Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who opened his remarks with a joke about his much-criticized trip to a Cancun resort, called conservatives Jedi “rebels” against the “rigid conformism” of the socialist left – a call for weapons during an event imbued with complaints of cultural victimization. This year’s conference is called “America Uncanceled”.
But Mr. Cruz also had a message for members of his own party.
“There are a lot of voices in Washington who just want to erase the last four years, want to go back to the world before,” he said. “Let me tell you right away: Donald J. Trump is not going anywhere. “
Josh Hawley, a young senator from Missouri, after defending his efforts to challenge the election results as “taking a stand,” proclaimed a “new nationalism” that included the demolition of tech companies, resistance to China and the tightening of borders. The “oligarchs” and the “corporate media,” he said, want to divide Americans with “lies” like systemic racism. Hours before his speech, Mr. Hawley announced a law requiring a minimum wage of $ 15 for companies with revenues over $ 1 billion.
None of the men, it should be noted, hinted at Mr Biden, a sign that the party continues to lack a coherent line of attack against the new administration.
But what was equally striking was how much the rhetoric differed from mainstream Republican ideology. A party that has defined itself as a defender of the free market now believes the big tech companies wield too much power and that the government needs to put more restrictions in place. Concerns about interventionism abroad have replaced the hawkish doctrine as the driving force of foreign policy. Nativism has become mainstream, and the strongly racially-centered politics of cultural grievances dominate among conservatives who once delighted in making fun of sensitive liberal “snowflakes.”
Of course, some of this rhetoric isn’t quite right. While pandemic rules vary across the country, stay-at-home orders are lifted in all states and businesses are wide open in most. Even as Republicans fear being “canceled” by the Liberals, local parties have censored members of Congress in recent weeks who have walked away from Mr. Trump’s overwhelming support.
But Mr. Cruz is right that some Republicans are hoping the party will revert to its pre-Trump politics and rhetoric. After watching the speeches at CPAC, it’s hard to imagine how the party could once have rallied around a fiscally conservative, hawkish foreign policy Republican like Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, their candidate in 2012.