Donald Trump received a rapturous welcome from the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando on Sunday. It was a first test of his support among Republicans since the Jan. 6 riot the former president incited against the U.S. Congress. It showed plenty of Republicans still love him.
Mr. Trump used the occasion to denounce by name the Republican representatives and senators who voted to impeach or convict him because of the riot. He clearly means to silence his critics within the party. He also dismissed the idea of starting a new Trump party that would run candidates against Republicans. His plan at the moment is to use the Republicans as the Trump party.
Trump calls for GOP unity, repeats lies about election lossClick to Expand
Posted: 5:32 AM Mar. 1, 2021
ORLANDO, Fla. - Taking the stage for the first time since leaving office, former President Donald Trump called for GOP unity, even as he exacerbated intraparty divisions by attacking fellow Republicans and promoting lies about the election in a speech that made clear he intends to remain a dominant political force.
Speaking Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he was hailed as a returning hero, Trump blasted his successor, President Joe Biden, and tried to lay out a vision for the future of the GOP that revolves firmly around him, despite his loss in November.
This should come as good news to President Joe Biden and the ruling Democrats. Mr. Trump lost the election four months ago with 74.2 million votes and 232 electoral college votes against 81.3 million votes and 306 electoral votes for Mr. Biden.
The election was, above all, a referendum on Mr. Trump and his four years in office. It showed that he scares more Americans than he delights, by a ratio of 81 to 74. His conduct since the election, especially the Jan. 6 riot, has won him new enemies but no new friends.
Mr. Trump and his followers say – and may actually believe – that the election results were falsified and he received more votes than Mr. Biden. After polling day, he tried hard to persuade the elections chief in the state of Georgia to falsify the result so as to deliver that state to him.
Mr. Trump clings to the belief that the way you win elections in America is by sneaking behind the curtain and bullying the electoral mechanics to re-write the numbers. It didn’t work for him in 2020 and it is unlikely to work better in a future election.
The Trump movement is powered by overlapping delusions. Despite the evidence of the election results, the movement believes it enjoys majority support. Despite the failure of Mr. Trump’s vote-rigging efforts, the movement believes it can win elections by vote-rigging, even if the majority of votes are against them. While they persist in these delusions, they need not worry about winning new friends and supporters.
This leaves the ruling Democrats in a strong position. They hold the slimmest possible majority in the Senate – 50 of the 100 seats plus the deciding vote of Vice-President Kamala Harris – and a majority of just 10 seats in the lower House. But the former president they just defeated, who has seemingly lost touch with reality, has a firm grip on the party now in opposition and is inducing it to accept his delusions.
The main obvious threat to the Democrats at the 2022 mid-term elections and the 2024 presidential election will be voter suppression aimed at disenfranchising Democratic supporters. Strenuous Democratic registration and campaign efforts spurred by fears of Mr. Trump’s re-election neutralized the voter suppression tactics in 2020. As long as Mr. Trump or someone like him runs for the Republicans next time, the same fears can be mobilized once again.
If Mr. Trump or his party starts to show signs of recognizing that they lost in 2020 and that they have to start listening to people who disagree with them, the Democrats could be in trouble. Until then, Mr. Biden can sit back and watch the Republican party tear itself apart.