Trump at CPAC reflects the clear and present danger facing America
"I am your retribution," Trump declared to the annual gathering of right wing extremists at CPAC. | LM Otero/AP

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—Donald Trump strode onto the stage on March 4 and gave the big right-wing crowd what it craved: Red meat. Lots of it. Call it a whole side of beef—or beefs.

Communists, Socialists, Joe Biden, Democrats, the “fake news media,” critical race theory, LBGTQ people, migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, federal workers—whom he again called “the deep state”—the Black Lives Matter movement though not by name, NATO, the Afghanistan withdrawal, U.S. wars, Republicans In Name Only, prosecutors “who hate me,” and on and on and on. He trashed them all.

About the only enemies Trump left out of his March 4 excoriation were Hillary Clinton and former Rep, Lynne Cheney, R-Wyom. Trump beat Clinton in 2016 for the Oval Office. Cheney, a conservative herself, was Trump’s outspoken personal critic on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Trump-inspired invasion, insurrection and coup d’etat try at the U.S. Capitol.

For Trump’s 1-hour-47-minute oration, almost all were “the sinister forces trying to kill America,” which he vowed to beat. He didn’t say how.

The Conservative Political Action Committee conference crowd, meeting at the Washington Harbor Conference Center just outside the D.C. line, ate it up. But that was no great surprise.

In a prior straw poll of attendees even before he strutted in, Trump won 62% of the vote, ratified during his address with repeated cheers and occasional chants of “four more years.” Second in the poll: Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. (20%), who didn’t show up.

Left unsaid, by Trump or other speakers—incredibly including former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro—is that many CPAC attendees are well-heeled and members of the corporate class, which has long manipulated voters’ hatreds for its own political advantage. They were not the white workers often held up by corporate media as the ones to blame the most for Trump and Trumpism.

Instead, Trump railed against the sinister forces who he falsely claimed are turning the U.S. “into a socialist dumping ground  for criminals, junkies, Marxists, thugs, radicals—dangerous refugees no other country wants.”

Those enemies want to convert the country to “a failed nation nobody could recognize…a lawless open borders, crime-ridden filthy Communist nightmare,” he claimed, with no evidence, of course.

Trump went on at length castigating both communists and socialists, though he never specifically linked them to the Democrats. And standing like Horatio at the bridge defending ancient Rome, Trump declared he—with the right-wingers behind him—would defeat and demolish the “enemies.”

“No walls, no borders, bad elections, no voter ID,” he complained about Biden’s policies, promising to reverse “everything.” His enemies list also included “the Marxists who toppled statues in Washington, D.C.,”  a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement and removal—after BLM activists shrouded it—of a downtown fountain memorial to a slaveholder.

“We will beat the Democrats, we will rout the fake news media, we will expose and appropriately deal with the RINOs,” the right-wingers’ derisive name for their intra-party foes: Republicans In Name Only, Trump said. The speech, reaction, and the poll make clear his control over the Republican Party.

“We will evict Joe Biden from the White House,” he continued. “We will liberate Americans from these villains and scoundrels once and for all.”

Denigrated government workers

When Trump wasn’t resurrecting the Red Menace of the 1950s or calling groups and individuals enemies, he denigrated career workers who actually make the federal government operate.  He battled them and their unions during his whole term in office, seeking to return to the corporate-dominated and corrupt spoils system of the Gilded Age. “We will demolish the deep state,” he told the CPAC crowd.

Trump’s speech came as his so-far main rival for next year’s Republican presidential nomination, DeSantis, is stumping the country and pushing incendiary social issues. On March 5, at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., he skewered California’s “lockdown politicians” for their pro-public health response to the coronavirus pandemic. Cheers greeted him inside; protests were outside.

And DeSantis’s latest power grab, wrapped up in six bills his acolytes introduced in the state legislature in the opening week of March, is a complete state takeover of Florida school curriculums from kindergarten all the way through grad school. He also wants to abolish tenure on college campuses and ban teaching on sex and gender all the way through elementary school, if not beyond.

Trump recognized his control, denigrating the pre-Trump GOP as the party of “freaks, globalists, open borders zealots and fools.” His “fools” included former House Speaker Paul Ryan, former Bush White House staff chief Karl Rove and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, all conservative but not radical rightists.

Reading the handwriting on the wall of right-wing control, another non-Trumpite, moderate former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, abandoned his exploration of chances for the Republican nomination on March 6, having never officially declared a run.

Trump’s speech also came as he faces yet another legal threat.

In a brief filed in federal court in D.C. the day before Trump’s speech, the Justice Department’s Civil Division said individual police officers injured in the 2021 invasion, insurrection, and coup d’etat attempt can sue him personally. So can 11 lawmakers who believe the invaders threatened them with bodily harm.

That’s on top of federal investigations of Trump’s incitement of the coup try, a Georgia grand jury probing his election manipulation attempts there, and voluminous legal and income tax troubles in his former home state, New York. “The corrupt Democrat prosecutors are after me because I do so many things” they hate, Trump charged in the speech.

Trump demanded parental control of schools—including electing principals by popular vote—and bans on teaching everything from African-American history to LGBTQ rights.

“We banned transgender insanity from our military. And we signed the world’s first ban on critical race theory long before anybody had even heard of the term. It was all banned. When Joe Biden came back in, this guy put everything back in place where it was,” Trump complained.

“And when I’m back in the White House, the very first (budget) reconciliation bill I will sign will be for a massive increase in Border Patrol and a colossal increase in the number of ICE deportation offices,” he promised, referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service.

Both agencies are known for their often over-zealous deportations of Black and brown people, migrants or not, including U.S. citizens and legal residents, who happen to be Black or brown. The agents’ union, a sector of the Government Employees, pulled out of AFGE and the AFL-CIO last year. Using Trump’s language, its leaders said the union and the federation side with the “drug dealers and rapists” it alleges are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.