CPAC 2021: Who won the Republican civil war?

(BBC): If you’re looking for evidence of a Republican civil war, the Conservative Political Action Conference was not the place to be.

No grappling with the party’s future in the face of Donald Trump’s defeat. No pondering the loss of control of the US Senate.

No reflecting on continued minority status in the House of Representatives. And certainly no regret over the January assault on the US Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.

The annual gathering of right-wing activists isn’t exactly a representative cross-section of the Republican Party, but it does show where the passions of grassroots and youth organisers reside. And within the confines of a sprawling hotel conference centre in Orlando, Florida the Republican fight over the future of conservatism, if it ever happened, appeared to be over with hardly a metaphorical shot fired.

It’s still Donald Trump’s party – and on Sunday, he basked in the reflected glow of the crowd’s adoration.

“Miss me yet?” Trump asked the thousands, many maskless, cheering in the ballroom. “I stand before you today to declare that the incredible journey we began together… is far from over.”

Also far from over is Trump’s fixation on his election loss last year. During an extended riff on the topic Sunday evening, which included a criticism of the US Supreme Court for declining to overturn the results, the CPAC crowd responded with a chant of “You won! You won! You won!”

Trump’s 38 days of self-imposed seclusion after leaving the White House haven’t lessened his willingness to traffic in the kind of unsupported claims of election fraud that culminated in the attack on the US Capitol – an event he made no mention of during his speech.

Trump did coyly hint at a 2024 president bid, however, saying that he might beat the Democrats “for a third time”.

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