Men look at "Unafraid and Unashamed" by artist Julian Raven (Use of this photo mandates such identification!) during the very normal Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
Columnist

The Trump administration is taking a brief break from running roughshod over conventions to attend one.

What is the Conservative Political Action Conference? Is it a gathering of people who are enraged by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and want to look at pictures of her and talk about her all the time, growing more and more indignant? Is it a summit of those genuinely enthused by the prospect of hearing from — or attending an after-party with — Donald Trump Jr.?

(Don Jr. appeared via live stream “from our CPAC Stage at Liberty University,” where he met with Jerry Falwell Jr. to showcase the effortless wit that had so charmed the Internet: In response to Falwell’s comment that his little girls carry dolls and his little boys play with guns, Trump replied, “Hashtag Me Too!”)

Mainly, CPAC is a jostling set of imaginary problems demanding the next real solution.

Of course, things are somehow simultaneously worse and better than they have ever been. President Trump has kept his every promise, and the economy is booming like an enormous truck barreling over our crumbling infrastructure. AND YET he has been betrayed, and these “rat fink” types are threatening to stymie him. It is a great time! The courts are more full of justice(s) than ever. It is a terrible time! Ocasio-Cortez exists. Everyone here is very aware that Ocasio-Cortez exists.

CPAC falls but once a year, although this is not entirely true; as with any good convention, the ideas and personalities showcased at CPAC are on perpetual display online. CPAC attendees are just the human forms the ideas are forced to assume if they wish to assemble in a given room at a given time. You can be the sound of a dog whistle; today, you must put on a tie so you can mingle with such luminaries as the man behind My Pillow.

Apart from that, it is your ordinary convention, where Internet People gather to determine what part of their beloved fiction is going to drive the plot until next year, except that it has real-world consequences. It is like if you went to a Star Wars convention and agreed you needed to build a bigger Death Star to combat the threat of the Hutts, but then the actual president of the United States maybe showed up and, with no apparent irony, agreed with you.

Fortunately, there are fictional problems aplenty to solve and real problems aplenty to ignore. Here is Vice President Pence to assure us that the wall will be completed on schedule.

The president is in the throes of assembling a panel of experts to decide we should not worry about climate change, which is good, because there are many other things here we should be much more worried about — for instance, “Skittles parties” (corrupting the youth) or the Democratic Party (murdering the youth, literally infanticide!).

We should not worry about climate change! Absolutely not. “CO2: It’s What’s For Dinner” reads a sign from the CO2 Coalition in the Hub. Did you know that people are breathing out CO2 literally all the time? Really makes you think.

We should worry about Ocasio-Cortez, who looms like a dread colossus over everything, depicted even in artwork here, approaching ever closer to say “um” and “like” and to infect your children with socialism and dance. We do not want her Green New Deal! We do not like her youth and zeal!

We should worry about: communism. They are coming for your hamburgers, intoned former White House aide Sebastian Gorka. Stalin never dreamed of this!

You might think that with a presidential election and a Senate majority under your belt, you would be able to rest from tilting at these windmills. But the ominous ghosts only multiply. Democrats love opening borders and slaying infants (we are, I think, inches from distributing “A Modest Proposal” as “Prototypical Democrat Thought!”); Republicans love native-born infants, and the only thing they prefer dead is the Constitution.

When you can conjure up any monster to battle, you might as well go big. If this were any other sort of Internet convention, it could be fun to see such whimsy. Such fan art! An enormous painting of Donald Trump, glowing, with eagles flying! Ocasio-Cortez as the Statue of Liberty, looking ominous! Nancy Pelosi in … “A Chorus Line”? Looking as ominous as one can in something resembling “A Chorus Line”! There’s someone dressed as a patriotic eagle trying to help you with your taxes!

A fun imaginative exercise! But! Then the president agrees, and he says yes to the Death Star, and the wall, and the family separations. And real people get trapped in our battles with these imaginary monsters.

Read more from Alexandra Petri:

What is the truth you’re most afraid of? The Cohen testimony, in brief.

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