Less than a year ago many were predicting the downfall of the US Republican Party as a convention and election seemed to fracture it beyond repair. What happened to the internal resistance, now that Trump is president?
On the face of it, the Conservative Political Action Conference seemed to be a big three-day event full of love: love of country, love of Trump, love of finally having control in both houses of the US government, the presidency, and most of the local governments across the country. Attendees at the conference seemed to be still riding high on their electoral college victory, unfazed by mainstream media reports of chaos within the administration or the outcry of the left against President Trump's controversial executive orders.
There's no sign of the party in tatters and disarray, as many experts predicted would come on November 9th, 2016, once Donald Trump lost the election. Mark Levin, a leading conservative radio show host, told DW that "of course” there are still schisms within the party, but Republicans are united in fending off the "their opponents.”
Levin was an outspoken supporter of the anti-Trump movement during the Republican primaries in 2016, but once the race came down to Trump versus Hillary Clinton, he turned to Trump and endorsed him. "There're always going to be people who oppose the president," Levin said, "even people within the party. But that's really not that unusual."
What of the "alt-right," Trump's friendly foe?
Did the so-called alt-right pose a threat to party unity, now that they have seemingly adopted the GOP as their party across the board? "We haven't adopted them!" Levin said, to some approving laughter from those standing around him.
The rejection of the alt-right was on display at CPAC on Thursday when the notorious white supremacist Richard Spencer arrived at the conference, credentials in hand, and was escorted out amid a scrum of media and passers-by shouting insults in his direction.
Elsewhere, the united front showed some cracks. David Polyansky is the current Chief of Staff for Senator Ted Cruz, a former presidential candidate who was one of the last men standing against President Trump in the primaries. When asked directly if he saw any breakage between factions in the party, Polyansky dodged, replying, "We're on the right path. We're going to repeal Obamacare and get a great conservative on the Supreme Court. We've got an important agenda ahead of us."
Brian Phillips, currently Senior Vice President at WPA Research and former Cruz staffer, said that any current grumblings in the party probably had more to do with Trump's behavior than his actions as president to date. "Trump will be Trump," Phillips said. "This is what we expected. He's not going to change when he's president. So the schism over that will also probably not change." But, Philips noted, in terms of policy Republicans had a lot to like about what Trump done so far.
Chris Wilson, another former current Cruz staffer and current CEO of WPA Research, agreed. "Trump does things that are conservative. As long as he governs like a Republican, and he has been so far, I think things will be fine."