Trump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC

Former President Trump emerged unhinged and unchanged Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Trump trotted out the same tired playbook that led to his defeat last year.

It was a typical Trumpian speech; grounded only by falsehoods and fantasies. Fact checkers at CNN described it as a “speech filled with debunked lies.” He gave the kind of speech that was symptomatic of a failed four-year presidency and a decisive reelection loss.

He predictably missed the mark when he belittled his successor and dragged out his tried and failed scurrilous anti-immigrant tirade. He offered no useful guidance on how to turn around the sorry fortunes of his party, which lost the White House and both houses of Congress on his watch.  

The former president attacked the current president, stating that President Biden’s current tenure was the “most disastrous first month of any president in modern history.” Americans heartily disagree with Trump’s assessment. A new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll revealed a 61 percent approval rating for the new chief executive, which is significantly higher than the 48 percent rating Trump received a month after he assumed the presidency.  

Trump’s low standing early in his presidency and his loss of the popular vote in 2016 should have been a wake-up call to expand his constituency, but he preferred to keep playing to his right wing base and neglected to build a larger tent. That is partly why he lost his bid for reelection.  

The conservatives present were content to follow Trump down the rabbit hole even though he failed to offer any constructive advice for Republicans to rejuvenate their flagging political fortunes. A majority (55 percent) of the attendees supported Trump in the straw poll even though he lost in 2020 by 7 million popular and 74 electoral votes.

Trump came through loud and clear when he told the crowd, “I may even decide to beat them for the third time.” He intended this as a threat to Democrats but it should have been a warning to Republicans. The conservative confab had a chance to go for a fresh face but they failed to take it. 

The crowd cheered his claim to securing a second term despite the lack of any evidence that their defeated hero had won. Dozens of courts, including the Supreme Court, all of which are dominated by Republican appointments, rejected his claims because of lack of proof.

Implicit in Trump’s failure to offer any useful advice to his party was the suggestion that the only way to win again is to nominate him again. But his attacks on the Democratic president and immigrants without a constructive conservative approach to solving GOP problems is a recipe for disaster. If Republicans paid attention the last four years they would see a failed candidate who only could beat a candidate because she was even more unpopular than he was in 2016. But Trump swung and missed against Biden, who didn’t elicit the same kind of hostility as Hillary Clinton did.

CPAC was really a nostalgic celebration of a defeated candidate rather than a realistic examination of the GOP’s shaky future. Republican candidates have lost the popular vote in the last four presidential elections. Biden victories in Arizona and Georgia demonstrate demographic changes and Trump’s hostility to minority voters are eroding the Republican Sunbelt advantage in the Electoral College.

The GOP is now the party of Trump and no longer the home of conservative Republicans like former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who have demonstrated independence from Trump and who were CPAC no shows.

Trump’s continued dominance over the GOP is dangerous for the party. He is more of a threat to his fellow Republicans than he is to Biden or Democrats. As long as Trump reigns supreme and dominates the GOP, he chokes off fresh candidates and fresh approaches that might revive his party. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) got it right when he said, “if we idolize one person, we will lose”. 

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Deadline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.

Tags 2020 elections anti-immigrant biden administration Bill Cassidy conservatives CPAC Democrats Donald Trump failed election failed presidential campaign Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Nikki Haley Republican leadership Republicans Trump 2024 Trump campaign Trump presidency

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