WASHINGTON – Elections have consequences, as the previous president famously said.
One of those peripheral consequences was on full display Friday when President Trump spoke to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, just outside Washington.
“Standing room only” would not do justice to the size of the crowd.
Last year’s CPAC was a seismic political event, with a parade of presidential hopefuls making their pitch for support and votes. Nearly all of the GOP candidates spoke in 2016, with the notable exception of Trump, who told this year’s crowd he “would have come last year, but I was worried that I’d be at that time too controversial.”
However, for the conservative faithful, it was more than worth the wait. Last year’s excitement was eclipsed by this year’s ecstasy: After eight years in the political wilderness, the most powerful man in the world was one of their own.
The giant hall had perhaps never been so packed. It could not hold one more person, as evidenced by the announcement shortly before the president spoke: “The ballroom is at capacity. If you leave you will not be allowed back in.”
Perhaps the only thing bigger than the crowd was the buzz crackling through the cavernous hall in anticipation of the president.
It was Yuuuge.
Trump delivered and delighted the attendees with numerous crowd-pleasing one-liners, covering such a breadth of topics he seemed to leave no issue unturned.
Following the address, WND waded into the sea of humanity and asked attendees: What do you think was the best thing he said?
There were two clear winners.
By far the most popular was the president’s attack on the establishment media.
“I want you all to know we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake. Phony. Fake. A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are. They are the enemy of the people.”
He added: ” They’re very dishonest people. In fact, in covering my comments, the dishonest media did not explain that I called the fake news the enemy of the people — the fake news. They dropped off the word ‘fake.’ And all of a sudden the story became the media is the enemy. They take the word ‘fake’ out.”
Almost as popular was Trump’s promise to rebuild the military.
“We will be substantially upgrading all of our military, all of our military, offensive, defensive, everything. Bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and hopefully we’ll never have to use it, but nobody’s going to mess with us, folks. Nobody. It will be one of the greatest military buildups in American history.”
The speech seemed to have something for everyone. As popular as were those sentiments, a wide variety of other issues resonated with the crowd.
In an unscientific sampling of attendees, these were the topics WND was told were most important, in roughly this order:
- “Fake news”
- Rebuilding the military
- Bringing back jobs
- Reducing regulations and lowering taxes
- Building the wall and stopping illegal immigration
- Deporting criminal illegal immigrants
- Supporting the Second Amendment
- Making America Great Again
- Repealing and replacing Obamacare
- Supporting law enforcement
- The pending new travel ban
- Defeating ISIS
- Reducing welfare rolls
One attendee’s favorite remark was the president’s quip, “I like Campbell Soup.”
Some of the comments made to WND helped illustrate what was important to conservatives and why.
- “I loved it when he called CNN the Clinton News Network. They are the worst. They hate him and they just lie.”
- “The fake news media is just not honorable.”
- “Jobs, jobs, jobs. That’s what it’s all about.”
- “It was so important that he emphasized getting rid of all those regulations keeping the economy down and preventing business growth.”
- “I liked the First Amendment rights.”
- “It was so nice to hear a president speak of American exceptionalism again, as a good thing.”
- “When he said the GOP is now the party of the American worker.”
- “Getting people off welfare and working again is so important; I was so glad he mentioned that.”
- “Blue lives matter. It was good to hear him say he will have law enforcement’s back.”
- “Faith is my base issue. I was glad he spoke about its importance.”
- “When he blamed the Democrats for stalling his cabinet appointments. There is a legitimate way to criticize the administration if they don’t like it, but not if they won’t even give him a chance to put his people in place. That’s not fair.”
- “He really seems to be sticking to his priorities and his promise to do what he said he’d do. Hopefully that is not an empty promise.”
- “Putting America first again. So good to hear.”
- “Repealing and replacing Obamacare couldn’t be more important. People are hurting. They just can’t afford health insurance.”
- “I really got a sense he is building a new Republican Party. When he talked about transforming it into the party of the American worker that was very encouraging.”
- “All of it.”
Revival of hope
A vivacious 65-year old woman was deeply moved by a line that had a resounding personal significance to her: “The forgotten men and women of America will be forgotten no longer. That is the heart of this new movement and the future of the Republican party.”
Petite and soft-spoken but with powerful conviction, she expressed her concern for suffering Americans.
She told WND she comes from a long line of doctors who have related how hard it is to see family after family come into their offices so depressed because they couldn’t pay their bills, thanks to soaring Obamacare premiums.
“Some of these people have to be on four health plans, thanks to all the confusion. But it’s really just one. Medicaid.”
She spat out that last word with disdain.
But now she has great hope, not just for those people, but for working men and women all across the country, such as her nephew in the Midwest, a third-generation finish carpenter.
“He and his wife have been driven to desperation and despair, just trying to make ends meet and feed their three kids and keep a roof over their heads,” she said.
“Their business has been just devastated over the last eight years, buried under a mountain of rules and regulations. Everything costs more. Everything is so much tougher than it used to be. And there are so many people, young families, just like them, caught in the same situation. Just no relief in sight, until now.
“These are hard-working, good, decent people working their butts off. And, to hear the president speak today; I was just so thrilled for my nephew and his family. My heart leaped for joy, because now they have hope again. They can have a future again.
“And my nephew, he saw it from the start. I was a Cruz supporter. And I am so glad Trump is doing so many of the things I hoped Cruz would do. But, from the very beginning my nephew saw it was Trump who would stand up and fight, right from the start, for the everyday working men and women hurting so badly in this country,” she said.
“And he was right. So right. I am just so thrilled.”
A New York Times reporter asked a WND reporter why Trump supporters were so loyal.
Perhaps he should have asked her.