It's not going to be easy for the US Republican Party to break free from the clutches of former President Donald J. Trump. This is what can be deduced from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held over three days in Orlando, in the state of Florida, where Trump has set up his post-presidential office.At this convention, established in 1974 to check up on conservatives, the apotheosis of his appearance and speech was a new demonstration that neither he admits that his political cycle is over nor that Trumpism has reached the end of its political path. Both the man and his doctrine have claimed to be essential to the Republican Party, almost as if Abraham Lincoln's Grand Old Party belonged to them.
From choreography to content, the GOP oozed the stridency that has characterised its four years in the White House. Hymns such as 'Macho Man' by the Village People, 'Gloria' by Laura Branigan or 'Proud to be an American' by Lee Greenwood, cheered Trump's triumphal entry into the great convention hall, in which none of those still considered to be party heavyweights were present. Former vice-president Mike Pence, a loyal lieutenant and supposedly great friend until he resisted executing in the Senate the scheme concocted by Trump to nullify the verdict of the ballot box that gave an uncontested victory to Joe Biden, was not there. Nor did the old fox Mitch McConnell, former head of the old Republican majority in the Senate, who gave Trump the coup de grâce by considering him "practically and morally responsible" for the violent assault on Congress, but who, aware of the twists and turns of politics, declared to a local radio station that "of course he would support Trump" if he were elected the party's candidate for the 2024 presidential elections. In the end, none of the still big names in the party cheered Trump this time, who took the blow by claiming to embody among the rank and file, i.e. the people, the best representation of the party.
As usual, Trump continues to claim a victory that, in his opinion, was stolen, without, of course, providing any evidence to prove it, and bypassing the 82 trials that rejected his claims. The ex-president blatantly accused the current US electoral system of being "sick and corrupt", and in the midst of a dizzying rally he vented his anger at the Supreme Court and the other courts of justice, "this election was rigged, and the Supreme Court and other courts didn't want to do anything about it."
With his interest in taking over the Republican Party uncovered, Trump harbours no intention for now of founding a new party with his loyalists, which would supposedly bleed the ranks of the GOP, according to polls provided by delegates attending the conference. As many as 40 per cent would follow him blindly if he decided to found such a new party. Other polls also indicated that if Trump decides to run in 2024 he will win with 55% of the vote, something that even his greatest critic within the Republican Party, Senator Mitt Romney, the only one, by the way, who voted against Trump in the two impeachments to which he was subjected for the first time in US history, admits.
Deprived of the firepower he wielded through the social networks, Trump did not waste his speech, which was picked up live by all the major US media and not a few international ones, to show his deep hostility to the first measures dictated by President Biden, which aim to undo Trump's legacy in a hurry. He was especially critical of the current White House tenant's intention to legalise some 11 million immigrants, among them many of the dreamers, who arrived in the country when they were just children. And, of course, he also wants to exclusively appropriate the flag of patriotism when he points out that "we have gone from America First to America Least", an extension of the country anthem that opens and closes his incendiary speeches, 'God Bless the USA'.
It was his official return to the political stage after his retirement to Mar-a-Lago. It is clear that Trump and Trumpism are reluctant to turn the page and are predicting a more than stormy relationship with the Biden Administration. The Republican Party will therefore have a lot of work to do to design a new leadership.