Jonah Goldberg writes about a “cult of personality” around Trump again this week. It’s a well-trodden subject, especially at National Review, in my own writings, and even from Trump’s own mouth (“I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue…”).
So far he hasn’t been able to translate his rabid base of supporters into much besides a solid 39 percent base of approval and a protective wall of Republican Congressmen who mostly want to do as little as possible to hold him accountable.
For all the Republicans have been leaking information favorable to Trump, going on TV making farciscle excuses, and (some of them) using questioning of Jim Comey to defend Trump, Trump has been shockingly ungrateful to Republicans for their help.
Over the past few weeks, he has attacked Jeff Sessions, his first Senate supporter, for recusing, questioned the allegiances of Ron Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General who put his credibility on the line to help Trump fire Comey, and publicly threatened to primary Sen. Dean Heller, who is facing one of the toughest reelection fights of a Republican Senator in 2018, while sitting next to him.
Trump is noted for his views on “loyalty”–which got him in trouble with Comey–but it’s all about loyalty for he, not for thee.
But if there’s one thing Trump is in no short supply of, it’s narcissism and brazenness. This afternoon, the long-time Democrat demanded Republicans rally around him.
It's very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2017
Worse than the disloyalty, even, is the message that he himself should be put at the top of pyramid of importance. Not justice, not country, not even party (which is probably ill-served by kowtowing to Trump), but one man with no principles who used the party merely as a vehicle for his personal advancement.
Not getting to the bottom of Russia’s interference and stopping it from happening again (today Trump’s new communications director (how nicely Trump treated Spicer) said Trump still doesn’t accept the US intel (he can’t let himself believe his victory may have been impacted by anything else)). Not holding accountable wrongdoing. Not upholding the Constitution and the values of the republic.
Mike Pence used to like to say, “I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” Fittingly, his line never had “American” in it. When he coined it, he must have taken it for granted that his patriotism would ever be questioned, but now he is serving a president who wants him to fall in line behind a man.
We could go down the list: He’s a Christian first, but he stood behind President “Pussygrabber.” He’s a conservative (he uses that term in the American Reaganesque sense), but he has at times been pushing an agenda of spending $1 trillion on infrastructure and covering everyone with taxpayer-funded healthcare. He’s a Republican, but he might jeopardize the party for Trump’s bottom line.
The problem with a cult of personality that makes them even worse than banal dictatorships of party meritocracy is that there is no one to put the brakes on. No ideology is advanced, no national interests. The man can do no wrong, so everything he does is defended as good. We can see this circumstance in effect when Republican pundits on TV change excuses on a whim to defend whatever Trump has done lately.
Kimberly Guilfoyle, an opponent of feminism and (self-styled opponent of) identity politics, said the fact that an unqualified and unappointed woman, Ivanka Trump, sitting in for the President at the G20 instead of the Secretary of State, shows that Trump “champions women.” Because a woman should be put in a position of power no matter what her relevant experience or characteristics… …which is why Guilfoyle supported Hillary Clinton for president?
Tucker Carlson goes from calling Iran a “terror state” when attacking a Democrat for his support for the Iran deal on April 25 to saying “we” “don’t face any domestic threat from Iran” when attacking an anti-Trump Republican in July.
Hugh Hewitt and many other Republican commentators who defended Comey’s actions during the election suddenly began attacking Comey for the same thing moments after Trump fired him.
These people have shown there is almost nothing Trump can do that would make them turn against him.
If some of those pundits are themselves deluded followers of Trump, many of them are just hacks playing to an audience of deluded followers. The bases of many of those shows are so worshipful of Trump that they would turn off anyone who doesn’t love Trump. Aggressively “anti-globalist” (and British migrant to the US) Paul Joseph Watson learned that the hard way when he announced he was “OFF the Trump train” after Trump struck Syria. After losing 1,461 followers that day, before the day was up, Watson flopped onto his knees and clarified “I am off the Trump train in terms of Syria … but I have not ‘turned on Trump'”.
It must be embarrassing for Watson to know that he only has fans of his hackish political views, not of his writing or intellect. It should be embarrassing for him that he showed the world that he values clicks more than truth. (He even tweeted a screenshot of his followers with the message, “First time I’ve ever lost Twitter followers.”)
The problem is for too many people it’s not embarrassing.