Douglas Andrews / March 1, 2021

CPAC Was More Than Just Trump

The Republican Party’s future was on bold display this weekend at CPAC.

“The Republican Party is not the party just of the country clubs. The Republican Party is the party of steelworkers and construction workers and pipeline workers and taxi cab drivers and cops and firefighters, and waiters and waitresses and the men and women with callouses on their hands who are working for this country. That is our party and these deplorables are here to stay.”

So said Texas Senator Ted Cruz on Friday to loud cheers from attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference. We discussed this switcheroo just before the 2020 election, and it’s great to see we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed that the formerly blue-collar Democrats are now the elites, the academics, the paternalists, the critical race theorists, the Chardonnay-sippers, the theater-goers, the media darlings, the foundation favorites, and the party preferred by Wall Street.

The Democrats have, quite simply, thrown in with the affluent and the special interests, and they’ve left the regular folks behind. And the GOP seems to have taken notice.

On Saturday, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem praised Donald Trump’s economic record, then drew a stark contrast between conservative governance and statism. “Most governors shut down their states,” she said. “What followed was record unemployment, businesses closed, most schools were shuttered, and communities suffered. And the U.S. economy came to an immediate halt. Now let me be clear: COVID didn’t crush the economy; government crushed the economy.”

She then noted that government, having created the problem, rode to the rescue by printing more money. Then she drew a sustained roar from the audience when she said, “For those of you who don’t know, South Dakota is the only state in America that never ordered a single business or church to close. We never instituted a shelter-in-place order. We never mandated that people wear masks. We never even defined what an ‘essential business’ is, because I don’t believe that governors have the authority to tell you that your business isn’t essential.” BOOM, as we say here in our humble shop.

“Truthfully,” she said, “I never thought that the decisions I was making were going to be unique. … We have to show people how arbitrary these restrictions are, and the coercion, the force, and the anti-Liberty steps that governments take to enforce them. … Now, many in the media, they criticized South Dakota’s approach. They labeled me as ill-informed, that I was reckless, and even a denier. … At one point, I appeared on George Stephanopoulos’s show. … He had just wrapped up a segment with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, where he asked Cuomo to give me some advice on how to deal with COVID.”

From there, the jokes write themselves. Governor Noem, though, couldn’t be a more serious presidential candidate, and her limited-government approach and the inarguable results she’s delivered for South Dakota speak for themselves.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, it seems, will also have plenty to say about the Republican Party’s future. His state is “leading on the issues that matter to conservatives,” he said. “We don’t spout hollow rhetoric. We take decisive action. We cannot, we will not, go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear. We reject open borders and instead support American sovereignty and the American worker. Building a movement on amnesty and cheap foreign labor is like building a house on a field of quicksand.”

Former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also at CPAC, and he spoke forcefully about Trump’s “America First” agenda. He also noted the slings and arrows he’d taken as our previous president’s best cabinet pick, and demonstrated why no Republican in attendance has stronger foreign policy chops than Pompeo.

“America First is right for America,” he said. “It’s right for each of us. America First secures our freedom and the entire world benefits when America is fearless and bold and strong.” He called the Paris climate accord “a fantasy” for virtue-signaling elites. “And when President Biden reentered this deal, I can tell you that Xi Jinping was smiling every single minute. And the American workers lost.”

Pompeo then rattled off a succession of foreign policy achievements that succeeded despite the elite naysayers in the It’ll never work crowd. And in doing so, he positioned himself as yet another Republican poised to help determine the party’s “America First” future, with or without Donald Trump.

To sum it up, the GOP has some heavy hitters not named Trump, and the CPAC audience heard quite a show.

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