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Donald Trump at CPAC

From the moment Trump took the 2019 CPAC stage and embarrassingly hugged the American flag in an infantile, overly exaggerated and awkward display of patriotism, it became apparent that the GOP has been led to wander aimlessly in the political wilderness. During Trump’s barely coherent two hour-plus rant complete with expletives, it became apparent that contemporary conservatives are fine with the denigration of the Justice Department, cozying with international dictators, and unnecessary tariffs and trade wars. The asked for second helpings of a Trump world salad that vilified everything from the free press to legitimate concerns about the self-evident impact of global climate change.

The CPAC attendees seemed to act more like a cult of teenage fans that were there to be entertained, rather than serious political thinkers who were advocating policies grounded in a cohesive philosophy of conservative governance. Trump gloried in his unscripted, meandering rant and hurled insults against his opponents and tried to spin his obvious, humiliating failures into imaginary ‘fourth-dimensional chess’ victories. He glossed over his shameful acceptance of North Korean Leader Kim’s denial that he had any knowledge or anything to do with Otto Warmbier’s death. In fact, every topic he touched on was horrifically disfigured by Trump’s zealous disregard for facts or truth and presented in the most clumsily partisan way he could possibly muster.

The GOP is no longer the party of conservatism. It’s certainly not the party of Lincoln anymore and it’s not the fabled, shining city on a hill envisioned by Reagan. It’s now more like a gaudy casino that has been hijacked by Trump and his enablers. The GOP cannot now expose Trump as a fraud nor can they even acknowledge his mounting failures, because they previously made an enthusiastic choice to overlook his immorality and criminality in exchange for their own position, power, influence, and, in some cases, wealth. That’s not a hyperbolic observation- an illustrative example can be found in the rhetorical and political transformation of S.C. Sen. Lindsay Graham and his evolution into a bona fide Trump sycophant.

It should still be shocking that 184 House Republicans sided with Trump on his fake emergency declaration that was designed to bypass Congress so that he could fund his southern border wall vanity project. That’s right, supposedly conservative members of Congress voted to bypass the Constitution and give the Executive branch financial powers that are clearly assigned to Legislative branch. That’s not conservative or Republican; it’s nothing more than showing blind fealty to Trump out fear and political expediency.  

They’ve even begun to build a new lexicon to describe criminal activity that they delusionally believe is only being prosecuted for partisan purposes. Until about three months ago, no one on the planet would have dreamed of staunch Republicans excusing campaign finance violations that relate to hush money payments to porn stars or lying under oath as irrelevant and insignificant “process crimes.”

Similarly, no one would have pegged them for the party of ‘cut and run’ in Syria or Afghanistan. Certainly, looking the other way when a Saudi Crown Prince was caught directing the dismemberment of an American journalist was not anything that conservatives would support; that is until Trump asked them to suspend their disbelief.

Yet, in the age of Trump, conservatives have willingly shed their core principles. The performances of Rep. Mark Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan during last week’s Congressional testimony by Trump’s ex-lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen showed that Republicans are willing to overlook any Trump ethical indiscretion or illegal activity to make cheap political points with their base.

The fact that conservatives aren’t outraged by the pettiness, incoherence, and lies that permeated Trump’s long-winded, amateurish CPAC speech is clear evidence that the GOP is desperately lost, maybe irretrievably.

Clete Wetli

Clete Wetli

Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.
Clete Wetli