CPAC used to be mostly an annual gathering of conservative lawmakers. Those days are long gone.
Beginning Thursday, thousands of political activists will gather near Washington.
During Barack Obama's eight years in the White House, this was the capital's rowdiest and angriest political event -- but it has morphed into a reflection of the tensions within the Republican Party in the age of Donald Trump.
The crisis of American conservatism will be everywhere on display in the three days of speeches at a conference center ballroom in the D.C. suburb of Oxon Hill.
Here you will see an anti-immigrant conspiracy theorist and a former sheriff who suggested George Soros was actually behind last week's mass shooting at a Florida school, followed by the President of the United States.
From the outside, it's easy to find the whole event perplexing and disjointed, with its sessions about "Taxpayer-Funded Terrorism," "Unmasking the Deep State" and "Kim Jong Un-iversity."
Full of fire and fury, many of these conversations reflect the most energetic -- and fringiest -- segment of a Republican Party that seems to be tearing itself into pieces.
As conservative Bill Kristol observed dryly, "About CPAC, what needs to be said was said by Eric Hoffer: Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.'"
Which explains why you won't find many elected officials in attendance. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan are taking a pass this year. Ted Cruz is the lone Senator attending the festivities, and Fox News favorites outnumber House members on the schedule.
Republicans enjoyed a resurgence as the decade began, but they now have to govern in an environment that has to straddle activists who treat politics as sport ... The inevitable "lock her up" chants about Hillary Clinton and roars for the President and his Cabinet mask a quiet uneasiness among rank-and-file conservatives, who still read Barry Goldwater's speeches and lionize Ronald Reagan.
The Republican Party of 2018 is one of deep contradictions ... A party that is home to evangelicals also helped to elect a thrice-married man who bragged about sexually assaulting women on a video.
Lawmakers set aside their worries about deficits and the debt to pass massive tax cuts last year that will deliver a $1.5 trillion vat of red ink.
CPAC, the same organization that welcomed former Vice President Dick Cheney as a rockstar surprise guest in recent years, is now giving the microphone to far-right European firebrands Nigel Farage and Marion Marechal-Le Pen.
CPAC is now it's just a right-wing freak show.