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CPAC: Trump to make first post-White House speech at rightwing summit

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Donald Trump returns to the political stage on Sunday determined to show that he is still a major force in America and ready to purge his critics within the Republican party.

In his first post-presidential speech, Trump will address the biggest annual gathering of grassroots conservatives in Orlando, Florida, immediately after a poll is expected to show he is most attendees’ first choice for the Republican nomination in 2024.

“We’re looking forward to Sunday,” Trump’s son, Don Jr, told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). “I imagine it will not be what we call a low energy speech, and I assure you that it will solidify Donald Trump and all of your feelings about the Maga [Make America great again] movement as the future of the Republican party.”

CPAC has always offered a glimpse of tectonic plates shifting beneath the conservative movement. In 2009 the conference disavowed the presidency of George W Bush, which had led to the Iraq war and ended in financial catastrophe. In 2016 it was wary of Trump, who cancelled his speech, but a year later it had fully embraced him and his administration.

In 2021 the conference seems to offer proof that the Republican party is no longer in the political mainstream but has veered into far-right extremism. Speakers have raged against “cancel culture”, radical socialism and “big tech” companies while pushing Trump’s bogus claims of election fraud and denying he has any culpability for the subsequent insurrection at the US Capitol.

CPAC is also working doubly hard to shore up Trump’s position as Republican standard bearer even after he lost the trifecta of White House, House of Representatives and Senate and was twice impeached.

Matt Schlapp, the president of the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC, told the Washington Post: “Even though Donald Trump is a one-term president, there’s this feeling among Republicans that he was a huge, smashing success.

A statue of Donald Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, 26 February 2021.
A statue of Donald Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, 26 February 2021. Photograph: Octavio Jones/Reuters

“That doesn’t mean that every moment of every day, of every news cycle, was pleasurable. What it means is that from a policy perspective, he basically ticked through the list of things that he said he would do.”

The cult of personality has manifested itself in Trump bumper stickers, hats, T-shirts, face masks and other merchandise with slogans such as “Trump 2024” and “Miss me yet?”, as well as a giant gold-colored statue of the 45th president dressed in a jacket, red tie and Stars-and-Stripes boxing shorts and wielding a star wand.

Speaker after speaker has ostentatiously pledged their loyalty, implying that the genie cannot be put back in the bottle. Ted Cruz, a Republican senator for Texas, told attendees on Friday: “Let me tell you something: Donald Trump ain’t going anywhere.”

The posture has ensured that Trump’s small band of foes within the Republican party has been targeted for criticism just as much as the man who beat him last November, Democratic president Joe Biden.

Trump Jr warned against any return to an old Republican party beholden to special interests by singling out Liz Cheney, the daughter of Bush’s vice-president Dick Cheney and the No 3 Republican in the House. Cheney voted for Trump’s impeachment after the 6 January insurrection at the US Capitol and criticised his plan to appear at CPAC.

Cheney, Trump Jr argued, “is the leader of that failed movement and, if we want to go back to losing, if we want to go back to an America last policy, we should be following that,” he said. “But I don’t, and I don’t think anyone in this room does either.”

Matt Gaetz, a Florida congressman who held a rally in Cheney’s home state of Wyoming to demand her resignation, earned cheers CPAC by asserting: “If Liz Cheney were on this stage today, she would get booed…

Read More: CPAC: Trump to make first post-White House speech at rightwing summit -news.google.com

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