Grandparent magic, blatant voter fraud, and more: This week’s Picks from the Daily Kos Community

Happy happy Saturday, dearest Daily Kos Community! You keeping it together over there? Between this president’s antics, the ever-intense Democratic primary, and the fear of a potential pandemic gripping not just the nation, but the world, there’s a lot to be anxious about. All eyes are also on South Carolina this Saturday, as voters hope their candidates do well and fear what comes next if they don’t.

This week’s Picks aren’t a full reprieve from the issues that are haunting us today. All the same—come on in and enjoy ten great stories from our magnificent cadre of Community scribes that you might have missed!

This week’s stories, as always, cover a wide range of topics, and while some of them already have hundreds of recs and comments, most have far fewer. Dig in and see if I found a story that slipped by you. We’ve got two first-time diarists in the mix as well! Let’s hear it for the newbies, and for everyone else! 

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Without further delay, let’s get to it!

The Mass Psychology of the Religious Right By psychusa

This fascinating analysis of the psychology that keeps the religious right obedient to all the wrong people is a must-read as November speeds towards us.

Doctors Are Examining the Vaginas of Unconscious Women Without Their Consent

By ZawnVillines

Yes, really. And if the patients push back, they’re told to go elsewhere for treatment.

Oldest plant fossil ever found: Green plants were already big and multicellular a billion years ago

By skralyx

Science is amazing. This story not only explores a discovery of something (extremely) old, it also celebrates an exciting new discovery!

White Parents Force Suspension of 'Whiteness Studies' High School Course

By herbinchi

A Wisconsin school shut down a class that explored “American Diversity” after white parents called it “indoctrination.” Again: yes, really.

Vote fraud, the old-fashioned way: Philadelphia 1972

By afmeyers

A remarkable look back at the Nixon campaign’s manipulation of the race for president—from someone who was on-the-ground for team McGovern.

Republicans searched the world to find an 'Anti Greta,' and found a hard-right German teen

By The BigotBasher

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, right? Even when it comes to the rightwing hunt for a teen sensation.

Another ex-GOP conversion story...a slow evolution in my case

By Joe Btfsplk

Another ex-Republican—and first-time diarist—shares a more-common-than-you-might-think journey from the hard right.

Jesse Jackson Explains Democratic Socialism

By whiffleberry

Regardless of who your preferred candidate for President may be, check out this dismantling of the seemingly inescapable fear-mongering about these two buzzwords.  

In Honor of my Grandfather - and ability itself

By Rogerwolfson

Another first-time diarist shares a loving and relatable tribute to his grandfather, and challenges us to think of the ways our own grandparents and elders have shaped us.

Burning Coal in the USA

By RustyRobot

A snackable, accessible, and must-read primer exploring the coal industry’s rise—and its collapse.

That’s it for this week, friends. How’d I do? As always, feel free to send your recommendations my way all week long, and don’t hesitate to sound off below if I overlooked some of your favorite writing this week. Most importantly, KEEP WRITING. Reading your work, and hearing from such a diverse array of voices is absolutely my second-favorite part of my job! (I cannot lie: Collaborating with my cherished Community Contributors team is my most-favorite task!)

Till next week, dearest ones! 

'Thank you, God': Trump revels in reign as absolute king of CPAC

'Thank you, God': Trump revels in reign as absolute king of CPACAt the grassroots conservative gathering after fronting a coronavirus briefing, the president was back in his happy placeStop Donald Trump now, Democrats warned at his impeachment trial, or will he take on the aspect of a king.The prophecy appears to have been borne out, as the US president hands out jobs to loyalists, purges perceived enemies, pardons convicted criminals and swaggers as if with a divine right.On Saturday, addressing the biggest annual gathering of US grassroots conservatives, Trump wondered aloud at it being “sort of a miracle” he has got so much done despite all he’s been through.“Maybe it’s right there, right?” he asked, pointing to the heavens. “Thank you, God.”The crowd loved it. Trump stayed away from a sceptical Conservative Political Action Conference in 2016 but now he is its sun king. Supporters in a palatial ballroom at the National Harbour leaped to their feet, whooping and cheering, many wearing “Make America great again” and “Keep America great” caps.> They’re coming after me, and we fight them back> > Donald TrumpThey roared their approval when, like a medieval monarch who has survived a bloody insurrection, Trump vowed revenge.“They’re coming after me and we fight them back,” he said. “And now we’re going after them because we have no choice. We have to straighten out our country. But despite the best efforts of the leftwing fanatics, their scams, schemes, slanders, they’ve all been discredited, totally discredited.”He singled out James Comey, whom he fired as director of the FBI, and special counsel Robert Mueller, who led the Russia investigation, as enemies whose heads deserved to end up on metaphorical spikes.“How is Comey doing?” he asked, sardonically. “How is Bob Mueller doing? That was a great performance in Congress. ‘Raise your right hand.’ ‘What?’”There was also mention of the Utah senator Mitt Romney, who voted to convict Trump at the impeachment trial and, like a rebellious duke, was banished from CPAC this year. Trump described Romney as “lowlife” and the crowd booed lustily.The president also spoke ominously of getting rid of bad people in government who are “not people that love our country” and launched a familiar tirade against the “fake news” media.He gave little sign that he is worried about the democratic inconvenience of an election in November. Just a couple of hours after trying to muster gravitas in the White House briefing room while discussing the coronavirus, he reverted to the comfort zone of freewheeling rally style.He took delight in mocking each of his Democratic rivals.“We’ve got Sleepy Joe [Biden], we’ve got Crazy Bernie [Sanders], we’ve got Mini Mike [Bloomberg] but I think he’s out of it,” he said. “That was probably the worst debate performance in the history of presidential debates.“It just shows you can’t buy an election. I mean, there’s a point at which people say, ‘You gotta bring the goods a little bit, too.’”Trump parodied Bloomberg’s height by crouching behind the lectern and the crowd went wild, laughing ecstatically and chanting: “Four more years! Four more years!”The president said: “We hit a nerve!”He also took a swipe at Biden, the former vice-president, for a gaffe in a recent debate: “Did he just say that we killed 150 million people? That’s half of our population.”Trump even held an instant poll by asking the audience to “scream” for whether he would beat Biden or Sanders more easily. There was a significant scream for Biden but a much louder and sustained one for the democratic socialist senator from Vermont.Trump suggested Biden would be “sitting in a home” for the elderly rather than governing, whereas Sanders might be a communist. That chimed with the conference’s theme: “America vs socialism”.Of the Democrats, Trump warned darkly: “They want to take away your money, take away your choice, take away your speech, take away your guns, take away your religion, take away your history, take away your future and ultimately take away your freedom. But we will never let them do that.”In a characteristically rambling monologue, he seemed genuinely unable to comprehend how teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg beat him to the precious title of Time magazine person of the year.But he finished his speech by hugging and kissing the flag – a familiar move which elicited a huge cheer from his devoted subjects.For them, and for Trump’s loyal courtiers at the White House and on Capitol Hill, it is a case of long live the king.


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Trump fends off criticism of 'hoax' remark after first US coronavirus death

Trump fends off criticism of 'hoax' remark after first US coronavirus deathDeath confirmed in Washington state as president says he used word hoax ‘with regard to Democrats and what they were saying’Shortly after confirmation of the first coronavirus death in the US, Donald Trump rebuffed criticism for using the word “hoax” in describing the outbreak. The president also touted his administration’s response as “the most aggressive action in modern history to confront this disease”.Trump made his startling claim at a rally on Friday night in North Charleston, South Carolina, the state holding a Democratic primary on Saturday.“The Democrats are politicising the coronavirus,” Trump said. “They’re politicising it. One of my people came up to me and said: ‘Mr President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia.’ That did not work out too well. They could not do it. They tried the impeachment hoax.“This is their new hoax.”Washington state governor Jay Inslee confirmed the death on Saturday.“It is a sad day in our state as we learn a Washingtonian has died from Covid-19,” Inslee said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to his family and friends. We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus.”According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) situation report, 83,652 cases of coronavirus and nearly 2,800 deaths have been reported worldwide. The vast majority of cases are in China but the virus has caused havoc with stock markets and international travel and sporting and business events.Before news of the Washington state death, US authorities reported three new cases in the Pacific north-west overnight, bringing the total to 62.At the White House on Saturday, Trump was asked if he regretted using “hoax” now that someone had died.His use of the word referred to “the action they [Democrats] tried to take to try to pin this on somebody because we’ve done such a good job”, he said.“The hoax is on them. I’m not talking about what’s happening here,” Trump added, also saying he was “certainly not referring to this … I don’t like it when they are criticizing these people, and that’s the hoax.”Trump was also asked if his use of “hoax” could deter people from taking cautionary steps against the coronavirus. He insisted again the word was used “with regard to Democrats and what they were saying”.Regarding the White House’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, Trump said he would meet with pharmaceutical companies on Monday to discuss expedited vaccine development.Vice-president Mike Pence, heading the coronavirus task force, described four new initiatives to combat the virus. They included expanding the federal ban on travel from Iran, barring foreign nationals who have visited the country within 14 days from entering the US.Pence said US officials would also increase to “the highest level” an advisory warning Americans not to visit areas of Italy and South Korea most impacted by coronavirus, and said the state department would work with these countries to screen individuals.Pence also said the administration had contracted with 3M to produce an additional 35 million face masks per month.Trump’s comments about a supposed hoax were condemned by Democrats seeking the nomination to face him in the presidential election.“For him to … start talking about being a hoax is absolutely dangerous,” Biden said in Greenville, South Carolina, on Saturday. “It’s just not a decent way to act.”Biden added: “Some of the stuff he says is so bizarre that you can laugh at it. It just so diminishes the faith that people around the world have in the United States.”Trump repeatedly called Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference a hoax. The former special counsel did not establish a criminal conspiracy but did lay out extensive evidence of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians and numerous instances of potential obstruction of justice.“Look, this is a serious, serious, serious problem,” Biden said. “It’s able to be solved, but it requires us to be absolutely levelheaded and let the scientists have the lead in all of this.“But for [Trump] to … start talking about being a hoax is absolutely dangerous. It’s just not a decent way to act.”Other Democratic candidates weighed in. Sanders asked why Trump “repeatedly think[s] that scientific facts are hoaxes” and said “the most dangerous president in the modern history of our country” was “putting our people’s lives at risk”.Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, told NBC News: “It’s critically important that the administration and the White House handle this in a way that’s based on science and not on politics. I was particularly disturbed to hear the word ‘hoax’ used by the president.”American lives, Buttigieg added, “depend on the wisdom and the judgement of the president at a time like this”.Amid criticism for previous budget cuts to epidemic defences as his administration asked Congress for funding to address the coronavirus outbreak, Trump’s decision to put Pence in charge of US response has also met with widespread criticism.Republicans and supporters of Trump have fired back, accusing the president’s opponents and the media of seeking political gain from the outbreak. On Friday the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, told Fox News Democrats had reached a “new level of sickness” and wanted to see coronavirus kill “millions of people”.On Friday night, the president said: “We are doing everything in our power to keep the infection and those carrying the infection from entering the country. We have no choice.” He also sought without offering evidence to tie coronavirus cases in the US to the southern border, the focus of his hardline immigration policy.“Whether it’s the virus that we’re talking about,” Trump said, “or the many other public health threats, the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and wellbeing of all Americans.”At the White House on Saturday Trump said the administration was not seriously considering closing the border with Mexico.


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Trump fires up CPAC: President blisters 2020 Democrats, rips ‘low life’ Romney

President Trump rallied the core of the conservative activist base Saturday with a fiery address mercilessly mocking his potential Democratic presidential foes, railing against the “Washington swamp” and shaming Republican Sen. Mitt Romney for defecting on the final impeachment vote.

Trump fires up CPAC: President takes aim at ‘left-wing mob,’ Romney defection, Bloomberg’s height

President Trump rallied the core of the conservative activist base Saturday with a fiery address mercilessly mocking his potential Democratic presidential foes, blasting the “left-wing mob” and shaming Republican Sen. Mitt Romney for defecting on the final impeachment vote.

Trump ally Graham and ex-aide Bolton voice concerns over Taliban deal

Trump ally Graham and ex-aide Bolton voice concerns over Taliban dealSenator ‘very suspect of the Taliban’, ex-national security adviser slams ‘Obama-style deal’ and Democrats call for oversightIn Doha on Saturday, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo hailed the “historic talks” which led to the signing of an agreement with the Taliban which will see the US begin to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan after more than 18 years of war.In Washington, however, the deal was not greeted with universal enthusiasm even by Trump allies such as Lindsey Graham or by former presidential aides, among them the former national security adviser John Bolton.Many observers counselled caution and pointed to a difficult road ahead.Most pointed out that the deal leaves peace in Afghanistan to be negotiated between the Taliban and an Afghan government the militants have always denounced as a puppet.Many voiced concerns about safeguarding human rights advances, particularly concerning the lives of Afghan women, made since the US invasion in 2001 which also denied al-Qaida terrorists their base for the 9/11 attacks.US troops could be out by spring 2021 but that will depend on the Taliban refraining from violent action. In the US on Saturday a planned prisoner exchange was also criticised as a potential concession too far.The White House said: “President Trump promised to bring our troops home from overseas and is following through on that promise.”Opponents of the Trump administration emphasised the timing of the deal in an election year.In a statement, Graham, a foreign policy hawk who appeared at a Trump campaign rally in his home state on Friday, said he would “support any reasonable effort to negotiate an end to the war in Afghanistan.“However, any peace agreement must be sustainable, honorable and include protections for the American homeland against international terrorist organisations that are alive and well in Afghanistan.”The South Carolina Republican added: “I am very suspect of the Taliban ever accepting the Afghan constitution and honouring the rights of religious minorities and women. Time will tell if reconciliation in Afghanistan can be accomplished with honour and security, but after more than 18 years of war, it is time to try.”John Bolton, Trump’s third national security adviser who was fired in September last year, was more damning.“Signing this agreement with Taliban is an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population,” he said in a tweet. “This is an Obama-style deal. Legitimising Taliban sends the wrong signal to [Islamic State] and al-Qaida terrorists, and to America’s enemies generally.”The mention of Obama would have been particularly stinging to Trump, who has repeatedly sought to reverse his predecessor’s actions.Bolton was also a key figure in Trump’s impeachment, over his approaches to Ukraine, which the president survived. The former adviser has a book coming out – Trump is trying to block it.At the White House on Saturday afternoon, at a press conference to discuss the coronavirus outbreak, Trump was asked about Bolton’s comment.“He had his chance, he didn’t do it,” he said, before seeming to refer to Bolton’s role in the administration of George W Bush, under which the US invaded Afghanistan.“He was very much in favour of going in, we should never have gone in in the first place. When they went into Iraq, when they went into the Middle East in such a fashion I was very much against it.”In fact, at the time Trump voiced his support for the Iraq war.The candidates for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in November were campaigning on Saturday, mostly in South Carolina which was staging its primary.A senior figure on Capitol Hill, the Connecticut senator Chris Murphy, said the agreement with the Taliban was “a step in the right direction”.But, he added: “It’s critical that women and minorities are brought to the table in the coming negotiations … we must sustain our diplomatic engagement with the Afghan people as we also work to begin bringing our troops home, while leaving critical counterterrorism operations in place.“This is the longest war in our country’s history, and that’s exactly why Congress must be consulted before any final agreement is reached. That’s why I am requesting Ambassador [Zalmay] Khalilzad” – the peace envoy who signed the deal in Doha – come before the Senate foreign relations committee in the coming weeks.”Elliot Engel, the Democratic chair of the House foreign relations committe, said he was “concerned that this negotiation was carried out without any meaningful input from Congress and with little transparency for the American people – a recurring problem with this administration”. He also said he expected Khalilzad to appear before his committee.Experts also advised caution.Kate Clark, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, said: “This is not yet a peace deal, it’s a withdrawal deal. You can’t help hoping for something like a momentum being created by this reduction in violence but it didn’t happen after the Eid ceasefire [in 2018].”Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations thinktank, said: “As welcome as peace in Afghanistan would be, it is hard to believe it is at hand. I see no mention of Taliban disarmament or closing its Pakistan sanctuary. The risk is the US removes capabilities in the long-shot hope the Taliban will change its ways.”


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Mike Pompeo refuses to deny conspiracy theory that coronavirus is ‘hoax created to damage Trump’

Mike Pompeo refuses to deny conspiracy theory that coronavirus is ‘hoax created to damage Trump’US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has refused to deny a conspiracy theory that the severity of the coronavirus outbreak is a "hoax", after the White House tried to paint coverage of the disease's spread as a conspiracy to undermine Donald Trump.The president accused his opponents and the media of “politicising” the virus, adding, “This is their new hoax,” following the investigation over Russian interference in his election and his impeachment.


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Trump calls coronavirus ‘the new hoax’ as he repeats lies about spread within the U.S.

On Friday night, Donald Trump called the coronavirus epidemic a “hoax” by Democrats who “failed” to bring him down over his collusion with Russia, or the extortion of Ukraine that led to his impeachment. After weeks of downplaying the threat, of ignoring the spread around the world, and of demonstrating that his concerns begin and end with the stock market, Trump has moved on to the next stage of how he is handling the COVID-19 issue — affixing the blame.

On a rally stage in South Carolina, Trump took his statement that he could kill Americans and get away with it out of the realm of theory and put it into practice. The people that he murdered might not be dead yet, but his words on that stage have killed them as certainly as if he lined them up on Fifth Avenue and opened fire.

Trump has criminally underplayed the importance of emergency preparations of all kinds. His gutted White House has disposed of epidemiologists and emergency response specialists from the National Security Council, CDC, and elsewhere — for reasons that don’t seem to be much more defined than Trump’s lifelong hatred of having people around who know that what is doing is foolish.

During his positively incoherent press event on Thursday, Trump already knew that there were sixty cases of coronavirus within the United States. More importantly, he knew that the CDC had just identified the first case of “community spread” in the country — a case that didn’t come in from overseas, and wasn’t obviously tied to someone who had caught it outside the country. Before his speech in South Carolina, three more cases had been identified, including another case of community spread. However, Trump insisted on telling his rally audience that there were still only “fifteen cases in this huge country.”

Trump took credit for this “pretty amazing” imaginary victory, claiming it was because he “moved early.” But it’s clear that Trump wants to declare the win … won. And everything that happens from now on can’t be blamed on him.

Trump: “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that … coronavirus. We did one of the great jobs, you say, ‘How’s President Trump doing?’ They say, ‘Oh, not good. Not good.’ They have no clue. They don’t have any clue.  … They tried to beat you on ‘Russia, Russia, Russia,’ that didn’t work out to well. They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything. They tried over and over. They been doing it since you got in. It’s all turning, they lost, it’s all turning. Think of it. Think of it. And this is their new hoax.”

The worst thing with Trump’s statement isn’t that it once again treats an infectious disease as a political talking point. It’s not that he’s failing to warn his listeners of the genuine threat they and their families will be facing. It’s not even that he’s dodging the blame for a response that has already proven inadequate

The worst thing is that Trump never has a worst thing. There is always more ahead. Because when confronted, he won’t admit a mistake, or apologize, or even try to sidestep. He will double down. 

And where he’s going can already be seen in the way that this story is being handled by right-wing media and by politicians who are racing to get ahead of the issue … the Republican way.

The Corona virus was man-made. Bill Gates is one of the financiers of the Wujan lab where it was being developed. I wouldn�t put it past them and by �them� I mean everyone from Adam Schiff to George Soros, Hillary Clinton and the Pope. #DeepStateCabal #KAG2020 @CIA https://t.co/NYHkEp5UHH

— JoanneWrightForCongress (@JWrightforCA34) February 24, 2020

Joanne Wright is an actual Republican candidate for Congress in the 34th California district currently held by Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez. Gomez won his last race with 72% of the vote … over a Green Party candidate, as Republicans didn’t even field a challenger. Wright doesn’t actually represent a threat to take away a seat in the House.

But she represents a threat all right. Her version of the coronavirus situation, with conspiracy theory ladled on top of conspiracy theory, with a heaping helping of both antisemitism and anti-Catholicism is exactly how this story is circulating in right wing channels. That may seem like the batsh#t fringe of the party. But at this point, the Trumpist party is all fringe.

Trump is already stepping onto this ground with his claim that the coronavirus is a Democratic hoax. With the stock market already in free-fall, and the disease beginning to spread across the nation in earnest, there is no place he will not go. Or at least … no place except responsible behavior and good management.

Trump in South Carolina saying Coronavirus is the "new hoax" to defeat him after impeachment "failed." pic.twitter.com/pwibjsnCT2

— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) February 29, 2020

CPAC exiles grapple with the new devotion to Trump

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — In 2011, Rep. Joe Walsh was a tea party darling, a harsh critic of the Obama administration who brought the house down at the Conservative Political Action Conference. In 2020, he was at CPAC again — but as a guest of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah," hesitantly walking through the exhibition halls with comedian Roy Wood Jr.

The conservative radio host had been recognized by people who once were his friends and couldn’t pretend they didn’t see him. Walsh carried a stigma: He’d insulted President Donald Trump by not only criticizing him but by having the gall to run against him in the Republican primary. Torn between catching up with an old colleague and being singled out by observers as talking to a Trump foe, they split the difference — and instead kept asking him how his wife was doing.

“It was really fascinating,” said his political manager, Lucy Caldwell, who’d watched Walsh field that interaction repeatedly. “I think it shows that we’re all human and that we want to have human connection, so you want to reach out to someone you were once close to. But it’s also everything that’s wrong with the enablers of Trump.”

Former CPAC attendees said in interviews that they shared similar sentiments and that they barely recognized their beloved conference anymore.

This year’s lineup was saturated with Trump officials and firebrands they would have never seen at a pre-Trump CPAC: YouTube personalities like Diamond and Silk, deep state witch hunter Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), and radio host Dan Bongino. The agenda, conservative columnist Mona Charen pointed out, didn’t even have any time devoted to the conservative movement’s former hang-ups: the budget deficit and taxes.

And two years after Charen had been booed at CPAC for criticizing Trump, the appetite for intraparty ideological disagreement — a former hallmark of the conference, they said — has drastically plummeted. This was the year, after all, that Matt Schlapp dramatically banned Mitt Romney from the conference after he voted with Democrats to allow witnesses at Trump’s impeachment trial — even claiming that he worried for Romney’s “physical safety” should he even step into the venue — and youth activist Charlie Kirk encouraged the crowd to boo whenever they ever heard Romney’s name.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks during Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2020, at the National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Md., Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

“The environment that’s been created now is so hostile to anyone that has a different view. And particularly those of us who have taken principled stands against Donald Trump as conservatives,” said Tara Setmayer, who was a Republican communications director on Capitol Hill in the pre-Trump era.

Setmayer said she attended 15 CPACs, starting when she was a college student in 1993, and stopped after 2015. And in the age of Trump, going is out of the question. “I don't think I would feel safe going to speak, or even walking through CPAC given my position against stuff.”

With a speaker lineup stacked with Cabinet members, campaign officials and Trump progeny — not to mention their spouses — it was clear Trump was the center of the conference, keeping everyone in his orbit with the pull of anti-socialism. Even the American Conservative Union, the group that organizes the even, was not separate: The wife of the organizer, Mercedes Schlapp, was a White House official until she left last year for the Trump 2020 campaign.

“Movement conservatives saw themselves as being separate from the administration,” recalled Matt Lewis, a columnist at The Daily Beast who was honored as CPAC’s blogger of the year in 2010. “Part of our job was to hold them accountable and to cheer them when they did well, boo them when they did bad. And now I think there’s a sense that they’re really one and the same. The conservative movement is the Republican Party, is CPAC, is Donald Trump.”

A former CPAC organizer admitted that this symbiosis with the White House was a likely draw for attendees. “I can’t imagine that it hasn’t garnered attendees that may have attended before and never got to experience a sitting president and first family, as well as a sitting VP and almost every Cabinet secretary representative or Cabinet level official,” said this organizer.

Admittedly, CPAC’s exiles now have other options to network with their political ilk. This week alone, two other conservative groups are holding events in Washington in direct competition with CPAC. The Summit on Principled Conservatism, held by young Trump critic Heath Mayo and focusing on the “meaning of conservatism, its future, and its core principles,” set up shop at the National Press Club.

“I wanted to be with like-minded people that like good, thoughtful, deep discussion about what future is for conservatism,” said University of Virginia doctoral student Alex Welch, who had attended CPAC from 2011 through 2013.

It went the other way as well. Across town at the Omni Shoreham, Infowars’ Alex Jones and nationalist podcaster Nick Fuentes spoke at the National File Emergency First Amendment Summit on Wednesday, a tiny, far-right conference for "Groypers" with speakers railing against immigration and claiming that ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp was blunting Trump’s “New America” agenda for the gain of his corporate clients.

But for an event that’s nearly 50 years old and has a keystone place in the history of the modern conservative movement — Ronald Reagan first spoke of his “shining city upon a hill” at the first CPAC in 1974 — watching the conference become one and the same with the Trump administration has been nothing short of depressing for Trump critics.

“They have ginned up this sentiment where people, because we have a difference of opinion, political opinion, that we're no longer safe or welcome in the same room,” Setmayer said. “That is hard to fathom, and certainly not conservatism in the traditional sense.”

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Trump rallies his base to treat coronavirus as a ‘hoax’

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — President Donald Trump on Friday night tried to cast the global outbreak of the coronavirus as a liberal conspiracy intended to undermine his first term, lumping it alongside impeachment and the Mueller investigation.

He blamed the press for acting hysterically about the virus, which has now spread to China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Italy and the U.S, and he downplayed its dangers, saying against expert opinion it was on par with the flu.

“The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. They're politicizing it,” he said. “They don't have any clue. They can't even count their votes in Iowa. No, they can't. They can't count their votes. One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia.’ That did not work out too well. They could not do it. They tried the impeachment hoax.”

Then Trump called the coronavirus “their new hoax.”

Trump’s comments came as the White House has struggled to adequately respond to and contain the coronavirus’s increasingly sweeping path. At the rally — held here on the eve of the Democratic primary in South Carolina — he sought to manage Americans’ expectations about the White House’s ability to fight it.

By undermining the news reporting on the virus and by trying to hold liberals responsible for a potential public health crisis that has little to do with politics, Trump did what he often does best: He sought to deflect blame at a time when many Americans sought leadership and scientific facts.

After Trump had downplayed the risks of coronavirus, he reassured supporters that the White House was “magnificently organized” in fighting it. In fact, Trump’s administration spent the week jockeying among themselves to lead the response, while the stock market tumbled with losses not seen since the global financial recession. White House officials and the president grew so concerned this week that Trump put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the response effort, swapping out his beleaguered health secretary.

None of that came up on Friday night, as Trump trash-talked his Democratic opponents in 2020 and characterized the coronavirus as the latest issue touching on border security.

“Whether it is the virus that we're talking about or many other public health threats, the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and well-being of all Americans. Now, you see it with the coronavirus. You see it. You see it with the coronavirus. You see that. When you have this virus or any other virus or any other problem coming in, it's not the only thing that comes in through the border and we are setting records now at the order,” Trump said.

Earlier in the week, the Trump administration tried to allay Americans’ concerns about the virus by downplaying the coronavirus’s seriousness. Trump also congratulated himself for shutting down flights between the U.S. and China.

But by the end of the week, White House officials including the president had shifted to pushing back against anyone who expressed too much concern about the virus or its effect on the economy, repeatedly blaming the Democrats and the media for the growing concerns and the steep drop in the stock market amid the uncertainty.

“It’s the unknown, you know, they look at it, and they say how long will this last. I think they’re not very happy with the Democrat candidates when they see them, and I think that has an impact,” Trump said at the White House on Friday afternoon before traveling to the campaign rally.

Top White House officials kept up the same mantra all day Friday.

The director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow told reporters that “people should not overreact” from investors to everyday Americans. "Given what we know factually, it looks to me like the market had gone too far,” Kudlow said.

Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney talked about the ongoing coverage of the coronavirus as an attempt by the media to politically damage the president during an election year.

Health officials, meanwhile, spent the last two days trying to determine how a California resident became infected with coronavirus and who else the patient may have exposed to it. This was the first potential case of coronavirus in the U.S. that had not been contracted from traveling abroad and potential sign it could spread throughout the U.S.

That wasn’t the message on Air Force One on the flight down to South Carolina, with the televisions turned to Fox News. In the bubble the president travels in, the TV headlines told the world the president had a “firm grasp” on the coronavirus and that Democrats tried to score “political points” on it.

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