When the GOP united behind Donald Trump back in 2016, after a factious primary which saw Trump personally disparage all of his opponents (and even, in some cases, his opponents’ wives), they were essentially making a deal with the devil. In short, they were allying themselves with a man they knew to be a narcissistic demagogue, in the hope that the ends would justify the means. In the hope that enough conservative policy would be passed to make the deal worthwhile, in the hope that allying themselves with Trump would ultimately prove beneficial in the long-term to their own careers.
That last hope was central to the thinking of many GOP politicians in supporting Trump; the likes of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz stood by after Trump attacked them and much of what their party had previously purported to stand for, in the hopes of gaining favour with his supporters. Perhaps in the hope that it would make a future presidential run more successful than their previous ones.
This year’s CPAC exposed the flaws in that plan; after four years in which the GOP devolved into little more than a personality cult, none of the establishment Republicans in the line up could outshine Trump in terms of the sheer excitement and enthusiasm generated from the conservatives gathered in Orlando. This result should have been predictable from the outset; GOP politicians spending four years promoting and defending Trump at every avenue was so obviously always going to do more to help Trump himself than the politicians in question. Despite all the self-interested 3D chess moves played by Trump’s lackeys over the last four years, when Trump floated running again in 2024 at CPAC, it was clear that the nomination was his if he wanted it. And honestly, it’s what the GOP deserves at this point — even if it’s not what the country needs.