Marc Murphy may not be polite, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. The 2023 CPAC Conference was something of a damp squib, which was a surprise given the prominence it once commanded in the media, if not in actually influencing, rather than simply echoing, Republican politics.
Is the echo still there? That’s the big question.
To be fair, the gathering did attract some big names, like Steve Bannon, Kari Lake, Mike Lindell and Donald Trump Jr., and Nikki Haley (who was heckled), which kept the Star Wars concept alive but didn’t seem to push any new or important ideas forward.
The Bulwark’s Tim Miller provided a diary of his day there, and it’s not nearly as amusing as you might hope.
CPAC started out years ago as a conference for conservative voices, then degenerated into a right-wing freak show derided by critics as the Star Wars bar scene, and this year fizzled out into half-empty rooms, with a major prospective candidate, Ron De Santis, not even bothering to show up.
And Bob Gorrell is correct in saying that the mainstream of the GOP seems to be pushing De Santis, and seems to have flushed Trump down the memory hole.
But it’s hardly that simple.
Juxtaposition of the Day
The former president made an appearance at CPAC, and, though he didn’t fill the room, the people there were, indeed, his people, to whom he made a speech in which he promised to depart from the Old Days.
And, he continued,
“In 2016, I declared, ‘I am your voice.’ Today I add, I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.”
Telnaes dismisses it as an old man shouting from his porch, while Davies sees it as a foreboding of a resurrection of the America First movement and a promise of destruction.
Which interpretation is correct likely hinges on the outcome.
Jack Ohman notes that Trump ran away with the convention’s straw poll, with 62% of the vote compared to De Santis’s meager 20%, but in a sparse MAGA crowd that tells us little of his overall popularity in the party.
What it does tell us, however, is that Trump hasn’t gone away and isn’t going away. For the 2024 election, this strongly suggests that he will be the Republican nominee.
He doesn’t have to get 50% in the primaries; he only needs to get the most votes, and with other candidates competing, the GOP Primary seems poised to ask the question “Trump or somebody else?” which is likely to fragment the never-Trump vote.
Could Trump then win in November? If Biden is the Democratic candidate, it would be a replay of an election that was relatively close with a few states providing razor-thin margins to determine the outcome. And if the Democrats offer another candidate, it would further depend on how well that candidate stood up through the campaign.
The other possibility is that De Santis manages to gain the nomination, which raises the specter of Trump running as a third-party candidate, splitting the conservative vote and sending the Republicans down in flames.
And, even if Trump were talked out of that destructive move, his disappointed fan base would likely stay home, just as they abandoned Fox for Newsmax on election night when Fox insisted on reporting the actual results.
Speaking of which, the horrific revelations of deliberate lies on the part of Fox News seems to only be a scandal on one side of the aisle, as Mike Beckom (Counterpoint)‘s cartoon explains.
To the extent the story is being covered where MAGA loyalists can see it, they’re encouraged to take it as business as usual and that “they all do it.”
Nobody has produced any emails in which MSNBC or CNN declare, as Fox did, their intention of lying in order to preserve their ratings and stock prices, but nobody has asked to see them.
They don’t need proof. They just need reassurance.
Clay Jones shows how this decision to slant coverage could become more official in the days to come. A Florida legislator has introduced a bill there to require bloggers who write about elected officials to register with the government.
It’s such a foolish idea that the details don’t much matter. And, if it somehow got into law and went to the Supreme Court, even the McConnell Court would certainly swat it down.
However, the same legislator is championing a bill to make it easier to sue publications for defamation, which has parallels around the nation, and a better chance of not only getting into law but of perhaps being upheld by the same court that overturned the “settled law” of Roe v Wade.
Nor, as Matt Wuerker (Politico) illustrates, should we expect any sort of party discipline to rein in the most absurd and extreme tendencies of the Freedom Caucus.
Kevin McCarthy made enough promises to the extreme fringe in order to secure his speakership that he is now riding the tiger and could not find a safe way to dismount even if he wanted to.
The latest bit of evidence being the completely predictable outcome of his having given exclusive access to the full 1/6 video to Tucker Carlson, who has a far firmer grip on the Republican Party than McCarthy, McConnell or Graham.
Last night, Carlson aired his first take on the tapes, denying that it was a riot and reassuring his large MAGA audience that the liberal media has been lying to them.