Magaverso: With Trump as a star and no trace of DeSantis, the Republican annual meeting shows the party's fracture | International

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In it magaverse there are guys dressed in a tailor-made suit with the drawing of a wall ―with Mexico, it is understood―; 11-year-old commentators versed in the latest trends in reactionary thought; mothers "in favor of freedom" and against "gender indoctrination in schools"; and a group of five “proud Texans” with sequined jackets and letters printed on their T-shirts that, arranged in order, read TRUMP, the guy that all of the above revolves around.

There are hats, lots of hats, and one slogan stands above the rest: Make America Great Again. There are also Republican politicians, activists, culture warriors, headline-grabbing congressmen like Marjorie Taylor Greene, and powerful senators like Ted Cruz. Rising stars from all fringes of America's thriving right-wing media ecosystem, a pillow mogul named Mike Lindell embarking on a crusade against "election crime," and a guy named Steve Bannon delighted to be taken. by ideologue of the matter.

But after years of unstoppable expansion, that magaverse, encapsulated these days in a gigantic hotel with a convention center, seems to shrink. That impression, at least, is leaving the celebration until Saturday of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in National Harbor (Maryland), south of Washington, and after an absence of two years due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic in the capital and its conurbation. The highlights of the last day are the speeches by Trump, who closes the event, and by another former president resistant to defeat, the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, who has been living in Orlando (Florida) since the end of the year.

CPAC participants dressed as former President George Washington and 'MAGA King', at the hotel where the convention was held.Al Drago (Bloomberg)

Founded in 1974 with an upbeat inaugural address by Ronald Reagan, CPAC bills itself as "the world's largest and most influential gathering of conservatives." It used to also be a place for the debate of ideas of the different factions of the American right. Trump's appearance on the scene in 2016 also blew that up and the thing has been absorbed by the MAGA movement. A dozen attendees with experience of several years at the CPAC agreed these days in conversations with EL PAÍS that attendance had fallen compared to previous editions (held in Dallas and Miami) and that spirits are somewhat low due to the evident fracture of the party

Some absences have been more noticeable than others. Republican congressman Kevin McCarthy, speaker of the House of Representatives, has not been seen in the corridors of the convention center, but some of the more right-wing co-religionists have, such as Matt Gaetz or Lauren Boebert, who made him pass a historic embarrassment by forcing up to 15 votes until he could be elected.

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Former Vice President Mike Pence, who was an ally of Trump until January 6, 2021, in which the mob asked that he be hanged for not opposing the certification of Joe Biden's electoral victory, have not attended the meeting either. As if that were not enough, there is no trace of rising stars of the party such as the governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin, and that the thing caught him close, nor, above all, of the governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, whose candidacy for the presidency seems certain and is running as Trump's biggest rival for the party's nomination.

The DeSantis meteorite, which this week published a 256-page memoir that can be read like an applicant's presentation of credentials, took off thanks to the support of the then-president in 2018, but the two orbits have long since separated. The old protégé has become for Trump and his family a certain DeSanctimonius (cruel nickname that plays with the nickname of meapilas), so that foreigner is not welcome in this town.

“We are here while others are raising money from Chinese billionaires, enemies of the United States,” Donald Trump Jr. said from the main stage Friday afternoon, referring to a fundraising party the Florida governor was hosting. He looked for an alternative plan.

A woman this Thursday at the CPAC wears a cap that alludes to the idea of ​​China as another State of the American federation.
A woman this Thursday at the CPAC wears a cap that alludes to the idea of ​​China as another State of the American federation.CHIP SOMODEVILLA (Getty Images via AFP)

Perhaps because it is a land that DeSantis has given up this time as lost, in the corridors of the CPAC the supporters of the former president won by a landslide. Supporters as famous as Bannon, who was his adviser in the White House. “Trump will win the primaries. And he will also win whoever the Democratic Party puts him in front of, ”said the national-populist ideologue on Thursday in a conversation with this newspaper that ended in a rally, surrounded by dozens of fans from his podcast, War Roomwhich it has been broadcasting from the CPAC, as it has done about twenty other similar broadcasts.

In his spiel, Bannon elaborated on theories, which have been dismissed time and time again in court, that the 2020 presidential election was a robbery. “Biden is an illegitimate president. He knows the Chinese Communist Party, the KGB in Moscow and the ayatollahs in Iran, so they treat him with no respect. He urges to fix the voting system, which is destroying this country. How difficult is it to count ballots? Europeans can count them in a single day. Are you going to tell me that the Europeans are better than us? ”, he exclaimed to the cheers of his impromptu audience.

Vox's presence

What happens in the corridors of the CPAC disputes the interest of the attendees with the speeches of the speakers in the auditorium. Vox MEP Herman Tertsch, who repeats this year at the conference for him, walked through those corridors on Thursday, he said, "increase the solid relations [de su formación] with the Republican Party" and to "try to make them aware of the threat that is being forged in Latin America with regimes led by narco-communism." Other far-right European parties, such as the Brothers of Italy, Law and Justice, of Poland, or the French National Front also regularly attend the call.

A couple of floors below, in the exhibitors' area, other entertainment awaits. There, one can take a photo in a setting of Trump's Oval Office or play to guess which figure of the American left said which phrase taken out of context. "In Congress we approve the laws, and then we read them to ourselves." Nancy Pelosi? Correct!

The conference program is made up of short interventions, between 10 and 25 minutes (except the one that closes the sarao: an hour of Trump's speech). These interventions are reminiscent of a TED talk or take the form of conversations between two, three or four people, which carry titles such as biden crime family True stories of January 6, the persecuted take the floor either There are no Chinese balloons over Tennessee.

“We are here to say no to open borders, to chaos, to police defunding, to attacks on America's energy independence, to surrender to climate alarmists, to waste, to turning our schools into indoctrination centers. to the far left, to their madness and lawlessness, to lockdowns, to censoring dissenting views and getting written off as a fan if you dare question any of that," TV star Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Trump adviser, proclaimed. when it was his turn. “Did I miss something?”, he asked an audience that had paid tickets starting at $295 ($50 for students) and who, pending the arrival of the headliners, have not managed to even come close to filling the huge audience.

It must be recognized that Guilfoyle's review of the topics of the interventions was quite complete, in which the aspirations for social justice of what conservatives contemptuously call culture were ridiculed. woke up, The traditional media were defined as a threat to democracy, and there was much talk about the supposed Chinese origin of the coronavirus, a melon that the FBI reopened this week when dusting off the theory from the Wuhan laboratory. The most cited enemies were, in addition to Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The first word was given, on Thursday, by the president of the CPAC for seven years, Mat Schlapp, to whom accusations of sexual abuse of a campaign worker of the Republican candidate for Senate for Georgia, Herschell Walker, have dampened his mind. appointment.

Among the speakers, highlighted the brexiter Nigel Farage, Tom Homan, Trump border czar, or JD Vance, Ohio senator and author of the bestseller A Hillbilly Elegy, as well as the participation of two newly minted Republican candidates for the White House, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy (a third party, businessman Perry Johnson, was in the CPAC and later launched his presidential order).

Ramaswamy pulled from his personal story as a billionaire anti-woke to try to sound like a compelling option for 2024, without achieving much. National unity, he argued, will only come "by embracing extremism, radicalism, the ideals that launched this nation 250 years ago: merit, freedom of expression, open debate and self-rule over the aristocracy."

Haley, a former South Carolina governor and former UN ambassador, for her part, demonstrated arrests by showing up in enemy territory and reminding attendees that Republicans have lost the popular vote in the past seven of eight presidential elections. “If you are tired of losing, put your trust in a new generation of leaders,” she warned. Haley, who received a few boos, repeated her proposal to require mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years of age.

The king of magaversewhich his fans are waiting for this Saturday at the National Harbor Convention Center, is already 76.

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