A woman in mink and diamonds steps out of a car on Park Avenue. She struts, coiffure held high, past protesters clutching signs about Rudolph Giuliani and Joseph Goebbels. She demands of the doorman, “Can’t we have these feminazis arrested or something?” It’s Saturday night on the Upper East Side.
She’s just arrived at the New York Young Republican Club’s 109th annual gala. Inside the ballroom, by the bar and beneath the chandeliers, one youngish Republican tells another: “I just bought my third AR-15!” A couple Newsmax sleveens slip past. Everyone recites the Pledge of Allegiance. Dating back to the days of William Howard Taft, it’s a night to get together and hash out the direction of the party, to identify and imbibe with its comers. This year, it’s an unalloyed freak show, and what’s past is prologue: They all want Donald Trump in 2024.
“Of course he’s going to run again,” says his attorney Jenna Ellis, teetering on spiked Louboutin stilettos. She says she just spoke to Trump on Wednesday when they happily discussed the Dobbs case at the Supreme Court that looks primed to gut Roe. She authored memos that were used to try and pressure Mike Pence to overturn the election and is a Young Republican guest of honor tonight. She trashes Ronna McDaniel and Bill Barr for a bit, then I ask her if she realizes most people think she’s batshit crazy. “I don’t care,” she says. “I am always representing the Constitution, the truth of my lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and my client, President Donald Trump.”
Paul Gosar, who last month became the first member of Congress to be censured in a more than decade, for tweeting out an anime video of him murdering AOC, is up here on the VIP balcony, too. How’s it feel to be censured? “It’s liberating,” he says, smiling, swilling white wine. Gosar, who prominently voted to overturn the election, hopes Trump will run again.
Here comes James O’Keefe, the vexatious Project Veritas founder who was raided by the FBI last month. He is currently locked in a bitter legal scrap with the New York Times over its reporting on the incident. First Amendment advocates are following along closely. He says, “We had members of Congress, Jim Jordan, Senator Cotton, and Senator Grassley — all wrote letters to the attorney general, because Merrick Garland put policies in place, the Privacy Protection Act, because you can’t do this to an American journalist.” Whoa. Journalist? Hold up. The way you play the game is a little different from how the rest of us do it. “How so?” he asks, sounding annoyed. “They would never do this, my friend, to you. Because you work for New York Magazine and you’re a journalist according to the powers that be, and that’s what this is really about. The government, the Southern District of New York, put in a motion that I’m not a journalist because I ‘use surreptitious reporting.’ Even you have to admit that’s ridiculous.” He references Mike Wallace and his secret recordings and says, “I’m fighting for the same rights that you have as a journalist.”
There’s Rudy Giuliani, holding court in black tie. What does he make of our new mayor-elect? “I think Eric Adams is a work-in-progress,” he says. “He’s made some good decisions, and he’s made some bad decisions. We’ll have to see if he doesn’t become an Ed Koch, who, when he became the mayor, became very conservative and tried very hard to make the city safe but, because of Democrat corruption, couldn’t do it. I had to do it. Or will he be like Biden and pretend to be moderate and turn out to be a Marxist?” He says he talks to Trump “often enough to know that he would run again right now.”
A number of Giuliani’s former pals have written op-eds and spoken out about him since he spearheaded Trump’s election lies. He’s become a nut, they say, unrecognizable from the man they once knew. What gives? “They’ve been brainwashed by publications like yours,” he says. “I almost cry when I read the publications. You are so divorced from reality it’s pathetic.” He says his smack-talking former colleagues only wrote those things because “we are living in something very akin to a fascist state with censorship, false charges — the Justice Department has become a private police force for Joe Biden. Every day, a new crime is revealed by Joe and by Hunter.” Speaking of which, what did he make of Tucker Carlson’s fawning mash note asking Hunter to help get his kid into college? “Oh,” he says, “I don’t care about Hunter and Tucker.”
I need another drink, desperately. It’s time for speeches. Gavin Wax, the head of the Young Republicans, rails against the “wretched, senile, aloof buffoon” in the White House. A trailer for a movie called Uncle Tom II, which contains “intimate interviews with some of America’s most provocative Black conservative thinkers,” is screened. What gets the most applause from other speakers, in order of raucousness, is some anti-vaxx dross, something about Trump’s next term, and, most uproariously, the news that broke minutes earlier that Chris Cuomo is out. “CNN sucks!” they roar.
The crackpot crescendo reaches new decibels when Giuliani takes the stage. The words “NEW YORK YOUNG REPUBLICAN” hang ironically over his head as he whinges on about commies and Truman and Hitler and Stalin and child pornography and mafiosi and Bellevue and Chairman Mao. “THEY KILLED FEMALE BABIES,” he screams, and everyone looks a little confused. He calls the Bidens a “disgusting trailer trash” crime syndicate, and everyone in the room starts chanting “Let’s go Brandon!” He recites lines plucked from Hunter Biden’s hard drive and snarls, menacingly, “The New York Post! Not only did I give it to them, I shoved it down their throats.” He pauses and says again for emphasis: “I SHOVED IT DOWN THEIR THROATS.”
I wander outside the VIP section to take the political pulse of hoi polloi. Megan Gaffey, a 36-year-old surgeon who lives in the city, wants Trump to run again, this time with Ron DeSantis. She absolutely thinks the election was stolen and says the January 6 riot was simply a moment when “instigators took over.” Gee, wonder who instigated that. “No,” she says, not Trump. Never Trump. It was, she says, “antifa!” Tracy Somers, a 32-year-old woman who also lives in the city and works in fashion, also believes the 2020 election was 100 percent stolen. “I don’t think it was the best idea to storm the Capitol,” she says, “but I’m very proud of Americans for standing up to the crap that happened.”
The bar stays open until midnight and soon baby-faced and tuxedoed young Republicans are spilling onto the street. The whole thing felt like a cross between an Ayn Rand novel and Vile Bodies. But there was nothing particularly bright about these young things. If this really is the future of their party, it’s dark.