March 3, 2021
The first thing I did when I touched down in Orlando last week for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was share on Twitter the sentiments that many New Yorkers feel when arriving in the sunshine state:
I took a bit of literary license, but you get the idea… It’s almost surreal to go from the cold, lockdown-crazed mass isolation ward of New York to a state that has decided life continues, even during a pandemic.
The choices that Gov. Ron DeSantis has made over the last year have turned Florida into a top destination for anyone seeking to escape the dreary oppression of Dr. Fauci’s “I’ll tell you when it’s safe” lockdown America.
As a result of COVID-mitigation fatigue, CPAC in Orlando felt more like a vacation than a standard political conference. In recent years, the event was held in Harbor City, Maryland, but the organizers had to move it because the state of Maryland couldn’t guarantee in advance that the COVID rules would allow such a gathering.
Just as hundreds of thousands of Americans fleeing lockdown tyranny have descended upon Florida for months, CPAC itself had to head south for the winter.
CPAC is the closest thing that conservative politics have to Comic-Con (the massive comic book convention). Members of Congress, radio hosts, bloggers, and all kinds of Right-wing personalities show up and mingle at the booths and expos.
For someone like me who interacts with large numbers of people on radio and TV but rarely gets a chance to shake hands and chat face-to-face with the audience, it’s refreshing to meet the people who consume my content. (You can watch a clip of my CPAC panel on the main stage here.)
Of the long lineup of speakers, there were only a handful who created universal buzz among the CPAC attendees. Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, for one, has been willing to stand up against the lockdown insanity of Faucism and is widely talked about as a possible presidential contender. DeSantis is generating even more speculation from the chattering political classes as the leading contender for the GOP in 2024.
But for all his liberty-defending heroics, DeSantis came in second during the CPAC straw poll for GOP presidential possibilities… The man who was far and away the top choice of the assembled activists, pundits, and the party faithful was exactly who you’d guess…
Donald J. Trump.
The most recently departed occupant of the White House returned to CPAC to give his first speech after an uncharacteristic period of silence. Without access to Twitter or Facebook (he’s banned permanently from both), Trump no longer has the ability to instantaneously communicate with tens of millions of followers. If the speech wasn’t a relaunch, it was certainly a reconnection.
The MAGA movement has never had to deal with a Trump who is coming off a loss, which has led to a lot of uncertainty. While there are millions of Americans who think there were problems with the way the 2020 election was conducted, it still goes down as a defeat.
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Joe Biden is president. Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives and a de facto majority in the Senate. Trump voters did not, in fact, get tired of winning…
But while the 2020 election is over, the MAGA movement may just be getting started… Trump made that clear in his CPAC address. He railed against the ineptitude of the Biden administration in its first month. Trump took particular aim at the shameful pandering of Biden’s White House to the teachers unions, who, without reasonable basis, continue to refuse in-person instruction in many parts of the country.
Trump’s messaging was back to old form, but his energy seemed a bit muted. While the GOP base appears insistent that he run again in 2024, four years is a long time to wait for a man who is approaching his mid-70s. While Trump has shattered conventional wisdom in the past, defying the effects of age may be beyond his reach. If Joe Biden was (is) too old to be president, the same may well be true of Trump the next time.
What is certain for now is Trump will continue to play a prominent role in GOP politics. He has spoken about his former top advisor Corey Lewandowski running a super political action committee (PAC) that will likely be able to make or break Republican candidates in the 2022 midterms.
And while Trump is unlikely to be back on traditional social media anytime soon, there are rumors that he will launch a still-to-be determined media venture that could replicate some of the reach that he used to enjoy on Twitter.
CPAC was Trump’s opportunity to remind the GOP that, despite his loss to Biden, he is still the alpha player in Republican politics. It’s impossible to know what that will mean exactly over the next four years… But Donald Trump’s most impressive political quality may end up being his resilience.
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Executive Editor, American Consequences
With Editorial Staff
March 3, 2021