Kern. Please look for an upcoming exclusive interview with Rep. Finchem on a future Dark to Light podcast with Tracy Beanz. Finchem’s interview with Joshua Philips of American Crossroads during CPAC can be found below:

Dallas hair salon owner Shelley Luther, who was jailed for 48 hours for re-opening her business, was also in attendance. UncoverDC was fortunate to meet with her for about 30 minutes. She and co-owner Ian Smith of Atilis Gym, who was fined more than $1.2 million for defying emergency Covid orders, also spoke Friday on the main stage.

An “immensely private person,” Luther was one of the first courageous small business owners to publicly defy Covid restrictions. In an industry that has for years been held to strict sanitation standards, she could not understand why “the dog groomer next door or big box stores were allowed to stay open,” but her small business could not. She said she had nothing to apologize for to a judge and was jailed for two days. She started the nonprofit, Courage to Stand Foundation. Her foundation gave over $100,000 to small businesses to help pay bills during the pandemic.

Luther’s March 5 podcast will be her first and will feature Second Amendment champion Jerah Hutchins. The podcast features “amazing, ordinary people” and is called Courage to Stand. Hutchins started a nonprofit, Women’s Awareness and Defense Endeavor or WADE. The experience of being raped as a teenager led her to teach women to be responsible for their own safety.

Luther’s third podcast guest will be Stephen Willeford, who confronted and shot the gunman who killed 26 people in the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church shooting in 2017. Her mission is to show how regular people can be heroes who do amazing things they never thought they would do who can encourage others to “get out and be that person.” 

Shelley Luther/Texas Tribune

Determined to change local politics, Luther ran for a state Senate seat in 2020, which ended in a special election run-off with her incumbent state senate opponent, Drew Springer. According to Luther, Springer was heavily funded by Governor Greg Abbott, who failed to back Luther when she was thrown in jail. Luther was neck in neck with Springer in the initial six-way special election in late September, with Luther leading Springer by 115 votes.” Luther’s main message is to stay positive and remember that it is “We the People” with the courage to act locally who will change the face of the party.

President Trump, whose 90-minute speech was about an hour late, spoke to an enthusiastic but limited crowd due to Covid. His message to the audience was an optimistic one. He spoke of his mission to replace weak-kneed RINOs with true “America First” conservatives nationwide. However, he says he will not start a new party:

“For the next four years, the brave Republicans in this room will be at the heart of the effort to oppose the radical Democrats, the fake news media, and their toxic cancel culture. Something new to our ears, cancel culture. And I want you to know that I’m going to continue to fight right by your side. We will do what we’ve done right from the beginning, which is to win. We’re not starting new parties…We will be united and strong like never before. We will save and strengthen America. And we will fight the onslaught of radicalism, socialism, and indeed it all leads to communism once and for all.”

President Trump Speaks at CPAC 2021/John Raoux/AP

Trump spoke of his many accomplishments and the seemingly impossible loss of the Presidency, saying it was “a lie” that Biden won. He vowed to take back the House and the Senate in 2022 while hinting at another presidential run in 2024. There is no question that the Republican party, as it now stands, is just beginning to recognize that business as usual will make it very difficult to win seats in the future. The conservative movement belongs to the more populist ethos that President Trump has recognized and ignited in the hearts of many. Now it is the American people who must renew and seize the forgotten transformative power that has always been theirs to exercise.

A transcript of President Trump’s speech can be found here.