Donald Trump made his first speech to the public since leaving office on Jan. 20 at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Organized annually by the American Conservative Union (ACU), the conference is an important platform for Republican politicians.
CPAC is considered as the barometer of the Republican Party. What set this year’s conference apart from previous editions was that it seemed like a PR event for Trump, who lost the presidential elections.
On Nov. 8, 2022, the entire House of Representatives and one third of Senate seats will be up for elections. Candidates will compete in primary elections starting this month. So being seen on stage at the CPAC provides a crucial air of legitimacy for hopeful Republican politicians.
It is widely accepted that Trump has managed to make the Republican Party both more right-winged and populist. Outgoing U.S. presidents usually withdraw from the limelight and distance themselves from politics. However, Trump, on the one hand, is signaling that he could run for president once again in 2024, and on the other, he wants to maintain his grip on the party.
Meanwhile, the schism between the Republican mainstream wing and the Trumpist base grows with every passing day.
According to polls, the majority of Republicans will vote for Trump if he runs in 2024. Republicans will also support candidates endorsed by Trump in both the 2022 and 2024 elections.
Mainstream Republicans argue that they cannot win an election against Trump. A civil war is being waged between the Trumpist and mainstream wings of the party. This war deepened on Jan. 6, when pro-Trump groups invaded the U.S. Congress. The seven Republicans who voted against Trump in the impeachment trials found themselves on the receiving end of Trumpists’ rage. The conference, which ended on Sunday, was also the scene of a similar showdown.
The unveiling of a golden statue of Trump at the entrance of the conference resulted in a deluge of interesting comments. Trump’s opponents likened this scene to the way the Jews, who were rescued from captivity by Moses, strayed by building a golden calf idol at a time when he was not among their ranks. Republican Senator Ben Sasse, one of Trump's most outspoken opponents in the Senate, underscored the pitfalls of idolizing Trump.
Speaking at the conference, Trump again repeated his claim that he had won the 2020 elections. He called the seven Senators who cast their votes against him in the latest impeachment trials as “Republicans in Name Only.” Calling on the Party to rid itself of “Fake Republicans,” Trump refused to start a new party.
Implying that he could run in 2024, numerous other speakers pointed that Trump would make the lives of anyone who might dare oppose him in the primaries a living hell.
Even if he doesn’t run in 2024, Trump can decide who becomes the party’s next candidate. Those who entertain the notion of running in 2024 are vying for Trump’s seal of approval. Polls conducted by CPAC showed that 55 percent back Trump, while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ranked second with 21 percent. According to the analysts who commented on the survey, the Republican Party's next presidential candidate in 2024 will be Trump or someone endorsed by him.
In the U.S., the Republican party goes further towards the Right, while Democrats become more left-wing. Once upon a time, there used to be a Tea Party movement that decried the Republican Party’s mainstream leadership. By following in the footsteps of the Tea Party, Trump too made it all the way to the presidency. Now the umbrella of the Republican Party has become Trump’s, and mainstream Republicans have become the minority in the party. There are those who think that there needs to be another dissenting movement that would move the party line even further to the Right. In the coming days, the showdown within the Party will only further deepen.