Douglas Andrews / July 13, 2021

Trump Draws a Crowd at CPAC

The former president drew plenty of sharp contrasts between his administration and the current one.

There’s no denying it, no getting around it: Donald Trump is still the undisputed leader and the animating force behind the Republican Party. There are a number of bright young stars in the wings, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, but the party still belongs to Trump.

This reality couldn’t have been any clearer at the Conservative Political Action Conference’s summer gathering in Dallas this past weekend, where he spoke at length on Sunday about the many miserable failures of Joe Biden, the illegal immigration catastrophe at our southern border, the Democrats’ obsession with force-feeding Critical Race Theory to our children, the nationwide surge in violent crime, and the 2020 election, which he and a majority of Republicans believe was rigged and stolen.

As Fox News reports: “Trump’s remarks lasted about 90 minutes after a delay of at least a half hour from his scheduled starting time. He was greeted by ‘USA’ chants as he walked on stage, and lauded the CPAC attendees as strong supporters of his movement.”

CPAC, which had for 47 years been held in the Beltway, has moved elsewhere this year — first to Orlando in February, and this weekend to Dallas. The move was precipitated by the COVID-related shutdown of the event’s usual location in National Harbor, Maryland, but the event’s organizers thought it was time for a change anyway. Said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which sponsors the event, “Maybe we need a new model … the center of gravity in this country is changing.”

Schlapp is certainly right about that — at least insofar as conservatives are concerned. It’d be hard to find an area less hospitable to the Right than Washington, DC. “I think CPAC’s story this year is much like America’s story,” he told The Washington Times. “This terrible year-and-a-half we’ve all been through has us all rethinking a lot of things about our life, and what I’ve come to realize is it’s not red states versus blue states, it’s failed blue states that people are fleeing, and mega-red states that people are flocking to.”

The conference theme was “America UnCanceled,” and Trump addressed this in his remarks. “With the help of everyone here today,” he said, “we will defeat the radical left, the socialists, Marxists, and the critical race theorists. We will secure our borders, we will stop left wing cancel culture, we will restore free speech and free elections, and we will make America great again.”

Trump blasted his successor’s failure to secure our borders, noting: “We deported criminal aliens by the thousands … and we built almost 500 miles of the border wall. Now the Biden administration has turned the border into the single greatest disaster in American history.”

Trump also noted his class action lawsuit against Big Tech, and he lamented the steady encroachment of the radical Left, which he said “has been methodically taking over every giant centralized institution in American life. The school systems, the universities, the bar associations, Hollywood, journalism, the big banks, big tech, and even the Supreme Court, where we’re getting some unexpected rulings because the nine justices do not want to be packed.”

He also vowed that the Republican Party will take back the House in 2022 and reclaim the White House in 2024.

Throughout his address, Trump seemed to be on his game — perhaps more so than at any appearance since he left office. His delivery was sharp and forceful, his asides were interesting, and he seemed genuinely energized by the audience. To no one’s surprise, he easily took the CPAC 2024 GOP presidential nomination straw poll, but his winning ballot total — 70% — was a significant bump from the 55% he earned in Orlando in February. (Ron DeSantis finished second with 21% of the ballots, and no other candidate topped 1%.)

Perhaps it was fitting, then, that the most sustained applause of his speech took place at the 1:06:00 mark, when Trump said: “I’m also leading in the polls against [Kamala] Harris, because not a lot of people think that Joe’s going to be running. But you never know. It’s a strange world. … The Democrats want me out, and they want me out as fast as possible. And here I am. I could have a nice, beautiful life, and here I am on a Sunday in Texas.” At that point, a variety of scattered chants coalesced into a single loud voice: “Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!”

The former president soaked it up, thanked the crowd, and gave no guarantees about what his political future holds — an omission that will no doubt keep folks on the Right scratching their heads, and folks on the Left gnashing their teeth.

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