When former President Donald Trump spoke at CPAC in Orlando last month, much of the resulting media coverage focused on whether or not he would run for president again in 2024–something he would not rule it out–and his continued false charges that the 2020 election was rigged.
Something else important happened during that speech though–and it could affect the Republican party for decades to come.
In the heart of his speech, the former president touched on “Trumpism” and what it means. The definition is a roadmap for Republicans trying to win over the voters Trump brought over to the GOP.
Trump made it clear he would not be forming his own new party and he predicted Republicans would come together.
“It’s going to unite and be stronger than ever before,” Trump said. But to do that, future candidates will need to summon the old boogeymen the former president used so effectively.
“We will save and strengthen America, and we will fight the onslaught of radicalism, socialism, and indeed it all leads to communism once and for all. That’s what it leads to,” Trump said
The future of the party, though, lies in working-class voters and growing minority populations–and the former president knows it.
“The future of the Republican Party is as a party that defends the social, economic, and cultural interests of American working families of every race, color, and creed,” Trump said.
Of course, James Carville’s advice to Bill Clinton back in 1992–“it’s the economy, stupid”–still holds true. Voters will continue to focus on the things that affect their everyday life the most and this is what Trumpism will be defined by.
“What it means is great trade deals, not deals where we give away everything, our jobs, our money,” Trump told the CPAC crowd, urging Republicans to find a way to stand up to China and fill the supply chain with U.S. factories. Trump cited replacing NAFTA with the USMCA as an example of better trade deals. He also insisted that tariffs should be a part of the GOP’s platform going forward, stressing that punishing countries that have ripped off the U.S. in the past is good for the nation’s long-term interests.
To keep the old guard of the GOP happy, Trump laid out some traditional Republican positions as being a major part of its future.
“It means low tax and eliminating job-killing regulations,” he said. We are committed to defending innocent life, and upholding the Judeo-Christian values of our founders and our founding.” Trump’s words about standing up to political correctness, and ending cancel culture drew standing ovations from CPAC attendees. Of course supporting the Second Amendment was mentioned. So was “we affirm the Constitution means what it says as written.”
A large part of Trump’s speech was dedicated to one of the nation’s most divisive issues: immigration. According to the former president, Trumpism must “mean strong borders, but it means people coming into our country on a system of merit. So they come in and they help us as opposed to coming here and not being good for us.”
There is every expectation that Trump will continue to loom large within the Republican Party. Now that he has laid out a vision for what the party should be going forward, it will be interesting to see who can pick up that mantle and run with it.
Mike Synan wrote this analysis. He can be reached at email@example.com.