“We were doing so well until the rigged election happened,” Trump said, voicing the lie at the center of the conference that he made the entry point for GOP candidates in 2022, potentially poisoning them. US elections for years.
There is an argument that a former president who is not in power but is desperate for attention should simply be ignored. Admittedly, Trump’s rambling, vain, and lies-filled speech lacked consistency and any kind of ambitious appeal, instead highlighting his signature cocktail of racial demagoguery, personal blows against enemies, mountainous lies and desperate search. personal adulation. To an outsider, this may seem tedious and a pale imitation of the playful and sometimes even humorous appearances that paved the way for Trump to power in 2016. But hitting all the sensitive hot spots of the conservative media canon – from law and From order to “cancel culture” to immigration, to complaints all media talk about is “race, race, race,” Trump has demonstrated his yet unmatched ability to sell political outrage. But more than that, he has demonstrated his ability to evoke an alternate belief system that is separate from reality but that its followers immediately embrace – the mark of strongman leaders throughout history.
For example, he launched a scathing attack on former Attorney General William Barr, who for most of his tenure served as a political shield against Trump’s crushing of political standards, but drew the limit on his lies. electoral.
Trumpism is on the march in red America
Six months after his supporters ransacked the United States Capitol – amid an effort by senior GOP officials to reimagine the story of this moment, the former president’s threat to American democracy remains extreme. And even if Trump never runs for president again – and he looks like he’s already embarked on a four-year campaign – the brand of grievance politics he invented and maintains will be on the ballot. – as his list of possible heirs, from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, shows.
So while much of Trump’s speech was retrospective, giving a rosy and false picture of an administration that has left its country deeply divided, the false belief system that has captured the hearts and minds of millions of voters is real.
The crucial question is whether the message that is so electric to Trump supporters will still cause the kind of revulsion among suburban and more moderate voters who deserted Trump’s GOP and saw him lose the House, the Senate. and the White House in four years. term.
And could another messenger like DeSantis or Noem, or Texas Gov. Greg Abbott make it so spellbinding for the Tory base?
The former president is relentless in targeting issues such as undocumented migration, calls by some liberals to fund police and the growing wave of crime to portray the country as out of control and in the grip of far-left wingers – as a possible way to widen its appeal.
But even as Biden tries to keep his vow to unite the country and work across the aisle with Republicans on infrastructure reform, for example, it’s clear that in the end, most big obstacle he faces comes from Trump’s undiminished power. CPAC, for example, was an example in the microcosm that much of America’s voting public now lives in an alternate reality in which Trump won the election and Biden lost. Speaker after speaker, allusion has been made to electoral fraud – despite the lack of evidence that has resisted Trump’s unsuccessful legal and political attempts to overturn a free and fair election.
His behavior once again underscored that the regular battle between conservatism and liberalism over the meaning of America itself has been passed. A political party is always in the grip of a leader who never ceases to lie and is dedicated to overthrowing the American democratic political system itself.
Well done against the vaccine
At one point on Saturday, which illustrated the hold of ideology on the Right, the CPAC crowd applauded Biden for missing his vaccine target, with more than 30% of adults – most of them them in conservative states being affected by the Delta variant. of Covid-19, still not yet received at least one dose.
The reaction shocked the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr.Anthony Fauci, who has been scapegoated by conservatives eager to cover up Trump’s disastrous handling of the pandemic.
It was noted that even though Trump demanded legitimate recognition for the vaccine developed under his administration – because he claimed to have saved 100 million lives – he was not calling on people to get vaccinated.
The ex-president’s reluctance to spend his political capital on an issue that conflicts with the orthodoxy of many conservatives and could save thousands of lives remains striking, even after spending months at the start of the pandemic in trash science-based public health advice. . And Trump had the power to change his mind at the CPAC rally as 70% of attendees who took part in an unscientific straw poll chose him as their preferred candidate for 2024.
The worst public health crisis in 100 years is now plagued by the same endless whirlwind of disinformation and lies that has smothered the truth about what happened last November in conservative circles. Trump presents his multiple failures in a crisis that he has promised will simply “go away” as a massive triumph.
“We have Republican governors across this country claiming that they haven’t closed their states; that they haven’t closed their regions; that they haven’t mandated the masks,” Noem told CPAC.
She seemed to contrast with DeSantis and Abbott – who took a more restrictive but still lax approach – with a future Republican primary debate in mind.
“Now I’m not fighting Republican governors. All I’m saying is we need leaders with courage.”
But as Trump has shown, an ability to reinvent the truth and ignore the reality could be the most important asset of a potential presidential candidate, within the Republican Party, three years before the next election.
CNN’s Maeve Reston contributed to this report.