Picture by Bundesarchiv, 1936. Trump by Sambeet on Pixabay. Illustration, courtesy of the author.

CPAC 2021 is Trump’s First Nuremberg Rally

Trumpism just held its first ideological conference: we ought to be scared of its pro-Civil-War message and nazi symbolism.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Maya Angelou’s wisdom has always evaded political commentators. For years before his elections, experts and journalists dismissed Trump as a joke. They didn’t take his words seriously; neither did they take the man. He was nothing but a buffoon that Washington and its power-brokers would tame should he ever be elected. Trump always showed who he was, and everybody ignored it.

It culminated in the insurrection of January 6, 2021. This day and the infamy it brought on the history of the United States was quintessentially Trumpian. Trump lied, inflamed his supporters’ spirits, riled up the very worst in them, and sent them marching on democracy, trampling laws, norms, and decency, killing five in the process. All the while, Trump was reportedly delighted to watch the insurrection unfold until he realised how low-class his mobsters really were. It doesn’t get more Trumpian than this.

The storming of the Capitol was what one might call a tipping point: those who had turned a blind eye for four eyes were eventually forced to take a stand. Would they support democracy and the rule of law, or would they go for autocracy and tyranny?

The GOP has chosen. Its members decided not to impeach and not to convict. When only 11% of Republican voters blame Trump for January 6, what did we truly expect?

Republicans will not back down with their Big Lie. It failed to produce tangible results in the courts, and it failed to overturn a democratically-elected government. It succeeded in instilling in all GOP voters the idea that the Democrats had stabbed them in the back. The nazis blamed the communists and the Jews; the GOP blames the Democrats, Antifa, BLM, and the radical left. Both parties are following the same steps.

After his failed beer-hall putsch, Hitler was dealt a slap-on-the-wrist nine-month prison sentence, during which he dictated Mein Kampf. When he got out, even the New York Times thought he had been “tamed.” We all know the rest of the story. January 6 was Trump’s beer-hall putsch. For this act of sedition against his country, he will not even set foot in jail.

In the years between his stint and prison and his rise to power, Hitler and the nazi party started organising the yearly Nuremberg rallies. As massive propaganda events designed to advance the nazi platform, Hitler used the gatherings to project the might and wealth of the NSDAP. They were perfect examples of the attention to detail and symbolism that characterised nazi “marketing” and communication; immortalised by Riefenstahl, they became popular movies and entered every German’s personal life.

We’ve all shuddered to look at the pictures.

CPAC 2021 is Trump’s first incarnation of what will undoubtedly become his version of the Nuremberg rallies.

First, there is symbolism. We’ve all laughed at the ridicule of Trump’s gold statue, but we ought not to. We ought to be scared. Beyond the pathetic and tacky, this statue tells us a frightening message.

Twitter / @bryanbehar

Trumps is represented as a fit and dynamic man in shining gold, wearing American-flag board shorts, flip-flops, and the top half of a suit. He holds the preamble to the Consitution in his right hand; in his left, either a magic wand or a sceptre. Above the statue, a simple message, “Look ahead, America.”

Republicans will tell you, of course, that this is done “in good fun,” that any interpretation beyond a joke is nothing but liberal woke-conspiracy. Let’s play the interpretation game nonetheless.

This statue is an obvious manifestation of the cult of personality that imbues the GOP. Trump is the party; the party is Trump. The gold not only appeals to Trump’s lack of taste and love of shiny objects, but it also reminds us of the golden calf: Trump is represented as an idol.

His attributes are the Constitution and a sceptre of power/magic wand. Much like the kings of Medieval Europe who were represented wielding a sword — a symbol of their temporal power — and a globus crucigera symbol of their spiritual power — Trump holds both keys to power.

The boogaloo boys wear military fatigue and Hawaiian shirts, but this would have been too much of a tell even by the GOP’s standards. Instead, they’ve given Trump the opposite uniform: a suit as military fatigue, a symbol of his office; board shorts as a Hawaiian shirt, a clear message to all would-be far-right rebels that they are welcome. His tie is partially undone to show how “cool and edgy” Trump really is, how natural he remains amidst all his glory and power.

There is also the stage, shaped in a well-known rune used by the nazis as an emblem and used today by far-right white-supremacist groups in the United States. Once again, as a rational human being, you might be thinking to yourself, “do I see too much here? Am I reasonable?” Let me help you with an answer; you are reasonable. There is no reason for a stage to be shaped like this other than obvious symbolism.

The rune-shaped stage, together with the discreet reference to the boogaloo boys and Trump’s cult of personality, all indicate the event's true intention: it is an ideological platform for 21st-century American nazism, otherwise known as Trumpism.

Source: Twitter/@FireDancer7474

No analysis of CPAC would be complete without looking at its agenda. Does the content vindicate our analysis of the symbols? You can read the full programme here, but here are a few topics that speakers and attendees will discuss:

  • “Why the Left Hates the Bill of Rights… and We Love It.”
  • Bill of Rights, Liberty, and Cancel Culture.
  • “Protecting Elections Part 2: Other Culprits: How Judges & Media Refused to Look at the Evidence.”
  • “Protecting Elections Part 3: The Left Pulled the Strings, Covered It Up, and Even Admits It.”
  • “The Left’s Assault on a Free People: How Government, Big Tech, and Media Are Colluding to Deprive Us of Our Humanity.”
  • “The Way Forward: Unlocking Our Churches, Our Voices, and Our Social Media Accounts”
  • Shining a Light on the Left’s 2020 Shadow Campaign
  • “Foreign Policy: Peace Through Strength for a New Generation”
  • “Losing My Religion? Why a Christian Worldview is Foundational to
    Political Engagement”
  • Protecting Elections Part 4: Failed States (PA, GA, NV, oh my!)

Half the conference's content is dedicated to the GOP’s Big Lie under the hypocritical series title of “Protecting Elections.” The rest is divided between discussions on abortion, the right to life, and how being a Christian is “foundational to political engagement” and discussions of each Amendment in the Bill of Rights. The event has been dubbed “Woodstock for election liars;” the agenda corroborates this view.

The second-to-last two speech of the convention, the opening act by Jim Jordan to Donald Trump’s closing remarks, analyses Amendments IX and X. The choice, once again, isn’t random. The Tenth Amendment addresses states’ rights, a direct reference to the Civil War and the false narrative.

The Ninth Amendment is lesser-known, but we cannot ignore its importance to conservative dogma. On the surface, it “addresses rights, retained by the people, that are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.” A deeper reading made by conservative scholars understands it thus:

Still others, such as Thomas B. McAffee, have argued that the Ninth Amendment protects the unenumerated “residuum” of rights which the federal government was never empowered to violate.

The Ninth Amendment, in their views, protects those natural rights that predate the Constitution, rights that are inherent to the people. To me, this is nothing more than another dog whistle for white supremacy and the supposed rights of the white man to dominate.

CPAC 2021 outlines a clear ideological line for the GOP and mirrors the propaganda strategy used by the nazis. The convention pushes forward the party’s Big Lie and Stabbed-in-the-back narrative while also advancing topics that resonate with basic, single-issue voters (abortion, cancel culture). The event intends to build a cult of personality around an idolised Trump that has the attributes of monarchs of old and of wannabe secessionists.

By coopting nazi and confederate symbology, the GOP proves that it is the party of Civil War and authoritarianism; it is the party of hatred and white supremacy. It’ll be interestingly scary to see how the speeches held in Orlando will resonate in GOP talking points in the months to come. Watch out for references to the IX and X amendments and for them to double-down on cancel culture.

The event “The Left’s Assault on a Free People: How Government, Big Tech, and Media Are Colluding to Deprive Us of Our Humanity” might have one of the most frightening titles. The GOP accuses the “left” of doing exactly what they are doing: stripping their political opponents of their Humanity to justify violence and hatred.

CPAC 2021 should be seen as a Nuremberg rally. Let’s hope it doesn’t become another Wannsee conference.

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