Trumpism Grips a Post-Policy G.O.P. as Traditional Conservatism FadesBreaking News
tags: Republican Party, conservatism, CPAC
ORLANDO, Fla. — For decades, the same ritual took place in the aftermath of Republican electoral defeats.
Moderate, establishment-aligned party officials would argue that candidates had veered too far right on issues like immigration, as well as in their language, and would counsel a return to the political center. And conservatives would contend that Republicans had abandoned the true faith and must return to first principles to distinguish themselves from Democrats and claim victory.
One could be forgiven for missing this debate in the aftermath of 2020, because it is scarcely taking place.
Since the dawn of the modern conservative movement in the mid-20th century, there has been an element of victimhood politics on the right — a sense that powerful liberal forces are arrayed against conservatives, and that Republicans can send a message with their vote.
“Annoy the Media: Re-elect Bush” was one of the more popular stickers in the 1992 campaign of George H.W. Bush, who is now frequently remembered as the gentlemanly antithesis of Mr. Trump. Yet within the Republican Party, there were always debates — intense, immense and highly consequential.
In the 1970s, the party clashed over the United States’ role in the world, splitting over control of the Panama Canal and whether the Soviet Union should be confronted with an open hand or a clenched fist. In the 1980s and ’90s, the abortion battles raged, with opposition to Roe v. Wade emerging as a litmus test for many on the right.
In the second Bush administration and the years after, Republicans were divided over immigration and, once again, on America’s footprint overseas.
Notably, many of these clashes played out at CPAC. In 2011, Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana at the time, used a high-profile speech at the gathering to warn against the growing peril of “the new red menace” — red ink, not the Red Army — that was aimed at conservatives upset by the heavy spending of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Former Representative Ron Paul of Texas, and then his son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, used the conclaves to challenge Bush-style interventionism, delighting youthful audiences and prompting them to flood the straw poll balloting on their behalf.
Not coincidentally, the three top finishers in this year’s straw poll were the three who most prominently flouted coronavirus restrictions: Mr. Trump, Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Noem.
“They are perceived as Trump-friendly, new, young outsiders,” Amanda Carpenter, a former Senate G.O.P. aide who now writes for The Bulwark website, said of Mr. DeSantis, 42, and Ms. Noem, 49.
Interviews with conference attendees suggested that many of them were drawn to the two governors primarily for their style.
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