It's morning in America and at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where Jezebel managing editor Erin Gloria Ryan and I are alive and well and talking to fresh-faced college Libertarians about why personal freedom is good and abortion is bad. But we've already experienced one serious disappointment: Phyllis Schlafly is nowhere to be found.
One of the first events of the morning was supposed to be titled "Common Core: Rotten to the Core?" According to the brick-sized CPAC program, one of the panelists would be Queen Phyllis herself, who we last saw was suggesting that perhaps we could solve campus rape if fewer women went to college. How could I possibly miss a single thing she has to say about education?
So there I sat in the massive, red-tinted Potomac Ballroom here at the delightfully named Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center, alight with anticipation, uneasily digesting a small egg sandwich and exchanging polite glances of trepidation with the trio of clean-cut, suit-clad college students sitting next to me. But then, it was announced that the title of the panel had changed without explanation to the much blander "What's Next for the Common Core?" The panelists were now a duo of bald white men, plus moderator Sabrina Schaeffer of the Independent Women's Forum. Phyllis's absence was unexplained and unremarked upon. What. The. Fuck.
The ballroom — already only half-full because of the snow and icy roads here in D.C. — emptied out perceptibly. An elderly gentleman in front of me appeared to sag gently to sleep, then roused himself and ambled out. I watched the Bald White Duo talk for a few moments and then took my leave. Here is a screenshot of my actual notes from what I saw of the panel:
I perched dejectedly on a white leather couch in a side hallway. A biker fellow in a denim vest and a stars and stripes bandana walked by. An almost obscenely square-jawed and handsome man in a green flight suit jogged briskly down the stairs. Presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson appeared, surrounded by staffers and supporters pulsating around him like a grey-suited jellyfish. The most important people here move around like this, encased in lesser people, illuminated by flash bulbs. (Carson isn't a huge draw here at CPAC, but earlier this morning he did earn a standing ovation for suggesting that we get rid of the IRS.)
Sitting in this hallway, fighting depression and the last of that egg sandwich, I've developed three theories for Phyllis's absence:
After all, she was fine yesterday, dining with Louisiana Senator David Vitter.
Much like virtually everyone else at CPAC, Schlafly is no fan of Jeb. Bush is reportedly so unpopular that according to Politico he's trying desperately to fill the ballroom with ringers to cheer him on during his Friday speech, including some former White House staffers from his brother's time in office.
I think I've cracked the case.
Stay tuned for more updates from CPAC, which, God help us, has only just begun.
Photo via AP.