Attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference were treated to an off-script and unfiltered President Donald Trump on March 2. It was an unstructured and almost rambling monologue which indicated, if anything, the president’s level of comfort. There was a time when many people on the right doubted Trump would ever truly emerge as a leader of the conservative movement, but CPAC 2019 was a celebration of Trump Republicanism; a popular-conservative movement that has shed the compromising, go-along-to-get-along tendencies of the traditional Republican establishment.
Behind the podium for more than two hours, the president touched on every issue, from the size of the crowd at his inauguration to abortion to the Green New Deal, and did so with flashes of frustration, humor, sarcasm and a rare expletive. He also announced one piece of very welcome news for conservative students on college campuses.
Tell Us How You Really Feel, Mr. President
Addressing a raucous crowd, Trump referenced almost every prominent political issue of the past two years but devoted the most time to immigration policy, the Democratic Party’s embrace of socialism and the Russia collusion theory. The president is understandably frustrated with the ongoing, partisan investigations and he may sense that most Americans are too, given the absence of evidence to support the allegations against him. Though he is not the first president to use an expletive, Trump is not known for such language; he probably shocked and, perhaps, delighted many in the CPAC audience when he said “they’re trying to take you out with bulls**t,” describing how he felt about the Russia investigation.
True to his tendency for showmanship and a dash of stand-up comedy, the president ridiculed the Democrats’ new campaign platform of radical environmentalism. Referring to the progressive demand that the entire country shift to wind and solar power within the next decade, Trump went into a comedy skit, asking “Darling, is the wind blowing today? I’d like to watch television, darling.”
Taking On the Left’s Political Violence
One of the most poignant moments was the mention of a recent – but by no means isolated – act of violence committed by a left-wing activist against a conservative. In this case, a student on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, Hayden Williams, was punched in the face for exercising his First Amendment rights – an incident that encapsulates the modern leftist mentality. The president spoke about the attack and invited Williams to address the audience, saying, “He took a punch in the face for all of us.” Given the current climate of increased political violence, in which people are physically attacked just for wearing the famous, red “Make America Great Again” cap, this was an important message.
Bringing up the attack on Williams was a precursor to the president’s revelation that he is about to sign an executive order that will require colleges and universities to allow freedom of speech on campus or be denied federal funding. Such a measure is long overdue, but the fact that any president must take such action to protect a constitutional right is a damning indictment of the modern American left.
The president’s CPAC address had no specific focus, but he had enough time to cover almost everything, so this came as no surprise. His speech certainly was sprinkled with references to 2020, and he gave the impression that he is ready for – and relishing – a tough fight with whomever the Democrats nominate to challenge him. One thing became clear at this year’s CPAC, though; President Donald Trump has become the champion of the conservative movement, rather than the champion of the Republican Party. This is fitting because 2020 will not be a struggle for power between Democrats and Republicans but between socialists and conservatives.