'Bye Felicia': Kimberly Guilfoyle's CPAC Appeal

'Bye Felicia': Kimberly Guilfoyle's CPAC Appeal
Guilfoyle campaigns for Donald Trump in 2019. Image:AP

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD—“God, I love that guy,” Kimberly Guilfoyle said to the crowded room at CPAC on Friday, referring to her boyfriend Donald Trump Jr. who was sneaking across the back of the stage, pumping his arms and hyping Guilfoyle to the crowd shortly after her introduction.

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” she continued as he exited the stage. “He’s got that Trump DNA.” The crowd loved it because they love Trump Jr. (He appeared on a panel just prior to Guilfoyle’s speech where he complained about the number of Instagram followers he has). But they love all of the Trump kids and Guilfoyle is practically a member of the family. The former Fox News personality has thrown herself into the family business which, these days, is winning Donald Trump another four years in the White House. Since leaving Fox News under questionable circumstances, Guilfoyle now works on the campaign in an official capacity as a member of the Trump Victory Committee, but it’s her quick-paced speeches with Trumpian buzz words and authentic energy that has made her popular with this crowd. (Guilfoyle reportedly left Fox News involuntarily after allegations that she sexually harassed and abused other employees. She has denied these claims.)

“Four more years,” she yells into the mic, leading the packed house in CPAC’s unofficial chant. “Four more years of Donald Trump! I say that every chance I get, I just like to trigger the left… I learned that from my boyfriend, ‘trigger.’” She laughed and so did the audience. It’s the kind of inside joke that makes Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle seem more accessible than the other Trump kids. In many ways, the couple has positioned themselves as a kind of proxy for the average Trump supporter; they’ve absorbed the lingo and play the role of true believers. If Trump Jr.’s “real American” routine has always felt stretched, Guilfoyle plays the role even more convincingly than Lara and Ivanka Trump, both of whom appeared at CPAC but stuck to their typically restrained tones.

During her speech, Guilfoyle emphasized her origin story, reminding the crowd that her mother was Puerto Rican and her father was an Irish immigrant. He “came here legally, lawfully, not cutting the line,” she said. It’s a carefully constructed biography that omits important details—namely that prior to hopping on the Trump train she was married to then-mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom and served as the city’s First Lady. In a room full of people that exert an inordinate amount of energy booing socialism and The Squad, that detail might seem important, but it’s conveniently omitted. There’s not even a conversion story detailing how a San Francisco liberal saw the light. Instead, it’s as if she emerged fully formed from a MAGA-topped skull; created entirely for the sole purpose of shouting about snowflakes and humanizing Trump Jr.

On stage, Guilfoyle checked off the list of Trump enemies with ease. “The Squad. The Socialists. Let them run, let them run, baby. Nothing can stop the Trump train.” She warned that “establishment Democrats” might steal the election from “Comrade Bernie” and sang a line of “Big Spender” when she spoke about Michael Bloomberg. To Nancy Pelosi, Guilfoyle just said, “Bye Felicia.”

But if Guilfoyle ridiculed Trump’s opposition with jokey deftness, she was also comfortable warning of the lurking dangers they represent. Democrats want to “open borders to child and sex traffickers,” she warned, repeating a talking point that circulated around the CPAC. (Earlier, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst warned that Democrats had “allowed… foreign, different ideology” into the country through undocumented immigration. The “ideology” she was referring to was Female Genital Mutilation.) Democrats also wanted “the destruction of America’s healthcare system.” “That is the Democrats’ America,” she yelled, “but that is not our America.” Trump’s America was safer, more prosperous and better for women. “Women’s unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 65 years,” she shouted. Four more years of Trump wasn’t about making America great again but, as one of the hats for sale at CPAC read, keeping America great.

In Guilfoyle’s estimation, all Democrats are leftists and all leftists are socialists and all socialists are waging a culture war. It wasn’t a particularly new framing but, at CPAC, Guilfoyle and the rest of the president’s most visible campaigners gave it new life, reworking it into the angry populism that pervades Trump’s campaign lingo. Beware, Guilfoyle warned, of the “leftist campaign to spin socialism as cool.” “Don’t,” she added, “be fooled by their cancel culture.”

“I think about the other side… all confused, snowflakes melting, Trump derangement syndrome with no cure,” she said. “Actually, I got a cure: Four more years of Donald Trump.”

Guilfoyle seemed to understand that particular phrases needed absolutely no context and she didn’t attempt to provide any. She simply had to say Nancy Pelosi’s name, to utter “cancel culture” and “victim culture” or to point at nonexistent “snowflakes” and to “trigger them.” The audience, of course, loved it. Like Guilfoyle, they not only speak the language, they have utterly absorbed it and made it part of America’s political language. I remarked to a colleague that if I had heard Guilfoyle’s speech six years ago, I wouldn’t have understood most of what she was saying; I wouldn’t have had a reference point for melting snowflakes or Trump derangement syndrome. I would have been as lost as the people of Babel. But now, I understood every word. My colleague agreed and asked me if Trump Jr. looked more orange than usual. He did.

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