This is my final report from CPAC 2021. Rather than waste your time on some halfway written product, I figured I would use the drive home to get my thoughts in order. It’s about 550 miles from Central Florida back to Talladega (Ricky Bobby!) in Sweet Home, Alabama. Plenty of time make sense of my time at CPAC 2021.
The first thing I’d like to state right up front and center; Lest anyone think otherwise, this is still Donald J. Trump’s Republican Party. It’s not the Bush-Cheney cabal’s party. Nor does it belong to the Romneys, the Murkowskis or the Collins’. It certainly isn’t Mitch McConnell’s party. More on this aspect further down.
The first thing I noticed upon arrival and all the way through until I handed the valet his gratuity, hopped in my truck and headed home, was that everyone there was happy. They were glad to be there, to be part of what candidate Trump had first discovered into and what President Trump had tapped into and grown to vibrant vitality. They were excited and joyful. You could tell by the ambient noise level throughout the 3 day event. The excitement was palpable. The sartorial expression manifested by many attendees was just icing on the cake.
While the attendee enthusiasm was off the charts, there was something else I noticed which bodes well for the future of the conservative movement. Starting on Thursday as people started to trickle in, get the lay of the land and set up their equipment, I noticed lots of folks in blue shirts, volunteers recruited by CPAC to help run the event.
These folks were there to give directions, help control foot traffic and generally do a lot of minor tasks that if not done, would cause major issues. I made it a point to speak to a number of them. What stuck with me, is that these folks were there on their own dime. Some had come to Orlando from as far away as the People’s Republic of Kalifornia, to perform a labor of love and thereby do their part to advance conservatism. This is real enthusiasm. This is a force that if we treat the people in it right, can make conservatives unstoppable in the future.
Casting long shadows over this event were two people, Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump. Limbaugh was mentioned by virtually every speaker in the lineup and rightly so. Limbaugh did more personally to advance conservatism than anyone since William F. Buckley. He will be missed, but there is no way he will be forgotten anytime soon, though I’m sure the left wishes he would be.
Then there was President Donald J. Trump. In the two and a half day windup to Trump’s speech on Sunday evening, the speculation was all over the board. Would he announce a 2024 presidential run? Would he endorse an heir apparent (not sure anyone thought that would happen). What would he say and do?
In and amongst all the speculation was a vibe that wasn’t overtly visible, but still there all the same. There were more than a few speakers who appeared to have a vision of unity that continued to make use of a motivated base during elections, while ignoring them once in power. It was hard to put a finger on, but it was there, especially when the subject of unifying the Republican Party, was brought up.
Then Sunday evening came. Donald J. Trump swaggered onto the stage and back into the political limelight. To say that the former President gave a stemwinder of a speech, is selling it short. My good friend and colleague Jennifer Oliver O’Connell ,wrote up an excellent review of the speech which I encourage you to go have a look at if you haven’t already.
I want to focus on this unity thing. There was a lot of talk, especially by the pundits about unity. “Can the Republican Party unify?” was the question intoned by oh-so-serious pundits and political prognosticators of every political persuasion. Just what does that mean?
Thinking of that reminded me of the movie The Princess Bride. Throughout the movie, the “bad guy,” named Vizzini is continually saying words to the effect of, that’s inconceivable! Finally, the hero, Inigo Montoya responds You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. See video clip below.
I’m hearing the same thing when the pundits and the politicians spout unity or unifying the Republican Party. I. Do not think it means what they think it means. The Establishment…the Bush-Cheney’s, the Romneys and even some of the CPAC organizers, AKA, Conservative Inc, believe they can co-opt Trump’s base and bring them back under control.
That’s not what Trump meant when he talked of unifying the Republican Party. He’s not about to allow what he built to be subsumed back under the control of Mitch McConnell or the likes of Bill Krystol of the late, not so great, We
eakly Standard. No Sir. For Trump, unity means marching to his drum.
The establishment is very worried about that and not sure which way to jump. Note Mitch McConnell’s waffling back and forth about Trump in just the past couple months. Republicans are not the only ones worried. The Democrats are terrified. As opposition, Republicans are ineffective on their best days; full on collaborators on their worst. Even when Republicans have all the levers, they cannot seem to really move the ball forward.
United under former President Trump, that could change the next time around. He is supported by a growing base, who firmly believes that the last election was stolen and their Paladin was unjustly sullied. Going forward, these folks will rid the party of collaborators, starting with those who voted to impeach Trump. They will then move on to others who continue to waffle on issues the Trump supporters deem important. Unify the Republican Party? I’m all for it. But I don’t think that means what the establishment thinks it means.
Added Bonus: Inigo Montoya was also known as a personal networking expert. Here is a sample his simple process for meeting other professionals in his line of work.
Polite Greeting: Hello.
Name: My name is Inigo Montoya.
Relevant Personal Link: You killed my father.
Manage Expectations: Prepare to die.
See the video below