As the Conservative Political Action Conference meets in Florida this weekend, there is great joy among supporters of former President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE, who believe with reason that he controls the Republican Party, and equal joy among liberal Democrats and Democratic leaders, who believe with reason that Trump’s divisiveness and control of Republicans is a great gift to Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections.
Since Election Day 2020, Trump has been a combination of public relations disaster alienating the national electorate and highly effective political maneuvering intensifying his support from his large base — and thoroughly intimidating the Republican leaders in the House and Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE (R-Ky.) went from giving Trump much blame for the sickening attack against the Capitol on Jan. 6, implying he might be subject to criminal prosecution, to announcing that he would “absolutely” support Trump if Republicans nominate him for president in 2024.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyThompson says he hopes Jan 6. committee can complete work by 'early spring' Juan Williams: Shame on the anti-mandate Republicans White House debates vaccines for air travel MORE (R-Calif.) has similarly shifted from criticism of Trump for his actions on Jan. 6 to then visiting Trump to court his support for the 2022 midterms.
Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase Five questions and answers about the debt ceiling fight Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (R-Utah) went from voting to impeach Trump to predicting Trump will be nominated if he seeks the presidency in 2024.
Meanwhile other Republicans, such as Sen. Ben SasseBen SassePresident of newly recognized union for adult performers boosts membership Romney blasts Biden over those left in Afghanistan: 'Bring them home' Progressives breathe sigh of relief after Afghan withdrawal MORE (Neb.) and Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyTrump, allies launch onslaught as midterms kick into gear The Memo: Never Trumpers sink into gloom as Gonzalez bows out Kinzinger says Trump 'winning' because many Republicans 'have remained silent' MORE (Wyo.), the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, have been principled in their warnings about Trump being unable to generate significant grassroots GOP or conservative support.
This year’s CPAC is shaping up to be a massive Trump rally, where I expect to hear expressions of Trump grievances and attacks against those Trump treats as political enemies, including, most likely, some prominent Republicans.
One result of the CPAC meetings could be to generate a surge of Republican primaries in the 2022 midterms against members of the House and Senate who do not parrot the Trump line, though there are also likely to be many primary attacks against GOP members who march in lockstep behind Trump.
While the proceedings of the CPAC meetings may be an echo chamber of conservative support for Trump and attacks against Trump opponents, the message sent to the outside world will be at odds with significant public opinion majorities. This is why liberals and Democrats are just as excited by the CPAC meetings as Trump and his conservative supporters are — and why GOP leaders may be privately worried about the impact on the 2022 midterms.
Consider the following matters.
President Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse clears bill to provide veterans with cost-of-living adjustment On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit MORE is enjoying favorable ratings with American voters, while Republican leaders like McConnell have very low ratings.
While a majority of Americans want Democrats and Republicans to work together, and Biden is making some effort to achieve this, the CPAC meetings instead could cause a return to the divisive politics of the Trump years that voters just ended.
In addition, a majority of voters believe the 2020 presidential election was honest and legitimate. Trump and his supporters, on the other hand, believe the election was stolen from him.
The CPAC meetings stand to help Trump in Republican nomination politics, but dangerously hurt the GOP in general election politics in the 2022 midterms.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.