Trump reigns supreme at CPAC as he relaunches his bid for the White House

<span>Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/f.KyJsJhTKRM3Lm1atNJtA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQyMw–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_guardian_765/87225e13a4e95282f56261e286e694f5″ data- src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/f.KyJsJhTKRM3Lm1atNJtA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQyMw–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_guardian_765/87225e13a4e95282f56261e286e694f5″/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Donald Trump on Saturday turned back the clock to the darkest elements of his presidency with a fiery speech that showed that the threat to American democracy is far from over.

After a lackluster start to his campaign, Trump appeared to launch his bid for the White House in earnest with a vintage display of demagoguery, framing the 2024 election as “the last battle” for America.

The former president, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and trademark red tie, also declared war on his own Republican Party to the delight of eager fans in the crowd who chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” and “USA! USA! USA!”

Related: Trump rival Nikki Haley seeks support from Republicans ‘tired of losing’

Polls suggest that Trump’s grip on the party is slipping in the wake of January 6, 2021, uprising and one disappointing midway performance. But he continues to reign supreme at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), billed as the largest annual gathering of grassroots conservatives.

Feeding off the energy of a crowd wearing “Make America great again” (Maga) caps and overseen by Brazil’s far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro, Trump returned to the authoritarian language that characterized his political rise seven years ago.

“In 2016, I declared: I am your voice,” he said, speaking for just over 100 minutes from a bright blue and red stage in a cavernous ballroom at the closing address of the CPAC event in Maryland. “Today I add: I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed: I am your retribution,” he said.

Trump left office in disgrace after two impeachments and a failed attempt to overturn his defeat by Joe Biden in the 2020 election, culminating in a deadly riots at the US Capitol. He faces a number of criminal investigations announced another presidential run last November at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Supporters of Donald Trump as he speaks at CPAC

Supporters of Donald Trump as he speaks at CPAC Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

That subdued launch failed to deter rival Republican rivals such as Nikki Haley, former UN ambassador who has threw his hat in the ring. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen as the most serious threat to Trump, opted out of CPAC and is instead meeting potential backers in California.

The atmosphere at CPAC, held at a convention center at National Harbor in Maryland, was subdued for most of the week, but on Saturday night the 45th president drew by far the largest and rowdiest crowd. “I didn’t know this was a convention, Matt,” Trump told CPAC impresario Matt Schlapp at one point. “It really is a convention.”

Perhaps stung by critics who say Trump has lost his first campaign, Trump seemed determined to tap into supporters’ nostalgia and argue that together they could rekindle the old magic. “For seven years you and I have been engaged in an epic struggle to save our country from the people who hate it and absolutely want to destroy it,” he said.

“We will finish what we started. We started something that was a miracle. We must complete the mission, we must see this battle through to the ultimate victory. We will make America great again.”

As the crowd erupted into cheers and chants of “Four more years!” Trump cast the upcoming election in Manichean terms, reverting to his old us-versus-them rhetoric.

“With you by my side we will tear down the deep state. We will drive out the warmongers… We will drive out the globalists. We will throw out the communists. We will throw out the political class that hates our country … We will beat the Democrats. We will kill the fake news media. We will disclose and appropriately deal with Rinos [Republicans in name only]. We’re kicking Joe Biden out of the White House. And we will rid America of these scoundrels and scoundrels once and for all,” he said.

Trump then sent a warning to the party, which he has molded in his own image in an attempt to crush dissent. “We had a Republican Party that was run by freaks, neocons, globalists, open border zealots and fools, but we’re never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and Jeb Bush.”

In a zigzagging speech, Trump avoided references to DeSantis but repeatedly turned his fire on Biden. “This is the most dangerous time in our country’s history, and Joe Biden is leading us into oblivion,” he said.

Trump insisted that Russia’s Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine because of the mistaken withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan in August 2021. “And you get three world wars, by the way. We will have three world wars if something doesn’t happen soon. I am the only candidate who can make this promise: I will prevent World War III.”

He made the improbable boast: “Before I get to the Oval Office, I will end the disastrous war between Russia and Ukraine… I know what I’m going to say.”

Trump threw red meat to the base: further construction of border walls and a massive increase in border patrols to stop the flow of illegal drugs, one day voting with paper ballots, a crackdown on trans rights and gender-affirming surgeries. He repeated his false claim that he won the 2020 election “by a lot,” when Biden actually beat him by 7 million votes.

But in front of a cult-like crowd, Saturday’s event was a warning against Democratic complacency, an indicator that Trump is down but not out, and that history, like in 2016, could take a dangerous turn. “We have no choice,” he said in a startling contrast to Biden’s pleas for unity, warning “this is the last fight.”

He concluded: “If we do not do this, our country will be lost forever.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button