Any lingering belief that Donald J. Trump would disappear from the political scene like other past presidents completely vanished on Sunday as he spoke for more than 90 minutes in a complaint and self-encouraging speech that spruced up his legacy as president wanted to aim at his enemies and tease his political future.
Here are six food stalls from the first major Republican meeting of the post-Trump era, the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida.
Trump has (almost) total dominance.
“I’m not starting a new party,” said Trump, who destroyed rumors and made news in the first moments of his post-presidency’s first speech.
And why should he? Mr Trump remains the most influential Republican politician in the nation. The three-day CPAC meeting in Orlando demonstrated how extensively the Republican Party has been redesigned in its image in the five years since its boycott of the conference in 2016 in its quest to win the party’s nomination.
In a meandering speech, led by a teleprompter and punctuated by cheers that were sometimes more obligatory than enthusiastic, Mr Trump slapped President Biden and outlined his vision of a culture and immigration Republican party as he dismissed his specific grievances Released in 2020.
Mr Trump named every Republican who voted for his impeachment. “Get rid of them all,” he said. And he predicted that a Republican would win the White House in 2024. “Who, who, who will that be, I ask myself?” he thought.
The speech took place immediately after winning a CPAC 2024 presidential election and ended with 55 percent of the vote – more than twice as much as its closest runner-up. However, that win was dampened by the fact that only 68 percent of conference attendees said they wanted it to run again.
A second straw poll without Mr. Trump was conducted by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who received 43 percent on his home lawn, followed by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, with 11 percent.
These results highlighted the challenge senators face when it comes to staying one step ahead of the governors in the 2024 package of potential presidential candidates. Both Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Noem emphasized their efforts to keep the economy open during the coronavirus pandemic, which proved to be a more popular resume than the legislative battles that Washington senators were involved in.
“Abort culture” is the new “wrong news”.
In his first presidential bid, Mr. Trump took “false news” as a rally against the traditional news media and then used it effectively and tirelessly to position himself as the sole arbiter of the truth for his supporters.
The CPAC spokesperson’s lineup over the weekend showed how thoroughly a new pair of catchphrases – “break culture” and “lively mob” – are revitalizing a Republican party that, beyond support for Mr Trump, is increasingly focused on self-defining the left .
“Didn’t anyone tell you about it?” Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri began his CPAC address. “You should be canceled.”
The crowd cheered as “Cancel Culture” served as a shortcut all weekend to pummel the news media, rant the tech industry (particularly Twitter and Facebook’s decisions to ban Mr. Trump from their platforms) and the Fear of the decline of spreading conservative and religious values in American popular culture.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz, one of his party’s most skilled culture warriors, summed up the anger and alienation felt by right-wing gathering attendees over the ongoing pandemic.
“You can kiss the guy next to you in French and yell ‘Abolish the Police’ and nobody gets infected,” he mocked. “But if you go to church and say ‘Amazing Grace’ everyone will die.”
A “rigged” 2020 is now a G.O.P. Articles of Faith.
T.W. Shannon, a Republican from Oklahoma, was the first to say it. Speaking at a podium Friday morning titled “Tolerance Rethinking: The Angry Mob and Violence in Our Streets,” Mr Shannon said the reason pro-Trump protesters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 was because ” they felt hopeless ”.
And that, he said, was “because of a rigged election”.
The elections were not rigged, of course, but by the end of the CPAC it was clear that the lie that Mr Trump had vigorously propagated had become canon among Republican Party bases. On Sunday, the results of the conference’s straw poll showed that 62 percent of attendees rated “electoral integrity” as the country’s top concern.
To those involved in Mr. Hawley’s speech, this probably didn’t come as a surprise: Mr. Hawley, the first Senate Republican to announce his plans to object to electoral college certification, electrified the CPAC audience when he did reminded her of his defiance.
“I objected to electoral college certification on January 6th – you may have heard of it,” said Mr. Hawley with an ironic grin. The people burst into applause.
In interviews, several CPAC participants firmly believed that widespread electoral fraud had led to the election of Mr Biden – and some inadvertently suggested the long-term consequences this could mean for the party.
Pamela Roehl, 55, who had traveled to the conference from Illinois, said some of her pro-Trump friends had written off civic engagement for good. “They voted for Trump and they said they won’t vote again because they just feel like it’s so spoiled,” she said. “And that’s just so sad.”
There was little interest in politics – whether Biden or the Republican Party.
At the start of the conference, House Democrats prepared to approve a nearly $ 2 trillion coronavirus aid package that every Republican in the House spoke out against. But at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, it was difficult to find many Conservatives to take care of it.
In recent years, CPAC has at least served as a forum for conservatives to unite against a democratic political agenda. But most of the weekend speakers received applause by channeling the personality preoccupation through the politics that animated the party during Mr Trump’s presidency. The result was an event in which conservatives expressed their lack of interest in not only mobilizing against Mr Biden’s policies, but also debating their own intricacies.
Mr DeSantis suggested that the current threat from the left was too dangerous for conservatives to prioritize political discussions.
“We can sit around and have academic debates on conservative politics – we can,” he said. “But the question is when the klieg lights will be hot when the left comes after you: will you stay strong or will you fold?”
In one example of how Mr Trump changed the party, there was strikingly little mention of spending being cut back at a moment when Congress Democrats are struggling to restore earmarks. While CPAC attendees ranked immigration as the country’s third top issue, few speakers discussed specific policy proposals to shape the party’s stance on the issue without continuing to support Mr Trump’s border wall.
Kristi Noem is celebrated as the “female trump card”.
Ms. Noem, who finished second behind Mr. DeSantis in the CPAC straw poll without Mr. Trump, was one of the standout speakers of the weekend and delivered a decidedly pro-Trump message and highlighting the anti-lockdown and anti-mask policies that made them a grassroots favorite of the Republican Party over the past year.
She rose to fame in Republican circles last year when she refused to issue a South Dakota lockout or mask mandate. Instead, she advocated “washing your hands and making good decisions”.
South Dakota now has that eighth highest death rate in the country after Covid-19.
Ms. Noem received a standing ovation at CPAC for boasting of never ordering the closure of an “individual shop or church” and another when she spoke to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert.
In the hours leading up to her speech on Saturday, many participants praised Ms. Noem as their favorite Republican – apart from Mr Trump, of course.
“I like Kristi Noem because she is fighting back,” said Sany Dash, who sold pro-Trump merchandise at the conference. “I feel like a female trump card, except not being blatant or rude.”
The republican “civil war” remains largely unbroken.
Florida Senator Rick Scott, who heads the Republican Political Committee trying to win back the Senate in 2022, tried to downplay intra-party disagreements and urged activists to focus on opposing the Democratic agenda.
The problem is that some of his party’s biggest names – including and especially Mr. Trump – are initially focused on seeking revenge for those who have strayed from the Trump party line for impeachment.
Donald Trump Jr. pissed off Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, the senior Republican, to sue his father as aggressively as any Democrat in his speech. Mr Trump announced on Friday that one of his first endorsements for 2022 would be for the main opponent of Ohio Representative Anthony Gonzalez, another Republican who voted for impeachment. The mere mention of Senator Mitt Romney’s name was derided.
In his own speech, Mr. Trump named every Republican who voted for his impeachment in the House of Representatives and for his Senate conviction, paying special attention to Ms. Cheney, whom he described as a “warmonger”.
But even when critical parts of the Republican apparatus are at war, the party’s activist flank remains firmly behind Mr. Trump. Or, as he put it, “The only separation is between a handful of Washington, DC political hacks and everyone else.”
There were no more surefire lines of applause than those praising the former president.
When Donald Trump Jr. jokingly called the congregation “TPAC” instead of CPAC – “This is how it feels, folks!” he said – it felt less like an awkward joke and more like a statement about the reality of 2021.