Conservatives Can’t Escape Trump, Even When He No-Shows
Somewhere around midday Thursday, the first day that anyone really pays attention to the Conservative Political Action Conference, people in the media started substituting a question in the place of more conventional greetings, like “Hello.” They’d bump into each other in lines or in the halls, dropping off stuff in the press room, and you’d hear it:
Has anyone said the word Trump yet?
The showman in him would appreciate it. With the exception of the Holy Spirit, nobody has ever filled a room of Republicans he wasn’t even in quite the way Donald Trump has during this election cycle. Just as he dominated the last debate before the Iowa caucuses, which he didn’t even attend, he dominated CPAC weekend in terms both spoken and unspoken.
First he began the unmaking of a Party. Then, just to be a dick, he unmade the Party’s annual party. Then, for one last full measure of asshole, he canceled on it. And what nobody wanted to acknowledge was that, on a weekend full of speakers and presentations, the most emphatic statement came from someone who wasn’t there, telling them that they are done.
Thursday’s slate of speakers and discussion groups all leaned on polite allusion or vague speculation to avoid speaking of the Republican frontrunner. The conscious, constant omission of Trump’s name resembled the Voldemort policy of the Harry Potter universe, or at least the caution of children of a drunk dad, who sit in the basement and refer to him only allusively lest he suspect he’s being talked about and come down there.
Despite her job security within the conservative movement, Dana Loesch addressed the Trump phenomenon only obliquely, by addressing remarks to “all my Trumpkins” and “all my Stop Trumps.” With an opening spot on the main stage of the cavernous Gaylord Convention Center ballroom, on arguably the biggest day of the conference, Loesch cautioned the Stop Trump movement’s flirtation with talk of a brokered Republican National Convention, chiding them to “speak earlier” than midway through losing the primary process if they wanted to stop a candidate.
Loesch was a tiger compared to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who hid behind the audience’s goodwill for his interviewer, Sean Hannity. Priebus, whose nervous weasel disposition resembles what might have happened if Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers had included a crooked pawnbroker character, seemed almost relieved at Hannity’s framing of a potential frontrunner named “Candidate A.” Hannity pressed for something decisive about the brokered convention talk, but Priebus retreated to legalese.