Donald Trump was once again the keynote speaker at CPAC this year, with the conservative conference largely being tailored around him since he first entered the White House.
After winning the straw poll, the former president took the stage to deliver a speech that can only be described as vintage Trump. How much of an appeal that still has will be a point of contention among Republicans, but no one can deny his ability to work a room.
Besides, I think we can all agree that this stuff is hilarious.
When Trump is on message and hitting Democrats, he’s at his best. That he’s got the stage presence and ability of a well-versed comedian is a big asset as well. In a general election, finesse is needed in how you address an opponent (because the middle is easily offended), but in a primary, I don’t think Trump can go wrong making fun of Joe Biden. I hope he keeps it up, if only for the pure entertainment value.
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But as with most everything in life, a little scrutiny offers a bit more of a mixed bag. Take this line, for example.
That sounds great, but it’s also a pretty misleading claim (at best). Trump did not take on “the entire corrupt establishment.” Rather, he came into office and allied with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Not only did he endorse both politically, but he prioritized their priorities. Trump brought Karl Rove on as an advisor for his 2020 campaign. He hired John Bolton and Mike Esper. I could list dozens of other examples, but I don’t need to because everyone reading this knows them already.
The point is, grandiose proclamations are nice for political speeches, but Trump really needs to lay out the case for how things will be different in a second term. I don’t just mean “hire better people,” either. We need to know how he’s going to ensure he hires better people. Who will they be (at least in key positions)? He hasn’t really laid any of that out yet, and it’s a missed opportunity.
Moving on, here’s another fan favorite that is being spread on social media.
I can’t disagree with that, though again, it’d be nice if he admitted his past failures in endorsing Paul Ryan and hiring Karl Rove, among others. Regardless, it is unquestionably true that the Republican Party is not going back to what it was pre-2016. The neo-conservative bent is done, and there is zero desire to resurrect it among GOP voters. Republicans are also no longer the party of big business. They don’t just care about lowering corporate tax rates. They want leaders who will get things done that improve their lives, and part of that is winning the culture war, not just boiling everything down to an economic equation.
Trump continued his speech by making several broad promises.
Those are perfectly fine things to aspire to, but Trump’s issue will be explaining to skeptical GOP voters why he didn’t do all that during his first term. Some will accept the idea that he was preoccupied with the full frontal assault of the Russian collusion hoax. Others will be less swayed, believing that he still made far too many preventable mistakes.
With all that said, it was a good speech for Trump. I think he’s at his best in front of a crowd, delivering his lines, and having fun. He’s at his worst ranting about “Ron DeSanctimonious” and “Coco Chow” on Truth Social. But that’s who he is, and the good is always delivered with the bad. That’s either something a GOP voter can accept or something they will want to move on from.