Trump’s blatant shortcomings don’t matter to his followers, and that spells trouble for everyone
As the GOP Clown Car rumbles into the spotlight of the primaries, it’s painfully obvious that they have no candidate. Yes, Nikki Haley has the support of the Koch brothers, and Ron DeSantis is talking a good game. Even Vivek Ramaswamy looks good on camera, though his name is unpronounceable.
Sadly none of these folks is a viable candidate.
The Republican Party is a pale shadow of what it once was, and it is dominated by the Cult of Trump. Trump has such little regard for the party that he doesn’t even show up for the debates, and he ends up looking stronger for it — at least with his believers. Those believers are not interested in political debates. They are not interested in policy. They are not interested in small government.
They are only interested in following Donald Trump.
To a real political party, Trump is poison. He is a proven liar, something expected from politicians, sure, but not on the scale of the tsunami of lies he spews forth. He is a proven adulterer who even paid off his mistress — something that routinely sinks political careers.
Trump is a cheat and a swindler if his business records are to be believed, and that alone should have tanked his chances. He has stolen top secret government records and sought to hide that fact even though there are photographs proving that he had them illegally.
And yet, he is still riding high in the polls, even though he incited a deadly riot, according to a prosecutor’s federal charges and to anyone who watched television on Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump truly is a Republican in name only, a RINO of the most dangerous kind — one who is beyond the reach of his party and who has taken the helm by default. The other alleged candidates are afraid to criticize a man who is arguably the least-qualified person to ever sit in the Oval Office. The whole party kowtows to him and his loopy ramblings, knowing that if they speak out against him they will lose his cult of followers.
That is not the GOP I used to disagree with but still respected. That GOP of old is gone with the dodo birds, perhaps never to return. What we are left with is just plain pathetic and also dangerous — a party of people willing to sacrifice their principals for power.
As a Democrat, I will be the first to admit that my party has had its share of hucksters and sometimes seemingly-wacko politicians. But Democrats have never cheered a candidate who attacked the founding principles of our democracy. The peaceful transfer of power is fundamental to our country’s success and its future. Scheming to make an end-run around the Constitution is unpardonable.
Yet, here is Trump.
Hillary Clinton once called his followers “deplorables,” and I understand why. But she was misguided in her judgement. I suspect his supporters are not just the intellectually incurious; they are, instead, wrapped up in a twisted form of faith. They have created a golden calf, and it started on his “reality TV” show.
On that TV show, he was portrayed as a strong decision maker, absolute dictator who hired and fired contestants at will. It was a modern version of the gladiatorial arena, and Trump was the emperor, giving thumbs up or thumbs down to the combatants.
It was great theater. The certainty of it all was appealing to people who had little control of their lives in the real world. To them, the idea of an absolute ruler cut through the nuance and seemed like good sense. And TV had no time for nuance either; 50-plus minutes was only enough time for a melodrama, and the characters had to be defined quickly and succinctly to hold the audience’s attention.
When Trump ran for president, his audience longed to see that kind of simplicity in the halls of power. They had no patience for the wheels of democracy to slowly grind the fine flour baked into our Constitution. They wanted instant gratification, and Trump gave them that.
He gave them catchy, simple phrases to chant. He gave them mindless one word assessments of his opponents. He promised a world as neat and tidy as Reality TV. And along the way he nurtured the latent racism and prejudice that had almost faded from the American landscape, helping it blossom again into full bloom.
Trump seduced his followers with the most powerful tool in a cult leaders toolbox: The “love bomb.” He showered praise on the people who had been shamed for their bigotry, exalted the uneducated and made icons of the most dangerous among them. He did it all wrapped in the lie that he was a smart businessman and a financial wizard. His followers ate it up and they still do.
So what can we do to save our country from what is clearly a menace?
Well, first we can try to persuade our conservative friends and family to split their ticket when they go to the polls; tell them, “Vote for your favorite GOP candidates down ballot, but vote against Trump at the top.” Don’t do it by shaming them; do it by appealing to their conservative nature. Show how a nation under Trump would be the antithesis of their ideals. Show how his family values are nonexistent. Show how his business acumen is completely lacking.
Remember, he managed to bankrupt a casino for heaven’s sake!
If Trump is not held accountable for his alleged crimes in court, he must be held accountable in the court of public opinion and that begins with the primaries.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and board chair for the Woodhull Freedom Foundation. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.