The Land of the Free: A Look Inside CPAC’s Swag Room


Photo by Gabrielle Bluestone.

NATIONAL HARBOR, M.D.—Deep in the bowels of the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, where CPAC is holding its annual conference, is a special room. It’s called the swag room. It has an anti-abortion van, and everything except the Ronald Reagan knee socks are free—even the Sheriff David Clarke chapstick.

The swag room, a large ballroom filled with booths draped in red cloth, is a demented tour through the tenets of conservatism. This year, the NRA switched booths with Breitbart, taking a branding backseat to the website, whose massive display occupies the focal point of the room. Across the end, towards the back, is parked a Mercedes sprinter, which the pro-life group Save the Storks uses to give pregnant women free ultrasounds and lectures against abortion.

There’s also lot of stickers—the NRA, the Tea Party, even Ken Bone, who did a “Bone Zone” photo opportunity with the group Victory Holdings, had bumper stickers and pins. Need a chapstick? Pick a group—Liberty University, Sheriff David Clarke, Regent University and the Tea Party all have sticks.

Photo by Gabrielle Bluestone. Photo by Gabrielle Bluestone.

There are pocket constitutions, nail files, sodas marked with “poison” labels, buttons that say “Project Veritas Is Watching,” a guide to the “50 Wacky Ways the Government Spends Your Money,” Citadel beer coozies, and enough fratty plastic sunglasses to outfit every single resident of Murray Hill. Someone handed me a t-shirt with an image of Justice Scalia hanging out with Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch; it’s my size and I’m not trading. There are trucker hats, and credit card holders, one-page gun safety cards, and 30-page pamphlets on Muslim hate groups on campus, that are not about the myriad organizations making life difficult for Muslim students, if you can even believe it.

There’s also some good stuff in there—a Snowflake Coloring Book, of which I took approximately 100 copies because gag gifts ain’t cheap and these are free. This thought process also explains the 100-or-so copies of the 2017 Reagan Ranch calendar currently stashed in my purse. What? I like horses.

There’s also a lot of candy, so a little something for everyone.