Former President Trump is scheduled to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday, February 27. This may be among the most important presentations since Ronald Reagan addressed the first CPAC way back in 1974.
I have periodically attended CPAC for more than 40 years – occasionally as a speaker or presenter. From its modest beginning, CPAC has grown to be the most important and respected gathering of conservative leaders and believers in the nation –that is until now.
If you have an addiction to the left-wing drivel that flows from the left-leaning east coast media, you might believe that CPAC is a gathering of violent white supremacists, conspiratorial theorists, and insurrectionists. If you believe that, you are, unfortunately, an ill-informed victim of media propaganda.
The media’s mendacious attack on CPAC and Trump is one of the reasons why his speech is so important. He can start the process of unifying both the conservative movement and the Republican Party. But to do that, Trump is going to have to do something he has been loath to do. He needs to pivot. He needs to present a CREDIBLE defense of the Republican Party, the conservative movement … and himself.
If he does another version of his standard rally speech – dwelling on the election results and attacking his perceived enemies in the Democratic Party, the media and the Republican Party – he will be the proverbial bull in the china shop. If he hints at forming a third party, his speech will rise above the level of ineffective to the height of disaster.
He needs to understand that the people of the nation have heard his angry speech … his accusations.
The American mindset regarding the election is set in concrete. Those who believe the election was stolen — and those who believe it was not — will never change their minds at this point.
Everyone in American knows that Trump hates the mainstream media. And everyone in that room understands the vicious bias of the Fourth Estate. Going over all that old ground will prevent Trump and Republicans from gaining ground for the 2022 midterm elections.
Trump needs to connect with independents, conservative Democrats and minorities. That will not happen if his CPAC speech comes across as a re-run of his campaign stump speeches.
If I were advising Trump, I would tell him to create a powerful and persuasive argument with three basic elements. He should speak of the importance of traditional conservative values. Offer a comprehensive report of the accomplishments of his presidency – and they are many and notable.
Finally, Trump should motivate the conservatives – and others – to join in producing Republican victories in 2022 and 2024. Rhetoric that promotes division within the GOP – or promotes a third-party split — only benefits the left-wingers and the Democratic Party.
Trump’s CPAC speech should be calm and convincing – appealing to the intellect rather than the spleen.
In terms of his own ambitions for 2024, Trump should remain conspicuously silent. And that includes avoiding hints. He should focus on 2022. In many ways, what happens in 2022 will have a far greater impact on his potential for another presidential run than what he might say between now and then.
Ironically, no one would benefit more from a great CPAC speech than Trump, himself. That has been true throughout his presidency – but he has rarely risen to the occasion.
So, there ‘tis.