Donald Trump spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference for the first time in 2011, and his opening remarks sent the crowd into a frenzy. The audience didn’t know it at the time, but they had just heard a future president debut the platform that would propel him to the White House.
Trump addressed CPAC in 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015. In all four speeches, he offered a glimpse of the bold ideas and agendas that Establishment Republicans were hesitant to embrace once he launched his presidential campaign in 2015.
“We have to rebuild our economy … we have to make America strong again and make America great again.”
Trump’s previous speeches at CPAC provided insight into how the mogul turned president would upend Republican orthodoxy on the campaign trail and in the Oval Office.
Trump argued in 2013 that the Republican Party would continue to lose elections if GOP lawmakers granted citizenship to illegal immigrants, comparing reform efforts that included amnesty to a “suicide mission.”
“The fact is 11 million people will be voting Democratic. You can be out front. You can be the spearhead. You can do whatever you want to do, but every one of those 11 million people will be voting Democratic,” Trump said, adding, “It is just the way it works.”
In 2015, Trump again made immigration a major emphasis in his speech. “It’s a massive problem we have to stop illegal immigration,” Trump explained. “It’s disgusting what is happening to our country, we are a dumping ground for the rest of the world.”
Trump also highlighted the immediate need for a border wall.
“We need a wall. If I run, I will tell you, the king of building buildings, the king of building walls,” Trump said, “Nobody can build ’em like Trump. That I can promise you. I can promise you that.”
Trade and Jobs
Trump made several key points about the importance of moving away from a blind commitment to multilateral free trade deals during his speech in 2011.
“We don’t have free trade. We don’t have fair trade, and I’m a fair trade believer,” Trump said, adding that he loves, “open markets, but not when China’s manipulating their currency. Not when all of these other factors are taking place,” Trump argued, further adding, “it has to stop.”
Trump discussed jobs and manufacturing extensively in his 2015 CPAC speech.
“You have to take the jobs back from China,” Trump said, “You have to take the jobs back from Mexico. Mexico. In Iowa. Companies are leaving for Mexico … Mexico is ripping off the United States big league.”
In his 2015 speech, Trump made it very clear that President Obama’s strategy to defeat terrorism, or lack thereof, was a disaster.
Arguing how abysmal Obama’s ISIS strategy had been, Trump argued Gen. Douglas MacArthur was “spinning in his grave” over America’s handling of the issue.
“Well, with ISIS, I’d just hit them really hard and that would probably — and a year ago you wouldn’t have said it and nobody wouldn’t have liked it, you may have to have some boots on the ground for a period of time until you’re rid of the cancer,” Trump signaled in 2015, adding, “look, they’re cutting off the heads of people, they’re burning at the stake, it’s like we’re living in medieval times.”
Concluding the 2015 speech, Trump recommended that he would, “hit them [ISIS] so hard and so fast, they had no idea what hit them.”
Trump, now as president, has maintained that we must defeat radical Islamic terrorism. Trump’s signed a travel ban aimed to limit entry into the United States from seven majority-Muslim nations troubled by terrorism and radicalization.
Trump ended his 2013 speech with a line that would come to generate a movement.
“We have to rebuild our economy,” Trump said, “We have to make America strong again and make America great again.”