The Common Reader at CPAC in Dallas

John Boehner addresses the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Courtesy House GOP Leader, CC 2.0 Generic



“[A]ll I can say is that y’all can all go to hell, and I’m goin’ back to Texas,” said Nicole Reffit after the sentencing of her husband, Guy, yesterday, for his role in the January 6th insurrection.

Mrs. Reffit called her husband’s sentence, the longest so far at more than seven years, “political persecution.”

“We are patriots; Guy was a patriot that day. He will always be a patriot,” she said. She choked up as she called him “a loving husband,” “a loving father,” and “a man of integrity.”

Guy Reffit took a handgun, body armor, and zip ties to the Capitol Building on January 6, and “Prosecutors said he told fellow Texas Three Percenters that he planned to drag House Speaker Nancy Pelosi out of the Capitol building by her ankles, ‘with her head hitting every step on the way down,’ according to a court filing.” (In the original video he added, “And Mitch McConnell too.”)

Reffit also threatened to shoot his own two children if they turned him in after he returned from Washington, DC, post-insurrection. (His son reported him to the FBI almost two weeks before January 6, but the FBI did not respond until after the event.)

As Reffit cried in court, his daughter Peyton said, “As I know my father, he is not a threat. My father’s name wasn’t on all the flags that were there that day, that everyone was carrying. He is not the leader. It was another man’s name.”

Her younger sister, Sarah, said, “To mark my dad as this horrible person, and then having him prosecuted like this, when somebody is maybe even able to get elected again? Doesn’t seem right to me.”

It is presumably to Wylie, Texas, on the northeast side of Dallas, where the family owns a home, that the Reffits, minus Guy, will return.

Coincidentally, the man whose name was on all the flags will be in Dallas this week too, at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, along with other MAGA stars and figures of the hard right, such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, Steve Bannon, Kimberly Guilfoyle, “Papa John” Schnatter, pillow guy Mike Lindell, Nigel Farage, and Viktor Orbán.

CPAC, begun in 1974, has been an annual conference that has moved among cities. (Lately there has been more than one per year, and several have been held in other countries, such as Brazil, Hungary, and South Korea.) CPAC was founded by the American Conservative Union, known popularly for their conservative scorecards for political figures, and Young Americans for Freedom. Ronald Reagan made the first keynote speech, which contained his famous borrowing of the phrase “[shining] city on a hill.”

Since then—really since Bush the Younger’s administrations—the conference has become, as Vox puts it, “[No longer] a meeting to hash out an agenda, [but rather] a live version of the conservative entertainment experience that one could also get on cable or on the radio—just as people pay good money to see live performances of their favorite bands, you could attend CPAC and see your favorite conservative media stars in action. Republican politicians seeking favor would also be there, and would do their best version of rabble-rousing, base-oriented speeches.”

Rabble-rousing may be an unfortunately accurate term in our time. I’m goin’ back to Texas, too, to have a look. The conference starts Thursday.

John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, The Age of Clear Profit: Essays on Home and the Narrow Road (UGA Press 2022). His previous collection was Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life. He has also published a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a narrative nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City. He was the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press. His work has been included and listed as notable in Best American anthologies.