How will CPAC grapple with Trump-era conservatism?

Will populism prevail at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference?

President Trump at the 2017 CPAC gathering
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Nearly two years ago on the campaign trail, Donald Trump declared himself a conservative — and called it irrelevant. "I'm a conservative," Trump told the audience at the California Republican Party convention in April 2016, "but at this point, who cares? We've got to straighten out the country." Trump went on to shock the world six months later with his presidential win, and ever since, conservatives have been trying to find their footing in a new, populist political order on the right.

This week, at the 46th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held just outside of Washington, D.C., conservatives will meet for the second time in the Trump era. Will this be a debate over the principles of conservative governance, as it has functioned in the past? Or will conservatives rally around the victors of 2016 and demand unity over policy, reflecting an impulse to gather the wagons around the personalities and discourage dissent?

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Edward Morrissey

Edward Morrissey has been writing about politics since 2003 in his blog, Captain's Quarters, and now writes for His columns have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Post, The New York Sun, the Washington Times, and other newspapers. Morrissey has a daily Internet talk show on politics and culture at Hot Air. Since 2004, Morrissey has had a weekend talk radio show in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and often fills in as a guest on Salem Radio Network's nationally-syndicated shows. He lives in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, and his two granddaughters. Morrissey's new book, GOING RED, will be published by Crown Forum on April 5, 2016.