The Republican electoral campaign message was on full display at CPAC, rewriting history with divisive rhetoric with a history of inspiring racialized political violence.
This weekend, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was held in Dallas, Texas. The big finale of the event was a speech from the leader of the GOP, Donald Trump. Also featured were right-wing luminaries like South Dakota Kristi Noem, Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert, and Florida Representative Matt Gaetz (though CPAC apparently tried to create some distance from him).
In other words, this was the core of the GOP Party all meeting in one place to give away their two-part electoral strategy: 1) Deny January 6th even happened and 2) Focus on a divisive, racist strategy to distract from substantive issues.
In Press Run, Eric Boehlert explained the January 6th denial strategy, which was on full display at CPAC. Rep. Louie Gohmert, who just a couple of years ago seemed like an outlier in his party, now represents the very core of the GOP. He blamed the insurrection on Democrats. Previewing his CPAC speech during an appearance on FOX News, the Texas Republican stated “[Trump] and [Maria] Bartiromo called the Capitol riot that injured 140 officers and left Ashli Babbitt and four other people dead a ‘peaceful protest’ multiple times.”
The Big Lie and the insurrection are inseparable and Trump is arguing that one can’t be vindicated without the other.
This argument about inseparability and vindication is a clue to the first goal of this push: maintaining an iron grip on the GOP and making the 2022 campaign about him. Congressional Republicans have almost unanimously opposed any efforts to investigate the events of January 6th. But that’s not enough. Trump wants them to embrace the insurrection explicitly.
Like Trump, many Republican leaders are now flat-out lying about an event witnessed by all of America. They are doing this because they know supporting a violent insurrection doesn’t play well outside of their hard-core base.
The GOP’s chosen strategy to rile up voters is one they’ve used repeatedly over the decades: strategic racism. This aspect of their party was also on full display at CPAC.
Closing out CPAC on Sunday night, Donald Trump laid out the Republican’s political message leading to the midterm elections. He used coded language to activate white grievance politics:
You see they’re taking our heritage away. That’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. We were doing so well until the rigged election happened to come along. We were doing really well. But today that heritage is under threat like never before.
He lied and fear-mongered about non-white immigrants:
We shut down the migrant caravans. You haven’t seen those caravans. Get ready, because they’re coming up right now. You’ve been watching them come through. In those caravans, you have some deadly people…more illegal alien minors have arrived than any other month in United States history. This is the major pipeline for MS-13. These are the worst gang members, they say, anywhere in the world.
Trump also created a bogeyman out of obscure legal theory to shut down any discussion of race in America so they can use strategic racism as the main thrust of their electoral campaign:
These people are sick. We will completely defund and bar critical race theory…That’s all they talk about. Race. The whole show. race, race. We don’t talk about our country being great anymore. We don’t talk about how America can lead the world. We don’t talk about stopping crime or the hundreds and hundreds of people that are being shot in Democrat-run cities. We don’t talk about ending the drugs pouring across our borders…The Democrat obsession with race is only dragging us backward into the past, and it is bringing our country down
Trump lied about the election to peddle voter suppression bills and continues to inflame the sentiment that led to the white nationalist terror attack on the US Capital on January 6:
They want to stay away from talking about the election results. Every time the media references the election hoax, they say the fraud is “unproven. And while there is no evidence … ” No evidence? There’s so much evidence.
Lest anyone still believes this dangerous political narrative of lies and division is unique to Trump, the rest of the CPAC speakers were blowing the exact same dog-whistles. For example:
- Alabama Senate candidate and Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) who said: “They [Democrats] attack our republic by engaging in unparalleled voter fraud and election theft activities…Now our choice is simple. We can surrender and submit or we can fight back as our ancestors have done.”
- South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem who said: “Critical race theory is hate, division, and it’s not American. It’s offensive. We do not have racism in our DNA in this country… The second most dangerous thing that’s happening is down at our southern border…we send our guard because they’re used to the war zone that they’re going to see down there at the border.
- Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) who said, “We would go across the border to Mexico for dinner. You can’t do that today, it has become extremely dangerous. Biden and Harris are directly responsible for this. This is a border crisis… The Democrats corrupt politicians act as an assault on free and fair elections and erodes state safeguards that are going to make sure our elections are fair and a free and fair election we will win…in the past, Republicans have been intimidated when Democrats call us racist. We’ve got to stop being intimidated, we can’t allow that.”
So, if a proudly racist Republican Party is what you want, a proudly racist Republican Party you shall have.