Alex Eaton at CPAC

16 Do’s and Don’ts for CPAC 2016

Written by Vivian Hughbanks & Breana Noble

Going to the biggest convention of conservatives of the year? Excited to see the presidential candidates in person? Going to D.C. for the first time? Here’s the lowdown on how to survive your first—or your fourth—Conservative Political Action Conference.

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  1. Do dress appropriately. No jeans or cocktail attire during the day. You’re at a conference with bosses, co-workers, and the biggest names in the conservative movement.
  2. Don’t be surprised when your conservative star doesn’t know who you are and ignores you. They’re busy people who just met about 1,000 fans. You’ll get over it.
  3. Do show up to things early to get a good seat.
  4. Do name-drop. The words “Hillsdale College” are powerful things here. Wear this with pride.
  5. Don’t sign up for email lists in The Hub—even if they’re promising you candy. You will get texts and phone calls and emails for the rest of your life from people you’ve never heard of offering you things you don’t want. RUN AWAY.
  6. Don’t collect all the buttons from vendors and pin them all over yourself. You’ll look like a middle schooler. You don’t want that photo going viral because of the Buzzfeed photographers running around.
  7. Do go around to all the vendors and collect their company pens. You can use them forever, and they’re free.
  8. Do hang out on radio row to get photos with people. Faces you’ve only seen on TV will walk by, and you might even be asked to get interviewed on one of the radio shows.
  9. Do pay attention—even outside the Gaylord hotel. You may run into someone cool, like SeanHannity.
  10. Do go to the National Rifle Association panel. They sometimes offer free membership at their events. Even if not, it’s sure to be a blast.
  11. Do go to all the free events you’ll get the chance to sign up for. Most of them involve free food and good networking opportunities.
  12. Do go see the monuments at night. You’re in Washington D.C., and the National Mall is beckoning to you like a shining city on a hill. Go say hi to Abe, T-Jeff, and George. There’ll be a shuttle leaving from the Marriott hotel for a monuments tour at 8 p.m. on Friday for Hillsdale students.
  13. Do go to the job fair—even if you’re a freshman. Talk to people and get a feel for potential places to apply for internships and jobs. It may just lead to a paid summer internship.
  14. Do go see Hillsdale’s Washington, D.C. campus. The Kirby Center has a great library—including a first-edition copy of the Federalist Papers given to the college by syndicated radio host Mark Levin.
  15. Do go visit the Hillsdale booth and say “hi” to the staff of the Kirby Center. They’re nice, they probably have candy, and you can get all of your questions about the WHIP program answered.
  16. Do go to the Hillsdale College Student and Alumni Breakfast on Friday morning at 8:15 a.m. to eat and network. They’ll have tasty food and a limited edition Hillsdale College button—plus you get to sing along to the alma mater.

Vivian Hughbanks, ’16, is a politics and German major from Signal Mountain, Tennessee, and a member of the Dow Journalism Program. Fueled with coffee, she de-stresses by cooking and forcing food on anyone in close proximity. She tries not to get lost (and fails regularly), and occasionally jumps into lakes for no reason.

Breana Noble, ’18, is a student from Michigan studying American studies and journalism. She is a member of the Dow Journalism Program; is an assistant news editor for Hillsdale’s school newspaper, the Collegian, and has interned at Newsmax Media in Washington, D.C. through the National Journalism Center.