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DALLAS — In the corner of the brightly lit and heavily banner-adorned conference room for this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, an empty jail cell sets the stage for a Make America Great Again performance art piece. . A sign attached to the outside of the cell warns “#younext”. The future prisoner is an actor playing the role of a January 6 insurgent.
The diorama painted a sympathetic portrait of the rioters arrested for their roles in attacking the nation’s Capitol in protest at an election that saw former President Donald Trump defeated.
The display was emblematic of the general attitude of the annual event for the nation’s most diehard conservatives. Conference attendees largely failed to acknowledge Trump’s role in instigating the attack, which was the subject of testimony presented by the US House committee investigating the insurgency in recent years. month. Trump, who closed the event, was welcomed with open arms by Texans and those who traveled to the state to see him, as he teased a 2024 presidential race.
“I’m over the moon, I’ve been trying to see him for years,” said Therese Boehnlein, who drove from Waco to see Trump.
Trump spent his time on stage handing out endorsements before the November midterms, naming a number of Texans, including Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Irving, and his former White House doctor, Rep. Ronny Jackson , R-Amarillo.
Trump stuck to a familiar script and repeated the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, even though those claims have been repeatedly denied, even by his own former aides. He painted cities run by Democratic leaders as hellish landscapes awash with crime and lamented what he described as an open southern border with Mexico.
“We’ve created by far, far, the most secure border in the history of the United States. And now it’s the worst border in history,” Trump said of the president’s administration. Joe Biden.
Trump also derided what he described as the indoctrination of students by liberals bent on destroying traditional family values, pointing to battles in public schools over the content of library books, sports teams in which transgender students are allowed to play and how teachers are allowed to talk about race and history.
Trump received some of his most thunderous applause of the night with his suggestion to “abolish the Department of Education.”
For Anna Zimmerman of Dallas, Trump’s emphasis on education resonated with her the most.
“I liked his plans for the future,” Zimmerman told the Texas Tribune as attendees exited the conference room. “We have to do something for our education system. We will not succeed if we teach them about transgender.
Zimmerman said she was waiting and looking forward to an announcement from Trump that he would run for president again. “It’s all about timing and he’s a perfect timing man,” Zimmerman said of Trump.
A straw poll taken at the conference found that Trump is still a favorite among attendees. Trump received 69% of the vote to be the 2024 Republican presidential candidate. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came in second with 24%. Texas’ own Senator Ted Cruz, who spoke at the conference on Friday, came in third with 2%.
Although he had hoped to see Trump announce his attendance at the convention in 2024, Ariel Kohane said he expects Trump to announce after the midterm elections, so he can focus on endorsements. . “Trump will have the biggest impact of all time on the midterms, he picks the winners,” said Kohane, who traveled from New York to see Trump.
Jen Loh Salinas of San Antonio, vice president of Latinos United for America, said Trump — and his border wall — are key to America’s success. Born and raised in Laredo, Salinas said border communities feared the violence she attributed to migrants crossing the border.
She doesn’t just blame Biden. Salinas also criticized Gov. Greg Abbott’s handling of the border, calling his bus transport of migrants to DC “human trafficking.” On Friday, Abbott announced that Texas is now transporting migrants from Texas to New York.
With her teenage daughter beside her, Salinas pointed to schools as one of the main reasons she thinks Latino voters are moving to the right. Salinas pulled her daughter out of public school because she thinks they’re “sexualizing kids” — a common refrain used by attendees and speakers describing public school concerns at the convention, alluding to discussion of gender identity. She said the cost of private school was worth what she considers the best education for her daughter.
Elizabeth Gomez-Crocker also pulled her children out of public school, citing among other things critical race theory, the graduate school ideology that structural racism exists in America. Working as a substitute teacher, Gomez-Crocker landed a second job driving for Uber to help pay for the cost of Arlington’s private religious school.
“Wrong is right, right is wrong,” Gomez-Crocker said. She is concerned about the cultural changes she has observed in the schools.
To solve this problem, she would like to see more religion in schools. Instead of supporting more school choice, which would divert public education money to schools chosen by parents, Gomez-Crocker said, “Put God back in the school instead of the money following. the child.”
The final day of the convention at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas brought together a host of GOP leaders loyal to Trump. Among the Texas officials who spoke earlier at the conference were Cruz, Abbott, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, but the thousands who turned out saved much of their energy and enthusiasm for the de facto leader of the party.
Earlier in the convention, the state’s Democratic leaders criticized the GOP’s hosting of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who spoke at the convention on Thursday, a week after his racist remarks on European immigration . The comments reportedly prompted the resignation of one of Orbán’s longtime advisers.
MAGA brand freedom was on sale in the halls of the political conference in the form of alternative cell phone providers, conservative children’s books – including one written by US Representative Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston – and embellished stilettos by the name of Trump. And this year’s CPAC made no attempt to commemorate the GOP before Trump. One stand sold a framed portrait of Ronald Reagan, but there were few references to other former Republican presidents George W. Bush or George H. Bush, even though the conference was in their home countries. One attendee bristled at the former president’s name, “Bush is part of the establishment.”
Between speakers lamenting Biden’s presidency and China’s influence on America, attendees on Sunday laughed at a brief satirical news segment. Jesse Kelly played the role of news anchor for the fake media outlet “Socialist News Network,” while making obscene jokes about Vice President Kamala Harris and downplaying the number of people who died from COVID-19.
“This virus has almost killed as many people as Hillary Clinton,” Kelly said. More than one million people in the United States have died of COVID-19.
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