Donald Trump’s February 28th Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) speech gave us a good idea of what to expect from him for the next two years. The speech introduced Trump version 2.0; not all that different from Trump 1.0. Bad news for the GOP.
Here are the big themes in Trump 2.0 and their implications for the 2022 midterms.
1.Trump’s continuing to push “the big lie.” Throughout his CPAC speech, Trump contended he won the November 3rd election: “I got more votes…they used COVID as a way of cheating… The Democrats used the China virus as an excuse to change all of the election rules without the approval of their state legislatures…This election was rigged and the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.” [Audience response: “You won. You won…”]
Trump will continue to push the big lie. It may help him with his base but for the other 75 percent of the electorate it’s old news.
To remain a political power, Donald needs media attention. The big lie won’t get him air time anywhere other than the usual GOP propaganda outlets (Fox, OAN, and Newsmax) — Trump’s CPAC speech wasn’t carried by the other media outlets.
2. Republicans will use their experience of the 2020 election as an excuse for voter suppression. Trump said, “Another one of the most urgent issues facing the Republican Party is that of ensuring fair, honest, and secure elections.” He outlined several steps: “One election day.” In other words, no early voting or mail-in voting. “We must have voter id.” “We need universal signature matching.” Trump contends that he lost the 2020 election because of voting abuses. (The CNN fact-checker (https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/28/politics/donald-trump-cpac-speech-fact-check/index.html) pointed out that Trump’s claim has been refuted.)
Question: In 2022, What will Republicans stand for? Answer: Voter suppression.
3. Trump wants Republicans to purge their ranks of GOP Senators and Representatives that voted for his impeachment: Senators Burr, Cassidy, Collins, Murkowski, Romney, Sasse, and Toomey; Representatives Herrera-Beutler, Cheney, Gonazlez, Katko, Kinzinger, Meyer, Newhouse, Rice, Upton, and Valadao. Of the 7 Republican Senators, only Alaska Senator Murkowski is up for reelection in 2022. (Burr and Toomey are retiring.)
Of the ten Republican House members that opposed Trump, all ten can expect Trump-based primary opponents. Congressman Valadao represents California swing district 25. Valadao defeated his opponent, T.J. Cox, by 1500 votes — after losing to Cox in 2018 by a smaller margin. In 2022, if Trump finds a proxy to run against Valadao, that probably ensures a Cox victory.
Taking revenge on Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment is not a winning strategy. It will further diminish the GOP.
4. Trump defined “Trumpism.” “What it means is great, great trade deals… It means low taxes and eliminating job-killing regulations… It means no riots in the streets. It means law enforcement. It means very strong protection for the second Amendment…. It means a strong military and taking care of our troops… We stand up to political correctness… we reject cancel culture.” (Trump conveniently ignored the January 6th insurrection when he said, “[Trumpism] means no riots in the streets.”)
From the perspective of a 2022 Republican candidate, Trumpism means loyalty to Trump. Trumpism doesn’t subsume a distinct set of policy objectives; except for cutting taxes, opposing immigration, and (of course) not wearing masks. In 2022, Trumpism will not be a winning strategy; Voters will be most concerned about jobs, healthcare, and climate change.
5 Besides complaining about the 2020 presidential election, Trump spent the largest portion of his 90-minute speech talking about immigration. “When I left office, just six weeks ago, we had created the most secure border in U.S. history… Joe Biden has triggered a massive flood of illegal immigration into ur country, the likes of which we have never seen before…Biden’s radical immigration policies aren’t just illegal. They’re immoral.”
Trump pivoted to Biden’s “pathway to citizenship” initiative and argued: “The democratic immigration bill is a globalist con. You take a look at the corporatist, big tech attack on hardworking citizens…”
From the perspective of a 2022 Republican candidate, Trumpism means opposition to Biden’s immigration policies. Once again, this will not be a winning issue in 2022. (By the way, most voters approve of Biden’s pathway-to-citizenship initiative (https://www.pollingreport.com/immigration.htm).)
6. Despite the recent surge of ultra-cold weather in most of the U.S., Trump didn’t talk about climate change. (Of course.) But he did reiterate his opposition to the Paris Climate accords. “Joe Biden put the United States back into the very unfair and very costly Paris Climate Accord without negotiating a better deal….I could have made an unbelievable deal and gone back in, but I didn’t want to do that.”
From the perspective of a 2022 Republican candidate, Trumpism means opposition to Biden’s climate policies. Not a winning position.
7. Trump didn’t talk much about Biden’s proposed “American Rescue plan.” Trump said: “The Democrats now say we have to pass their $1.9 trillion boondoggle to open schools, but a very small part of it has to do with that. You know where it’s going… it’s going to bail out badly run Democrats.”
From the perspective of a 2022 Republican candidate, Trumpism means opposition to the American Rescue Plan. Not a winning position — two-thirds of voters support this plan.
8. Trump presented a (familiar) cartoon image of Democrats: ” The mission of the Democrat party is to promote socialism… ultimately leading, unfortunately, to communism… Their party is based upon unvarnished disdain for America.”
From the perspective of a 2022 Republican candidate, Trumpism means opposition to Democrats because they “socialists.”
9. Republicans have become the Party of “White Grievance.” Writing in the Washington Post, Republican columnist Michael Gerson (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-gop-is-now-just-the-party-of-white-grievance/2021/03/01/67679480-7ab9-11eb-85cd-9b7fa90c8873_story.html) observed: “One of the poisonous legacies of Donald Trump’s presidency has been to expand the boundaries of expressible prejudice. Through the explicit practice of White-identity politics, Trump has obviated the need for code words and dog whistles… The party has been swiftly repositioned as an instrument of white grievance. It refuses to condemn racists within its congressional ranks. Its main national legislative agenda seems to be the suppression of minority voting.”
“White grievance” may be emotionally satisfying for Republicans, but it won’t produce a viable political movement.
Summary: Besides complaining about the 2020 presidential election results, Donald Trump’s CPAC speech provided a sketchy outline of what it takes to be labelled a “Trumpism” candidate in 2022. Above all, fealty to Trump. Beyond that, opposition to all Biden policies, Rejection of “cancel culture.” And white grievance.
Trump 2.0 is a tired reworking of Trump 1.0. On November 3rd, Trump 1.0 lost by 7 million votes. Trump 2.0 will appeal to Donald’s acolytes but no one else.