Trump: Has the GOP become a personality cult?
The proof keeps pouring in, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com: “The Republican Party is devolving, at an accelerating speed, into a cult of Donald Trump.” In Tuesday’s primaries, at Trump’s last-minute urging, GOP voters rejected South Carolina’s Rep. Mark Sanford, a veteran conservative deemed insufficiently loyal to the president, and in Virginia they nominated Corey Stewart, a far-right white nationalist whose rabid devotion to President Trump outstrips even his love of the Confederacy. The Trump propagandists over at Fox News, meanwhile, have been plumbing new depths of Orwellian dishonesty in the service of the Dear Leader. Not only do Fox anchors daily echo the president’s baseless conspiracy theories about the Deep State and Bob Mueller’s “witch hunt,” but the network this week even attacked GOP Sen. Marco Rubio for the heresy of criticizing North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the vicious dictator upon whom Trump is suddenly “lavishing praise.” Republican voters simply shrug off blunders and scandals “that would have doomed prior presidents,” said David Weigel in WashingtonPost.com. As Republican Sen. Bob Corker put it, “It’s becoming a cultish thing, isn’t it?” It sure is. With a staggering 90 percent of Republicans now approving of the president’s job performance, one of our major political parties is now united “not by fealty to ideas or policies but to a man.”
Is that really so unprecedented? asked Erick Erickson in BostonHerald.com. The “cult of personality” around Trump looks an awful lot like the one worshipful Democrats created “during the Obama years.” I don’t share my fellow conservatives’ admiration for Trump, but unfortunately, progressives have driven many red-state Americans into Trump’s arms, with their extremism on guns and abortion and their contempt for traditional Christians. Why wouldn’t Republicans rally around Trump? asked Rory Cooper in TheDailyBeast.com. He may be erratic and undignified, but “his agenda is still conservative—co-opted from the Republican playbook to a large degree and not the other way around.” He’s consistently pro-life, pro-business, pro-military, and pro–Second Amendment. It would be foolish for elected Republicans to “blow up their whole careers” by assailing Trump, rather than supporting a president who is fulfilling long-held Republican policy goals.
Despite some overlap, Trumpism isn’t really conservatism, said Jay Bookman in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Republicans used to stand for free trade, family values, fiscal conservatism, limited government, and strong international leadership. Today, “the principles of the Trump party are defined by whatever it is that Trump tweets next.” That may be true of the large mass of low-information voters, who rally around Trump out of “group solidarity,” said Noah Rothman in CommentaryMagazine.com. But there are plenty of Republicans who still cherish conservative “principle and ideology.” While they’re silent now, they will eventually make their voices heard.
It may already be too late, said Andrew Sullivan in NYMag.com. Trump has a cult leader’s talent for reshaping reality to conform to “his delusions,” which he insists upon “with extraordinary energy and stamina.” Many Republicans have simply lost interest in the ideas and principles that our politics used to be about, and have joined Trump in his “ludicrous reality show,” where the truth is whatever he says it is. They’re for whatever he’s for, “even if that means changing their minds on a dime.” Among Republicans, at least, Trump’s strength is growing. “The more people who call the emperor clothed, the harder it is to see him naked.” ■