Thousands of American conservatives are set to open their annual political conference Wednesday outside Washington, D.C., with the weight of President Donald Trump’s vision for the country’s future taking center stage.

Trump is scheduled to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday, and while those at the conference are likely excited about the prospect of a Republican in the White House, not all within the conservative movement have endorsed Trump’s brand of conservatism.

Trump has spoken at the event several times, but his appearances have drawn a mixed reaction and many of his stated and past positions on issues put him at odds with established conservative orthodoxy.

“America First”

Trump pushed an “America First” ideology throughout his presidential campaign, which has continued during his administration, that doesn’t quite agree with conservative free-trade values.  

In the past, Trump has expressed support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage, which could put off some social conservatives.  His plans to spend billions building a border wall and rejuvenating the military might lose support among fiscal conservatives.

The annual gathering of conservatives, which began in 1974 and was headlined by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan, is the largest event of its kind in the country.   During the course of four days, so-called boot camps will be held to teach college students how to organize on their campuses, politicians will give speeches and conservative movers and shakers will meet to discuss the movement’s future under President Trump.

Each year, CPAC holds a much-anticipated presidential straw poll that is generally won by the most conservative candidate.  Republican Senator Ted Cruz won last year’s poll by a wide margin, with Trump finishing third, behind Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Panel discussions

Trump’s win in November appears to have had a larger impact on this year’s planned events than any past straw poll, though, as evidenced by panel discussions scheduled over the course of the conference that reflect several of Trump’s policy positions.

Those panels include one called “Recovering from the Obama Flu: What is the Prescription for Healthcare?”  Another called “Black Lives Matter, so why does the Left not support Law Enforcement?”  And, on the final day, a panel discussion called, “If Heaven Has a Gate, a Wall, and Extreme Vetting, Why Can’t America?”

White House Counselor Stephen Bannon, who led the right-wing Breitbart website prior to joining Trump’s campaign, will participate in a conversation with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the chairman of CPAC, Matt Schlapp, in which the Trump aides are expected to explain the administration’s policy decisions moving forward.


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