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Donald Trump, via Wiki­media Commons

Friday morning, 7:13 a.m., the doors opened at the Con­ser­v­ative Political Action Con­ference, CPAC, in National Harbor, MD, where attendees raced into the Potomac Ballroom for spaces closest to the main stage. Some had been waiting in line since as early as 5:30 a.m. to see Pres­ident Donald J. Trump address con­ser­v­a­tives for the first time as Pres­ident.

One year prior, all Repub­lican pres­i­dential can­di­dates attended CPAC 2016 — with the exception of Trump — who can­celled his appearance just days before, announcing via Twitter that he would attend a rally in Kansas and Florida to advance his political cam­paign instead.

CPAC 2016 attendee William Temple from Georgia had planned to lead a walkout during Trump’s scheduled appearance, National Review reported — a dra­matic con­trast with the warm welcome Trump received this year.

Despite the apparent dislike of Trump by many con­ser­v­a­tives attending CPAC 2016, attendees were not pleased with Mr. Trump’s decision to cancel his con­ference appearance. In response, Ben Sasse tweeted: “PREDICTION: not the last time @realdonaldtrump will abandon con­ser­v­a­tives”.

In an official statement regarding his 2016 can­cel­lation, Trump’s rep­re­sen­tative said, “Mr. Trump would like to thank [American Con­ser­v­ative Union Chairman] Matt Schlapp and all of the exec­u­tives at CPAC and looks forward to returning next year, hope­fully as Pres­ident of the United States.”

Trump’s wish came true: the Pres­ident affec­tion­ately said, “I love this place, I love you people,” to the crowd standing, cheering, and clapping in jubi­lation.

So has the con­ser­v­ative movement changed, or has Trump proven himself a con­ser­v­ative?

With Trump’s victory of the White House, con­ser­v­a­tives seem to have aban­doned their prin­ciples that moved them to dis­ap­prove of Trump just months prior.

Each year, CPAC con­ducts a straw poll of atten­dants, asking a variety of dif­ferent ques­tions, gauging the crowd on various political pref­er­ences. This year’s results showed that 47 percent of attendees believed that things in the United States had gotten off track, but 86 percent responded that they approve of the job that Donald Trump is doing as pres­ident.

In 2016, Donald J. Trump received 15 percent of the straw poll votes for first choice of pres­i­dential can­didate, then receiving 9 percent for second choice pres­i­dential can­didate. This shows that less than 25 percent of con­ser­v­a­tives at CPAC 2016 con­sidered Donald Trump as a first or second choice can­didate. Sur­pris­ingly, the 2017 CPAC straw poll results stated that 80 percent in atten­dance agree that Donald Trump is realigning the con­ser­v­ative movement.

Back in 2016, CPAC attendees had the oppor­tunity to listen to pres­i­dential can­didate after pres­i­dential can­didate beg for their vote as each fought for the claim to be the more con­ser­v­ative can­didate.

Wis­consin Gov. Scott Walker, a 2016 Repub­lican pres­i­dential can­didate, spoke to CPAC 2016 and said, “I want to offer you some enthu­siasm and optimism today and tell you no matter what is hap­pening there, the con­ser­v­ative movement is alive and well in states throughout America”.

But it isn’t. The con­ser­v­ative movement has lost its ground and is blending toward a main­stream Repub­lican party approach.

Pres­ident Trump addressed his absence from CPAC 2016 in his speech this year.

“I would have come last year, but I was worried that I would be at that time too con­tro­versial,” he said. “We wanted border security, we wanted very very strong mil­itary. We wanted all the things that we are going to get but some people con­sidered it con­tro­versial. But you didn’t think it was con­tro­versial.”

But the con­ser­v­ative movement is no longer the same. CPAC 2017 was a party for those cel­e­brating the elec­toral college, rejoicing in the Donald Trump pres­i­dency, and not for the “Ronald Reagan Con­ser­v­a­tives” who may have attended the year before.

Ms. Von Dohlen is a sophomore studying American Studies and jour­nalism.

  • Camus53

    Reagan presided over a com­plete budget blowup. 11 con­sec­utive tax increases including those on SS and Med­icaid and the single largest tax increase ever on business. Gave the mil­itary a blank check which they used to extremes never seen outside of the US being at war. Presided over the most corrupt admin­is­tration in modern history including some 130 indi­viduals inves­ti­gated, indicted, arrested or incarcerated.That Reagan? Need I con­tinue?

    The true facts are that many con­sider Reagan’s term to be the beginning of the death of Con­ser­vatism. A death brought on by many of the reasons warned about by Gold­water some years earlier.