The Night Before CPAC

Downtown Dallas hotel, August 3, 2022. Photo by John Griswold



Driving west through Missouri today, I saw a billboard for lawyer Mark McCloskey’s Missouri Senate campaign. NEVER BACK DOWN! it said, under a photo of McCloskey and his wife, Patricia, during the now-infamous incident in St. Louis where they brandished guns at a group passing their house on the way to a protest.

By the time my son and I stopped for lunch, somewhere before the Oklahoma state line, it had been reported that McCloskey got soundly thrashed by the Missouri Attorney General, Eric Schmitt, 45% to 3%, in the Republican primary.

Missouri politics are odd, and in that are part to the whole of the nation’s political fervor. McCloskey and his wife pleaded guilty to misdemeanors for the June 28, 2020, gun-waving incident, but were later pardoned by Missouri Governor Mike Parson. Then-President Trump praised the couple at the time but ignored him in his primary race.

US News had fun with a headline on Monday: “In Missouri Senate Race With Two Erics, Trump Endorses Eric.”

That is, Schmitt was one of the “Erics” in the race; another was Eric Greitens, former Governor of Missouri, who previously faced accusations of sexual misconduct, domestic abuse, and theft of a donor list from a charity he founded. (There was actually a third “Eric,” Eric McElroy, who received only 0.4% of the vote.) Trump appeared to be hedging his bets by issuing a statement that he was “proud to announce that ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” A Trump spokesperson said only that the statement “speaks for itself.”

McCloskey said in response, “[T]here’s one genuine MAGA, America first, strong border, law and order, real American patriot in this race, and that’s me.”

If Schmitt wins the election in November he will replace Senator Roy Blunt, who is retiring, and join Senator Josh Hawley, who was roasted on social media recently for security video that shows him running through the Capitol on January 6 to get away from rioters, some of whom he had given a fist-salute of encouragement that morning.

None of these personalities, except Donald Trump, is on the agenda to speak at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference this week in Dallas, where my son and I have arrived. Much bigger names in MAGA and international conservative circles will speak, though there are notables missing as well: Trump’s children, for example, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (considered by many to be a good alternate to Donald Trump in the 2024 election).

The Hilton Anatole in downtown Dallas will be the site for CPAC, which starts tomorrow morning. The overflow hotel lots are full and busy, some cars decorated in odd ways by owners presumably headed for the event, presumably because they enjoy, among other things, the dramatic style.

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.