There was lots of talk at CPAC about “The Forgotten Man”—a phrase that Franklin Roosevelt used and that Trump has appropriated. (An eponymous book by a Wall Street Journal editorial writer is much touted in GOP circles because it portrayed FDR as the enemy of working folks.) But the forgotten man, presumably a white, working-class voter who felt ignored by both parties, is now center stage. It’s axiomatic but true: It’s up to Trump and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to start delivering. So far there have been executive orders and a super conservative cabinet. Next week the president will start to put more flesh on his legislative agenda in a speech before Congress. Will there be serious infrastructure spending or was that rhetoric? After years of dissing Obamacare, will Republicans settle on a replacement plan? Whose taxes will be cut? Will we really start “taking care of our vets?” The forgotten man is going to start expecting some answers and results.
The non-economic issues that animate conservatives were on full display here, and Trump will continue to rile up the base with them. Gun rights, antipathy toward what they deem political correctness, a full-throated anger toward “fake news,” fear of a mixed bathroom. “Facts, Not Feelings: Snowflakes, Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings” was one of the last panels. In his wildly cheered address here, Trump kept talking about defending the flag, a faint reference to some protesters in 2016. (Never mind that the sainted Justice Antonin Scalia had been the deciding vote striking down a law banning flag burning.) Those issues will continue to percolate but attention is going to turn to the practical lives of the forgotten man. He made Trump and can break him.