by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online considers the president’s recent appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference event.
Two years ago, at the dawn of the Trump administration, Kellyanne Conway predicted that 2017’s CPAC would really be TPAC, or “Trump Pac.” What was premature spin then is conventional wisdom now.
The Conservative Political Action Conference has always been what the great historian Daniel Boorstin called a “pseudo-event.” It has no formal role within our politics and no binding power outside of it. It’s part trade show, part infomercial, part convention for the various tribes of the Right. …
… [T]o the extent that CPAC is an infomercial for what the organizers want to sell as conservatism today, it really was TPAC, with the commander in chief cast as the Man of Steel, by which I mean the allegedly hamburger-hunting Stalin himself, whose nom de guerre literally meant “man of steel.”
Trump is not a dictator, but his two-hour speech, possibly the longest ever delivered by a U.S. president, shared many of the traits associated with demagogues who feed off a cult of personality.
Very long speeches are a way of proving dominance over an audience. In 2013, Russian president Vladimir Putin held a press conference that lasted for nearly five hours. Fidel Castro would routinely give speeches that exceeded that. Got somewhere to go? Too bad, I’m the only game in town. Stalin once gave a lengthy speech that was later released on vinyl. The entire B-side consisted of recorded applause.
Trump’s speech was a virtuoso performance, showing off the man in full. But the overriding theme to the pudding was that there is only Trump. One of the great challenges for conservatives in the Trump era has been to navigate between supporting the man’s policies and supporting the man.