We have been saying it for what now seems like forever.
We saw hints of it during the Trump campaign. Indeed, it all began to coalesce just two days prior to the second Trump-Clinton debate. The audio capturing Trump’s “p*ssy grabbing” boast was released. Reince Preibus and the RNC were looking at mechanisms to replace Trump on the ticket. People wondered if Pence would step down and break ties. The campaign was in smolders.
Two days later, Hillary Clinton made a point about what would happen if Trump took office, and he interrupted with: “You would be in jail.”
The crowd roared.
We never heard about dumping Trump from the ticket again. The “lock her up” chants began, forming the event horizon in Trump support. Once a person nodded a head in approval of the “lock her up” chant, they were gone, part of the cult. Like any event horizon, or any cult, we haven’t seen their minds since.
The LA Times published an op-ed affirming the condition and its danger to the nation, written by Virginia Heffernan. Heffernan tells us that worrying about Trump himself and his endless “mediocracy” is fruitless. We should worry about the cult.
What the cult diagnosis may lack in scholarly rigor, it makes up for in explanatory power. When polled, far too many Republicans come across as having abandoned their commitment to libertarianism, family values or simple logic in favor of Trump worship. They’re lost to paranoia and factually unmoored talking points, just the way Hassan was lost to Sun Myung Moon.
It can be heartbreaking when loved ones succumb to Trumpism. (It’s a double whammy when your grief is dismissed as liberal tears.) A true believer undergoes a “radical personal change,” as Hassan puts it. The person you once knew seems somehow … not there.
We all know the type. Anything you say has an answer, to the point that when you address Trump’s clear extortion with Ukraine, you’re told that all this is just Trump “draining the swamp,” said with a straight face.
You want to scream: “What activity is swampier than buying off a foreign country to destroy your opponent? We have direct testimony from people there, it is obvious!”
The rational exercise ends in futility, there is nothing that can be said. You cannot reach past the event horizon.
Understanding Trump is a fool’s errand. He’s sui generis, and far too erratic and finally insubstantial to reward close attention. Trump zealots are another matter. They are part of the tradition of radical converts in American history who elected to forfeit their authentic personalities and principles rather than refine or strengthen them. We need to stay focused on how so many Americans came to this pass and took this destructive course. The Trump cult will define American politics for decades to come, even after its dear leader is gone.
Though we are absolutely right to worry about the abuses Trump himself might unleash, war with Iran for example, the deeper, more insidious worry is what happens over the next two generations, when Trumpers demand their place at the political table? Their anger and sense of power will resonate. Like any cult or intoxicating experience, the highs must be better, the anger deeper, the pain sharper, and the retribution inflicted upon the “others” becomes more random and vicious.
Trump will be venerated by the cult for a long time. He will remain “the chosen one,” and will occupy a dangerous place in the consciousness of those over the event horizon.
We can deal with nearly any individual man or woman.
But navigating the trouble upcoming with the next generation or two of Trumpers will remain “the” issue in our politics and our society. We must make progress to heal our relationships with each other and the world, and then build a better, more rational and modern nation, one that can lead the way to saving the planet and the people that live on it.
As an aside, I look forward to the day that we progressives can move past noting daily outrages – which some of us get addicted to, also – we can get to the point where our ideas drive our discussion. But we can’t do that until we rid ourselves of the most immediate danger. To some, there is nothing theoretical about the dangers unleashed.
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