CPAC sparks thoughts about populism

Photo courtesy of Micah Veillon, Student Publications

“Donald J. Trump ain’t going anywhere.” These were Ted Cruz’s words to commence the 2021 CPAC event in Orlando, Florida that lasted from Feb. 25 – Feb. 28.

CPAC is the Conservative Political Action Committee hosted by the American Conservative Union, and to put it in simple terms, it was certainly not a conservative event, but I’ll get to that eventually.

I chose to lead this piece with Ted Cruz’s remark for a reason, namely, that at CPAC 2021 the Republican Party officially affirmed Donald Trump as its leader. There is absolutely no question about it; Donald Trump, to use his exact words, “has the Republican Party.”

Some speculated that he would create his own party, yet from the beginning I felt as if he would stick with the Republican Party insofar as it would stick to him. I believed it would, and sure enough it did.

Donald Trump Jr. closed the first day of CPAC with a speech that he began by stating “CPAC” looked a lot more like “TPAC.” However, it wasn’t just Don Jr. who stated something along these lines.

In his speech on Sunday, the former President stated that the Republican Party was now under the doctrine of Trumpism.

If the golden statue of him at the event wasn’t enough to convince you of it, his words should be: the Republican Party is officially Trump’s party.

At one point during the former President’s speech, the crowd began chanting “we love you” to which he then stated that not even Ronald Reagan received praise like this from the people.

Yes, you heard correctly, Donald Trump is now not only greater than Abraham Lincoln, but also Ronald Reagan (although, Reagan doesn’t even graze the eminence of Lincoln).

Many were wondering if the former President would announce his candidacy for the 2024 race, and he all but said verbatim that he would.

He highly insinuated that he would run again with statements like “I may even have to beat them for the third time,” “A Republican President will make a triumphant return to the white house … I wonder who that could be … Who? Who? Who could that be?” Thus, I think it’s fair to say that you can very well expect to see Donald Trump on the Republican primary ticket for the next election.

However, I want to talk about why I don’t think it matters if he does or does not run.

As aforementioned, the Republican Party has officially sold its soul to Donald Trump, which means that it has officially embraced populism. Literally, the Rep. Matt Gaetz openly championed populism.

He stated that it “turns out populism is popular” and that “we’re the ones doing the thinking in the populist movement as conservatives.”

The latter statement is a complete dichotomy, because there’s absolutely no way one can be involved in a populist movement as a conservative. Populism and conservatism are incommensurate ideas, and I wrote an entire article about this titled “Conservatism: A Philosophy With No Home.”

CPAC was full of people espousing populist ideas in the name of conservatism.

Charlie Kirk stated that those who don’t oppose breaking up Big Tech by means of government shouldn’t dare call themselves conservatives, because, rather, they are corporatists.

While I partially agree with Republicans here in the sense that I am certainly no fan of Big Tech censorship, I absolutely do not stand for breaking them up by means of government intervention. Contrary to Kirk’s beliefs, I hold that anyone who stands for breaking up Big Tech by means of government is not a conservative.

Or at least, they are not familiar with any of Hegel’s work. In Hegel’s “Outlines of the Philosophy of Right,” he argues for clear distinctions between the state and civil society. Conservatives hold that civil society should not be consumed by the state. This practice of absorbing civil society was on display in the Jacobin Reign of Terror in which any organization the Jacobins could not control was outlawed.

It has also been the practice of practically all communist governments in history. It isn’t a conservative sensibility by any means.

So, while I’m sympathetic to the fears of Kirk (and the rest of the CPAC Speakers) concerning the danger Big Tech poses to civil society, I by no means support the means by which this desired end will be attained, because I am a conservative. In summary, my thoughts concerning CPAC are clear: the Republican Party is now Trump’s party, and it’s composed of populists masquerading as conservatives.