Republican opponents of former President Donald Trump gathered at the 300-attendee Principles First Summit over the weekend to discuss the Republican Party’s future, which many speakers viewed with pessimism, according to Politico.
Attendees aired concerns that the Trump movement had destroyed the GOP, and the event featured panels such as “Looking to 2024: Hope and Despair — but Mostly Despair” and “Can the GOP survive?” Politico reported.
Prominent speakers said the Trump-aligned Republican wing was bigoted and that it was preferable to side with Democrats or allow the GOP to sustain major losses than to align with Trump’s supporters.
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“It turns out that once you let the toothpaste out of the tube, so to speak, demagoguery and bigotry and all that, some people like it. It’s hard to get it back,” Bill Kristol, editor at large of the Bulwark, said, according to Politico. “You can’t just give them a lecture.”
“We need to defeat the Trump Republicans. And if that means being with the Democrats for a while, that’s fine,” he said, suggesting a presidential ticket of Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Democratic Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger. “That’s fine with me.”
The summit was held at the same time as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and its attendees could be seen wearing blazers affixed with Ukrainian and American flag pins, according to Politico. Among the few elected officials at the conference, two were Democrats: Democratic Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes.
David Frum, a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, said reforming the GOP was like blazing a landing strip in a jungle and waiting for planes to arrive, while former Independent Arizona congressional candidate Clint Smith compared his state’s Republican Party to a forest destroyed by invasive insects, according to Politico.
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Michael Wood, who ran as a Republican with an anti-Trump platform in Texas’ sixth congressional district in 2021 and won about 3% of the vote, expressed pessimism about the movement’s future.
“What evidence is there for any sort of optimism?” he said in his speech. “At some point you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I going to keep going into these rooms that boo me? Hate me? Send me mean messages?’”
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