(CNN) — Nothing can end the former president Donald Trump in the eyes of those who love him, one of the reasons his influence on American politics remains formidable.
The former president demonstrated this weekend that the defeat after a single term, the misfortune of his insurrection against American democracy and the death of 400,000 Americans under his tenure in a pandemic he played down, they don’t hurt his appeal to Republicans.
Indeed, potential rivals’ efforts by 2024 to replicate his extremism show that Trump’s bizarre magic is only validated by his transgressions.
The former US president was the star of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held Sunday in Dallas, an organization that once elevated a champion of world democracy, President Ronald Reagan, but has become a Trump cult.
“We were doing so well until the rigged elections came out,” Trump said, expressing the lie at the center of the conference that he has turned into the entry point for GOP candidates in 2022, potentially poisoning the US elections during years.
Trump and his “unmatched ability to sell intolerant policies”
There is the argument that a former president who is out of power but still desperate for attention should simply be ignored. Certainly, Trump’s ambiguous, vain, and full of lies lacked coherence and any sort of aspirational appeal, instead highlighting his signature cocktail of racial demagogy, personal blows to enemies, mountainous falsehoods, and desperate pursuit of personal adulation. .
For an outsider, it can be tedious and a mere imitation of the lighthearted and sometimes even humorous appearances that paved Trump’s path to power in 2016. But touching all the sore points of the conservative media canon – from law and order to the “culture of cancellation” and immigration, to complaints that the media only talk about “race, race, race” – Trump demonstrated his still unmatched ability to sell bigoted policies.
But, more than that, it demonstrated his ability to invoke an alternative belief system that is alien to reality, but is readily embraced by his supporters: the hallmark of strongman leaders throughout history.
Attack on William Barr
For example, he launched a scathing attack on former Attorney General William Barr, who for most of his time in office acted as a political shield for Trump’s crushing of political rules, but drew the line in their electoral lies.
“I told him, ‘Bill, you have to move your butt. Our country is under attack,'” the former president said, thus confirming his own unprecedented assault on US democratic institutions, while complaining that Barr had not authorized investigations into false allegations of voter fraud in Pennsylvania.
His confession revealed once again that even the most zealous collaborators who do not buy into his abuses of power are sooner or later branded heretics by the former president.
Trumpism is on
Trump is not only popular at CPAC, where the crowd greeted his speech with joy. The fact that their populist extremism is being implemented by the governors of the Republican Party in the states it won demonstrates its lasting power.
The same goes for the efforts of Republican state legislators across the country to restrict the vote based on their lies about a stolen election.
Trump’s ability to orchestrate Republican behavior is almost as intact as when he sat in the Oval Office – his derailment over a bipartisan, independent investigation of the January 6 outrage is proof of that. These are all reasons why you can’t just ignore Trump.
Trump’s fingerprint will be on the 2024 ballots, with or without him
Six months after his supporters attacked the US Capitol – amid an effort by senior GOP officials to reinvent the history of the time – the former president’s threat to American democracy remains extreme.
And even if Trump does not run again in the presidential election – and gives every impression that he has already launched a four-year campaign – the political brand of the grievance he invented and maintains will be on the ballot, as his list shows. possible heirs, from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem.
So while much of Trump’s speech was retrospective, providing an optimistic and false image of an administration that left his country deeply divided, the false belief system that has already captured the hearts and minds of millions of voters is real.
Will Trumpism manage to captivate all fringes of the Republican Party?
The crucial question is whether the message that is so electric to Trump supporters will continue to cause the kind of revulsion among suburban and more moderate voters who defected from Trump’s Republican Party and saw him lose the House, Senate and White House in a single four-year term.
And could another messenger like DeSantis or Noem, or Texas Governor Greg Abbott, so captivate the conservative base?
The former president is relentless when it comes to addressing issues such as illegal immigration, calls by some liberals to defund the police and the growing crime wave to paint the country as out of control and under the domination of leftists, all as a possible way to broaden its appeal.
But his continued destruction of the truth comes at a time when US President Joe Biden is notably ignoring his predecessor, positioning himself as a moderate and traditional commander-in-chief.
Trump, Biden’s biggest impediment
This week, Biden will talk about gun violence and crime in cities, which has skyrocketed as the pandemic subsides. It is likely that he will again ask Americans to get vaccinated to finally defeat COVID-19, even as Trump supporters, such as Republican representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia and Lauren Boebert from Colorado they claim that the government effort to vaccinate is similar to Nazism.
But as Biden tries to carry out his promise to unite the country and work with Republicans on infrastructure reform, for example, it is clear that ultimately the biggest impediment he faces is Trump’s unaltered power.
The CPAC was, for example, a microcosm example of the fact that much of America’s voting public now lives in an alternate reality in which Trump won the election and Biden lost. Speaker after speaker alluded to election fraud, despite the lack of any supporting evidence for any of Trump’s failed legal and political attempts to overturn a free and fair election.
His demeanor underscored once again that the usual battle between conservatism and liberalism over the meaning of America itself has been overcome. A political party remains deeply enslaved by a leader who does not stop lying and who is dedicated to overthrowing the democratic American political system itself.
Trump supporters cheer that Biden hasn’t met his vaccination goal
At one point Saturday that exemplified the strength of the ideology of the right, the CPAC crowd cheered the fact that Biden did not meet his vaccination goal, as more than 30% of adults – most of them in conservative states that are now affected by the delta variant of covid-19 – have not yet received at least one dose.
That situation scandalized the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been made a scapegoat by conservatives eager to cover up Trump’s own disastrous handling of the pandemic.
“It’s awful. They’re glad someone says it’s good that people aren’t trying to save their lives,” Fauci told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.
On #CNNSOTU w/ @jaketapper, Dr. Anthony Fauci calls the reaction by the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Committee to a conservative author’s comments about the US falling short of it’s vaccination goal ‘horrifying’ https://t.co/riMPKronHA
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) July 11, 2021
Without spending your political capital on vaccines
It was striking that, while Trump demanded fair recognition of the vaccine that was developed under his administration – he claimed that it saved 100 million lives – he did not make any call for people to be vaccinated.
The former president’s reluctance to spend his political capital on an issue that conflicts with the orthodoxy of many conservatives and that could save thousands of lives remains striking, even after months of smashing the guidelines during the early phases of the pandemic. science-based public health programs.
And Trump had the power to change his mind at the CPAC meeting, as 70% of attendees who participated in an unscientific polling poll chose him as their preferred candidate for 2024.
The worst public health crisis in 100 years is now caught in the same relentless whirlwind of misinformation and lies that drowns out the truth of what happened last November in conservative circles. Trump bills as a massive triumph his multiple failures in a crisis that he promised would simply “go away.”
The governor of South Dakota, with a position that ignores reality … like Trump
And the possible candidate that many conservatives would want to see on a ballot with him in 2024, Noem from South Dakota, is counting their refusal to adopt basic public health guidelines that save lives as a political virtue.
“We have Republican governors across the country pretending they didn’t close their states; they didn’t close their regions; they didn’t order face masks,” Noem told CPAC.
He seemed to be drawing a contrast to DeSantis and Abbott – who took a more restrictive but still lax approach – with a future Republican primary debate in mind.
“Now I’m not looking for fights with Republican governors. All I’m saying is that we need leaders with guts,” added Noem.
The fact that his state, mostly rural and with few of the large cities that helped the rapid spread of the covid, had 230 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, according to data from the Universidad Johns Hopkins – ranking it 10th on that metric out of 50 states – raises serious questions about Noem’s track record. Like the reality that South Dakota also had 14,090 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, giving it the third highest rate in the nation.
But as Trump has shown, the ability to reinvent the truth and ignore reality could be the most important asset in a potential presidential candidate, in the Republican Party, three years before the next election.
CNN’s Maeve Reston contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism