Still the Party of Trump

The disgraced loser remains as popular as ever with his base.

The juxtaposition of stories at the aggregator memeorandum this morning tells the sad story of the current state of the Republican Party. The biggest one trending is Reid Epstein’s New York Times report titled “Adam Kinzinger’s Lonely Mission.”

As the Republican Party censures, condemns and seeks to purge leaders who aren’t in lock step with Donald J. Trump, Adam Kinzinger, the six-term Illinois congressman, stands as enemy No. 1 — unwelcome not just in his party but also in his own family, some of whom recently disowned him.

Two days after Mr. Kinzinger called for removing Mr. Trump from office following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, 11 members of his family sent him a handwritten two-page letter, saying he was in cahoots with “the devil’s army” for making a public break with the president.

“Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God!” they wrote. “You have embarrassed the Kinzinger family name!”

The author of the letter was Karen Otto, Mr. Kinzinger’s cousin, who paid $7 to send it by certified mail to Mr. Kinzinger’s father — to make sure the congressman would see it, which he did. She also sent copies to Republicans across Illinois, including other members of the state’s congressional delegation.

“I wanted Adam to be shunned,” she said in an interview.

A 42-year-old Air National Guard pilot who represents a crescent-shaped district along the Chicago’s suburbs, Mr. Kinzinger is at the forefront of the effort to navigate post-Trump politics. He is betting his political career, professional relationships and kinship with a wing of his sprawling family that his party’s future lies in disavowing Mr. Trump and the conspiracy theories the former president stoked.

Mr. Kinzinger was one of just three House Republicans who voted both to impeach Mr. Trump and strip Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia from her committee posts. During the House impeachment debate, he asked Democrats if he could speak for seven minutes instead of his allotted one, so that he could make a more authoritative and bipartisan argument against the president; the request was denied.

He has taken his case to the national media, becoming a ubiquitous figure on cable television, late-night HBO programming and podcasts. He began a new political action committee with a six-minute video declaring the need to re-format the Republican Party into something resembling an idealized version of George W. Bush’s party — with an emphasis on lower taxes, hawkish defense and social conservatism — without the grievances and conspiracy theories that Mr. Trump and his allies have made central to the party’s identity.

Every related story reinforces the loneliness of Kinzinger’s mission:

  • 3 Out Of 4 Republicans Want To See Trump Play A Big Role In GOP, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; 68% Of Americans Say Trump Didn’t Do Enough To Stop Insurrection” (Quinnipiac Poll)
  • Trump Emerges From Impeachment Trial With Sturdy Backing From GOP Voters; 54% would support him in a hypothetical 2024 primary, a return to pre-riot numbers” (Morning Consult Poll)
  • The Trumpiest Republicans Are At The State And Local Levels — Not In D.C.” (FiveThirtyEight)
  • Ron Johnson on Jan. 6 Capitol attack: ‘This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me‘” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • McConnell’s Impeachment Ploy Was Not Statesmanship, But An Attack On The Base — And Republicans Must Remember It Well” (Christopher Bedford, The Federalist)
  • Mitt Romney accused of being ‘deep state’ agent in proposed censure motion” (Salt Lake Tribune)
  • Burr censured by North Carolina GOP for voting to convict Trump” (CNN)

The Republican Party just lost a presidential election by 7 million votes, lost control of the Senate, and remained in the minority in the House. It managed to lose Georgia in not only the presidential election but in two Senate runoffs where it had every advantage except for a maniacal leader who seemed to do everything in his power to had the election to the opposition party.

And that’s to say nothing of monumental malfeasance in handling a global pandemic, in which we’ve lost more American lives in a year than in the entirety of World War II.

Yet, the handful of Republican leaders who have demonstrated the integrity to call out his outrages and hold him accountable are the ones being punished.

That Trump nonetheless has this level of support is simply astounding. It’s hard to see how a normal, competitive political party emerges from this mess any time soon.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Donald Trump, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    If it weren’t for the pandemic, Trump would be scheduling MAGA rallies as we speak.

    I don’t mean to suggest that Trump cares about hosting superspreader events–obviously he doesn’t–but he probably can’t find a venue.

    4
  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    And some are still unwilling to call it a cult.

    Of course there is a silver lining in this; Trump Didn’t Just Lose Swing Voters—the GOP Did as Well

    and this;

    The Trumpiest Republicans Are At The State And Local Levels — Not In D.C.

    Even if Trump fades due to criminal prosecution, civil legal challenges and his own indebtedness, the taste for fascism has been unleashed in a large segment of the R party and it is difficult to see it being overcome in the next few years. Given the minoritarian lean of our system and all the structural issues that we’ve discussed here ad nauseam, our democracy will be endanger for a generation.

    6
  3. mattbernius says:

    It’s hard to see how a normal, competitive political party emerges from this mess any time soon.

    Normal, maybe not. But again, the structure of our State and Federal Election systems (and electoral dynamics) is that, without any real change, there is a strong chance that the GOP could retake the Senate and take back the House in two years.

    And while Trump lost the popular vote by 7 million, his win in swing states was even narrower than Trumps.

    Throughout Trump’s time in the White House, much has been made of how he won the presidency by under 78,000 votes in three states. And that point was true. Trump won because of narrow margins in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

    But the margins this year were even tighter in the three states that put Biden over the top in the Electoral College. He won Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin by a total of less than 45,000 votes.
    Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/did-biden-win-little-or-lot-answer-yes-n1251845

    This is also before we get to the GOPs locked in control in a number of states.

    As much as it pains me to say it, the GOP can continue to get even crazier and will still stay competitive for years to come.

    9
  4. Owen says:

    @CSK: Maybe I’m being too Pollyannaish, but I don’t know that he would have been able to win without COVID. Had the pandemic not occurred, with the corresponding market drop in March of last year, I believe the Fed was on track to tighten fiscal policy which would likely have caused a slow down in the markets (and Trump would have fired, or at least tried to fire Powell, which would have set markets on edge). In response to COVID, the Fed, and other banks around the world, loosened monetary policy instead. Based on personal observation, some Trump voters fell into the “my 401k is looking great, I’m not going to support a change” category. Had there been a major market correction close to the election, which many analysts were predicting, those voters would have voted for change, or just stayed home.

    The mask issue/shutdowns had also become so politicized, it probably helped Trump in many areas.

  5. Mikey says:

    The author of the letter was Karen

    Of course it was.

    8
  6. Kathy says:

    Trump can best cement his legacy in the GOP by being martyred.

    It would be the Christian thing to do.

    5
  7. DrDaveT says:

    “I wanted Adam to be shunned,” she said in an interview.

    Those damned woke liberals and their cancel culture…

    13
  8. MarkedMan says:

    This is why I’ve been saying for several years that past a certain point, extremism and destructive behavior begets more and the best possible outcome is that national GOP will enter the same downward cycle as they did in CA and OR. When people talk about what the “Republicans MUST DO!” to correct their slide it represents a profound misunderstanding of the modern political party. There are only individuals, there really is no Party that can “do” anything.

    2
  9. Modulo Myself says:

    Who can blame them? The GOP has become a party of smarmy morons without any appeal. That goes for Fox and all the right-wing media too. Trump was famous and he wasn’t smarmy. He wasn’t some bow-tied guy with 4 million cable news viewers or some imbecile white Ivy grad in the midwest with a weasel face and generic wife talking about America. Trump was famous and he hung out with other famous people and everybody knew who he was. The audience in the first season of The Apprentice was something like 20 million an episode, and even you didn’t watch that dumb show, you had to hear about it. It was one of the last TV shows that came from era of the big 3 networks.

    The secret truth about real GOP America is that everybody hates their lives, don’t believe in God, and have no pride, which is why a guy like Trump filled the void. He saw the self-loathing so quickly. There are going to be a number of Trump imitators, all of whom are gonna fall flat. They will do his bluster and craziness, but they won’t get the psychology at all.

    2
  10. @Sleeping Dog:

    And some are still unwilling to call it a cult.

    Indeed. I still don’t like the frame, save in a colloquial sense. It also depends on what “it” is and what the definition of “cult” is.

    I think that “it” is more about white supremacy and, therefore, is more than just Trump.

    One of the reasons, btw, that I don’t like the “cult” frame is because it makes it all about Trump. What is interesting is that a lot of people who like to use the word (and I don’t know if you fit in this category) also like to point out that this is a broader issue than Trump and to long-term roots in the GOP.

    But, again, it depends a lot on what “it” is and who we are talking about.

    4
  11. @mattbernius:

    As much as it pains me to say it, the GOP can continue to get even crazier and will still stay competitive for years to come.

    Sadly, this is correct. It is why I have a hard time with a lot of these “the GOP is dying”/”GOP civil war” takes.

    4
  12. gVOR08 says:

    I just looked, Kinzinger’s district is R plus 8. I expect he’s going to suffer for doing the right thing.

    2
  13. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    One of the reasons, btw, that I don’t like the “cult” frame is because it makes it all about Trump.

    On balance, I agree with you that “cult” isn’t quite right. I think a cult is ultimately about the leader, and Trump filled a natural place in the Tea Party movement. This GOP Crazy-Loop started before him and would continue if he keeled over tomorrow.

    4
  14. Scott F. says:

    “Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God!” – Karen Otto, Mr. Kinzinger’s cousin

    I really need Karen to point me to the biblical passage that guides me to honor God by backing a morally bankrupt seditionist like Trump.

    7
  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    To repeat myself from the open thread:

    We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do the right thing or whatever he said he was doing,” a GOP chair in Washington County, Dave Ball, told local CBS affiliate KDKA in an interview Monday. “We sent him there to represent us.”

    Today’s GQP in a nutshell.

    3
  16. Owen says:

    @Scott F.: I recognize the value of mythology to many in society, but don’t put much stock in it myself.

    The verses I hear, or have seen, cited most are:

    Romans 9:17 About Pharaoh: For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may demonstrate my power in you, and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

    Proverbs 16:4 The Lord has worked everything for his own ends—even the wicked for the day of disaster.

    Acts 4:27 4:28 For indeed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do as much as your power and your plan had decided beforehand would happen.

    It’s all part of God’s plan (now Q’s plan too).

    1
  17. Sleeping Dog says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The difference between the Rs melting away at a state level and at a federal level is the minoritarian cast of the federal system and ability to gerrymander at a state level. And as noted by Perry Bacon at 538, state and local Rs are crazier than DC Rs. That party is not fading away till they begin losing elections in a broad spread of states.

    2
  18. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Trump will fade from the scene, but he’ll become an avatar for the fascist movement that became unleashed during his presidency. The GOP isn’t going to fade away. They exercise a great amount of power and control at the state level and due to that and senate and electoral college the party will be a threat.

    1
  19. David S. says:

    @Owen: I’d heard there haven’t been any Q drops since December. Are they back?

  20. Jay L Gischer says:

    I don’t really think this is about Fox News either. We’ve had Fox for four decades now, but this stuff is new. I think the Christian mythologizing about it started with Jerry Falwell, Jr. But it has spread via social media much more than with Fox.

    I feel it is significant that Hillary Clinton figured to be the D candidate long in advance, and she’s been demonized for decades, and often seen as Baby Killer Number One. Well, that’s how Trump Will Save Us gets started, I guess. Then you make up these wild stories that still express the fears and desires of the audience, just in ludicrously heightened form so that they have punch – it’s the conspiracy-theory form of clickbait.

  21. KM says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    We did not send him there to vote his conscience.

    Awwww but what about his deeply held beliefs? If he sincerely believes Trump sent a mob to get him, shouldn’t he be allowed to act on those beliefs and the GOP just needs to go elsewhere to find representation? I could have sworn that was how it worked for them! Just go down the street and find another Congresscritter to do business with!

  22. Owen says:

    @David S.: I don’t know, I just know a lot of Q fans were talking about a “plan”, I was trying (poorly apparently) to be irreverent.

    1
  23. charon says:

    You all really do need to read the Kinzinger letter, it is quite a thing:

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/02/15/us/kinzinger-family-letter.html

    1
  24. CSK says:

    @charon:
    What a farrago of smug, self-righteous drivel. If I were Adam Kinzinger, I’d be pleased to have this pack of dipwads shun me.

    4
  25. Owen says:

    @charon: Thanks Charon, now I know I should have added Donald Trump’s “Plan of Salvation” to my earlier comment!

  26. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    One of the reasons, btw, that I don’t like the “cult” frame is because it makes it all about Trump.

    Not to reopen the can and let all the worms out, but I would distinguish between “cult” and its subset “cult of personality”. Michael insists that this is the latter; I’m not convinced. There are cults that function just fine after the Glorious Leader is out of the picture — think Scientology, for example (or, if you want to be provocative, the Catholic Church). The key is control of the cult members’ sources of information, with the cult defining what is true/real. Fealty to a specific individual is a common and powerful way to achieve that, but not the only way.

    3
  27. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I don’t know that
    fealty to a single leader is a necessary characteristic of a cult. Joseph Smith was killed by an angry mob in 1844. Mormonism has prospered since. William Miller died in 1849. There’s an apparently thriving Seventh Day Adventist church a couple miles down the road from me. L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986. Scientology continues to rake in the big bucks. Sun Yung Moon died in 2012. The Unification Church marches on.

    Let us hope that Trumpism, whatever it is, dies with Trump, or before. But conceiving of the machine and building it are the hard parts. Once it’s built, others can operate it.

    ETA – @DrDaveT: beat me by that much.

    4
  28. Joe says:

    This GOP Crazy-Loop started before [Trump] and would continue if he keeled over tomorrow.

    I am sympathetic to your hesitancy to all this a cult, Steven L. Taylor and
    MarkedMan, but I think the merger of Trump to the movement was a point of incredibly strong bonding. If Trump goes away tomorrow, the movement won’t go with him, but it has been exponentially energized by his arrival and would be diminished but not destroyed by his departure.

    @CSK: According to the same NYT interview, Kinzinger did basically agree that with your assessment of his relatives.

    3
  29. charon says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The key is control of the cult members’ sources of information, with the cult defining what is true/real.

    Check out the information sources cited in the Kinzinger letter I posted a link to, that looks like pretty cult-like thinking.

  30. CSK says:

    @DrDaveT: @gVOR08:
    But so much of Trumpism is a reflection of Trump himself. To reiterate a point I’ve made before, Trump’s very loathsomeness is what makes his hardcore fans love him. They revel in the fact that he’s a crude churl. They identify with Trump the man himself.

    I may be a cockeyed optimist, but I’m not sure that Trumpism can survive without Trump.

    2
  31. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The base still loves the guy who lost the popular vote twice, and lost the House and the Senate and the White House. It must be his spray tan and elevator shoes. No accounting for taste.

    2
  32. @DrDaveT: @gVOR08: But you are both getting at my point. What is even the definition of a “cult”?

    To me, the reality is that most people are using the word to mean “a group of people who believe some things that I think are a bit nutty that I think are wrong and they seem waaay too enthusiastic about it.” This may or may not include a leader or a specific information source.

    Part of my problem with the concept is that it really can just mean “group of people I don’t like” (which is not helpful).

    Take Mormorism. I know that many traditional Christian denominations consider it a cult. I even wrote about this as it pertained to Romney some time ago. But the main charge of mainline Christians is that Mormonism deviates too much from traditional believes, and therefore is a bit “crazy.” Virgin birth? Not crazy (because that’s our crazy). Jesus preaching to native Americans? Nutso!

    When at Southern Baptists or Mormons from a dispassionate perch, they are just two sets of codified religious beliefs and commensurate practices. What makes Mormonism a “cult” save that the Baptists arrive on the scene first and could claim that the Mormons were deviants from orthodoxy?

    4
  33. DrDaveT says:

    @CSK:

    But so much of Trumpism is a reflection of Trump himself.

    I think that’s backwards. The Trumpists were deplorable before Trump came along; he served as an off-the-shelf hood ornament for their clown car, and a rallying point. If he hadn’t come along, they’d have been forced to invent him.

    7
  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott F.: I think the passage your looking for is Second Opinions 4:17. I’d quote it to you, but I don’t have my Bible handy and haven’t memorized it.

    2
  35. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What is even the definition of a “cult”?

    Sorry, I thought I was being clear — it’s defined by the control of acceptable information sources. A cult is an association in which loyalty to the association is measured by willingness to accept only information sources approved by the leaders of the cult, and where this is tested regularly by requiring members to profess belief in random nonsense, and to act on that belief.

    5
  36. @DrDaveT:

    A cult is an association in which loyalty to the association is measured by willingness to accept only information sources approved by the leaders of the cult, and where this is tested regularly by requiring members to profess belief in random nonsense, and to act on that belief.

    So how much of one’s information intake has to be from the prescribed source?

    Which sources are we talking about?

    And what percentage of Republicans fall into this category?

    If someone is a Trump voter who watches FNC nightly but also reads USAT and AP wire stories via Yahoo News in the cult? Or do they have to be solely in the OANverse?

    I sound snarky, but these are actually honest questions.

  37. Keep in mind that my main objection to the cult frame is that a lot of commenters here want to use it to explain Trump’s election and his ongoing influence in the party.

    This would require, in my mind, a pretty expansive definition of a cult (one that might sound more like the definition of a political party if one were pressed to come up with an alternative label).

    1
  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Owen: You did a much better job at actually FINDING verses they think apply. But it seems to me that Proverbs 16:4, “The Lord has worked everything for his own ends—even the wicked for the day of disaster” should be causing them to rejoice that they’ll finally be freed from their oppression.

    Unless, of course, it’s finally beginning to dawn on them that Trump wasn’t Cyrus, but rather Pharaoh. (I don’t think he’s either one, of course. He’s just a common huckster non-politician politician. Then again, I don’t believe that the eagle in Daniel’s prophecy is the US–and don’t do dispensationalism, either.)

    1
  39. CSK says:

    @DrDaveT:
    And they’d have invented Trump.

    However you want to look at it, Trump was a unique repository for all their squalid fantasies.

    P.S. As a writer, allow me to congratulate you on “off-the-shelf hood ornament for their clown car.” Perfect.

    5
  40. charon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If someone is a Trump voter who watches FNC nightly but also reads USAT and AP wire stories via Yahoo News in the cult? Or do they have to be solely in the OANverse?

    Not such people, but there are a lot of people who literally get information only from the Conservamedia infotainment complex and literally react with anger if anyone exposes them to other information sources. Or the others who disbelieve and dismiss anything that conflicts with Conservamedia information as “fake news.”

    I do not know of any available percentages on this, but believe the number of totally epistemically closed Conservatives is pretty high.

    (I always capitalize “Conservative” to distinguish these people from conservatives.)

    5
  41. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: I’m more inclined to think that if Trump hadn’t come along, they would have settled on Ted Cruz, and the damage would have been worse because overall, he isn’t nearly a repulsive at Trump and would have stood a good chance of being reelected.

    He might have even been able to pull off going full fascist at the end of his second term.

  42. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Cruz is as repulsive as Trump. It’s just a different kind of repulsiveness.

    You’re forgetting that it was Trump’s boorishness that made him so attractive to his fans. Cruz didn’t excite them on that level the way he did.

    3
  43. Nightcrawler says:

    @CSK:

    I’ve been wondering about this. I’m sure he could find venues in red states like Florida and (once it thaws out) Texas, so that can’t be the issue. I think it may be that he can’t afford to hold rallies anymore because he can no longer embezzle government funds.

  44. Modulo Myself says:

    @charon:

    Tucker Carlson’s audience is 5 million. That’s great for cable news but it’s not that many in the scheme of things.

    1
  45. Nightcrawler says:

    This is why, between this and ramped-up voter suppression efforts by the GOP, I’m terrified they’ll seize back control in 2024, and that will be the end of everything.

    I can’t do anything about that, so I’m just focusing on living my best life while I live and breathe.

    1
  46. charon says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    I’ve been wondering about this. I’m sure he could find venues in red states like Florida and (once it thaws out) Texas, so that can’t be the issue. I think it may be that he can’t afford to hold rallies anymore because he can no longer embezzle government funds.

    There are other possibilities, perhaps he simply is becoming not up to it?

    https://mobile.twitter.com/Isikoff/status/1361731297966772224

    While at WH, Steve Bannon concluded Trump was suffering from “early stage dementia” & later started a covert campaign for invoking the 25th A to remove him, veteran
    @60Minutes producer Ira Rosen tells @dklaidman and me in new @SkullduggeryPod
    . (Hes got B’s texts to back it up.)

    2
  47. Kathy says:

    @mattbernius:

    I’ve said before this is a bit like negative cherry-picking. Give Georgia and Arizona back to Trump, and Biden still wins with narrow margins in Wisconsin, plus less narrow margins in Pennsylvania and Michigan. According to my calculations, that’s Biden 279 vs trump 259.

    Take away MI and PA, and keep WI, GA, and AZ, and it’s Biden 270 vs trump 268.

    I agree it was a narrow victory, but not as narrow as it’s made out to be. What I think happened, is we got both a blue wave and a red wave, and the blue wave won.

    I wonder if there is a parallel universe where President Biden coasted to reelection in 2020, having handled the pandemic as well as could be expected, against GOP rival Sen. Cruz, who still blames Trump’s independent run for taking votes away from the GOP.

    1
  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Owen: Which is why I cry horseshit on the whole thing. When something good happens, “Blessed be the Lord!” if something bad happens, “It’s all part of God’s plan.”

    Heads, God wins. Tails, you lose.

  49. charon says:

    https://twitter.com/RyanLizza/status/1361677723576500233

    NEW: 2024 primary poll shows Trump dominating:

    Donald Trump 53%

    Mike Pence 12%

    Donald Trump Jr. 6%

    Nikki Haley 6%

    Mitt Romney 4%

    Ted Cruz 4%

    Marco Rubio 2%

    Mike Pompeo 2%

    Josh Hawley 1%

    Tom Cotton 1%

    Tim Scott 1%

    Kristi Noem 1%

    Larry Hogan 1%

    Rick Scott 0%

  50. CSK says:

    @Nightcrawler:
    I absolutely agree that Trump won’t spend his own money.

    But the man needs the adulation of crowds the way a junky needs heroin. How will he get his fix?

    3
  51. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: To me, the reality is that most people are using the word to mean “a group of people who believe some things that I think are a bit nutty that I think are wrong and they seem waaay too enthusiastic about it.”

    Speaking as an atheist…

    2
  52. CSK says:

    @charon:
    So…having worked to get Trump into the Oval Office, Bannon was now working to get Trump OUT of the Oval Office. Exactly what would that accomplish, from Bannon’s standpoint? Was he a secret Pence admirer?

    1
  53. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @charon: Fortunately, four years is a long time, but it’s certainly not a promising poll at the moment. Of course, Pence’s approval will go down as the “TRAITOR!!!!!” theme continues and his name recognition from all those campaign signs fades. We can hope Trump’s will, too, but looking at the list and numbers, the big question is still where is “none of the above” when we need him so desperately.

    1
  54. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If someone is a Trump voter who watches FNC nightly but also reads USAT and AP wire stories via Yahoo News in the cult? Or do they have to be solely in the OANverse? I sound snarky, but these are actually honest questions.

    I’ll try to give honest answers. I think that anyone who still follows and gives credence to mainstream news sources (e.g. AP wire stories, network news programming, WaPo or NYT or WSJ non-opinion sections) is not in the cult. That’s part of why vilification of these sources (“lamestream media”, “failing NYT”) is an important part of cult leadership behavior.

    That said, there are a variety of media outlets inside the bubble — OAN, Q, FNC, NewsMax, Limbaugh, Alex Jones, etc. — that give an illusion of “multiple sources”.

    4
  55. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: where is “none of the above”

    Right at the very bottom, they call it “Rick Scott.”

    2
  56. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Keep in mind that my main objection to the cult frame is that a lot of commenters here want to use it to explain Trump’s election and his ongoing influence in the party.

    You’ve said that before, but I don’t think you have interpreted the commenters’ claim correctly. They don’t think that the cult framing explains Trumpism; they think that any convincing explanation of Trumpism should be able to explain (and predict) the cult-like behavior. A proposed explanation of why Trump was elected and how he continues to drive the GOP’s behavior isn’t convincing (or at least is badly incomplete) if it doesn’t also account for the cult — in the same way that an explanation of gravity would be incomplete if it accounted for why masses attract, but did not explain why light also bends around masses.

    3
  57. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I get your point, but I’m not sure you really have to expand the definition all that much. Seriously…Trump and the MAGA’s have a lot more in common with a cult, than not. Which to me kinda means…

    The group has a polarized, us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

    The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders, or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).

    The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader, and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

    Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

    The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members (e.g., the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).

    http://cultresearch.org/help/characteristics-associated-with-cults/

    4
  58. Sleeping Dog says:

    @charon:

    Given most voters won’t recognize anyone but Trump, it is surprising his lead isn’t larger.

  59. dazedandconfused says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Re:

    What is even the definition of a “cult”?

    Sorry, I thought I was being clear — it’s defined by the control of acceptable information sources. A cult is an association in which loyalty to the association is measured by willingness to accept only information sources approved by the leaders of the cult, and where this is tested regularly by requiring members to profess belief in random nonsense, and to act on that belief.

    I would say it’s not sources but beliefs that make a cult. To members the nonsense isn’t nonsense, it’s simple, undeniable truth. When a group of people insist the demonstrably false is irrefutable truth you’re dealing with a cult.

    In Trump’s case cult-of-personality seems to best capture the situation. The R convention had no platform other than Trump. It’s so easy that way, no complicated thinking, no hazy shades of grey. Whatever Trump decides is best, and whatever that may be it’s escorted and reinforced with a sense of entitlement to power.

    IOW, everybody knew Mexico wouldn’t pay for it, but the power in being able to shove non-sense down the enemy’s collective throat seduces and intoxicates.

  60. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What is even the definition of a “cult”?

    My amateur definition: A group of people who defer their life decisions, especially moral and ethical ones, to an individual or organization to the serious detriment to their relationship with friends and families, and their professional or workplace stability and advancement. I came up with this many years ago because of a couple of acquaintances that got involved with The Forum and managed to lose their friends (I don’t know about family) and eventually lost their business. I thought it made sense to take the “definition of an alcoholic” approach where the dividing line is that it starts to detrimentally affect your most important relationships.

    Per this definition, there are a lot of Trump cultists, although they were probably Tea Party cultists before him, and will be something else after. But I recognize that this is just my own definition and people mean many different things by “cult”, so in the end I agree that using the term only creates confusion. We know how these Trumpists act, and we know the damage they do to themselves and their families and friends. There really isn’t anything to be gained by arguing over the definition of “cult”.

    1
  61. DrDaveT says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    I would say it’s not sources but beliefs that make a cult.

    I disagree. It’s a fine distinction, but I claim it’s why you believe, not what you believe, that makes you a cultist. If members of the Church of Bob believe that 1022201 is a prime number — but they only believe it because Bob said so, and they would equally believe it was not prime if Bob changed his mind — that’s a cult, even though their belief is correct.

    2
  62. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I think this “cult” thing is one of those cases where everybody pretty much agrees what’s going on, except perhaps for matters of degree, but we’re arguing about whether a particular word applies to it.

    When Mormonism started (or 7th Day Adventists as Millerites or Scientology or the Moonies) there was no real disagreement that they were cults. Or Christianity or Islam. In the meantime a thousand cults have arisen and died, most barely leaving a mark. They grow or they die. The ones that grow gather respectability with age and numbers. Mormonism is still nuts. Age and numbers don’t change that. But it becomes impolitic to say so. (OK, I just did, they can sue me.) One of the funniest things I’ve seen is the close to straight explanation of Mormonism in the infamous South Park episode. Hitlerism started as a sort of secular cult. Had they won WWII, we wouldn’t be saying so. And like Trumpism, defining Fascism, or Nazism, or Hitlerism is like trying to nail Jello to the wall. Part of the power is that it can’t be falsified because it’s too vague.

    You and others note the actual issues:
    – To what extent is “Trumpism” about Trump?
    – How many Rs are Trumpists?
    – Whither “Trumpism”, whatever it is, and the R Party?

    Kevin Drum had a post a few days ago arguing “Neoliberal”, “Socialism”, “Fascist”, and “Cancel Culture” should be retired from the language as having “lost all meaning in popular discourse”. I’d add “Conservative”, and maybe “Cult”.

    But if people want to call “it” a cult, or not, I’m OK with either way. We know what they’re talking about. I already have a long list of words I often put in “” because they don’t really mean what we’re using them to mean.

    5
  63. charon says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I think that anyone who still follows and gives credence to mainstream news sources (e.g. AP wire stories, network news programming, WaPo or NYT or WSJ non-opinion sections) is not in the cult.

    I added some emphasis, a lot of people know what the MSM is reporting, they just dismiss it as “fake news.” That’s pretty cultish.

    3
  64. gVOR08 says:

    @charon: Those poll numbers are probably valid. On the other hand, it’s the Snow White and the X Dwarves problem, with X = 13. And Trump has way higher name recognition. Noem, for instance, is mentioned often on MSNBC. How many GOPs even know who she is? On the other hand, that’s largely how Trump won the 2016 nomination.

  65. CSK says:

    http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/16/trump-dementia-claims-steve-bannon-25th-amendment

    According to this piece, Steve Bannon thought he could be president if Trump was removed from office.

    On what planet?

  66. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    On what planet?

    Pluto.

    Oh, no. Wait. That’s not a planet.

    Sorry. Carry on.

    3
  67. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    Maybe Uranus.

    3
  68. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK:

    If it weren’t for the pandemic, Trump would be scheduling MAGA rallies as we speak.

    FWIW, I’ve long speculated that this is what we would get. Going into silent mode is what he’s done after every one of his epic fails, going back to the 80’s. Normally I would say that next up will be marital drama, but it may be different this time. In the past, when Trump went away, people mostly forgot about him. No one was ever hunting him down to find out what he was going to do next. Even if you were a reporter that thought him worth a few column inches as a novelty item you wouldn’t reach out to him, because eventually he would reach out to you. Most NYC based reporters spent their time avoiding Trump’s calls.

    Bottom line, I don’t know how he will react to not getting his full private sulk time.

  69. dazedandconfused says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Fair enough. To qualify as a true cult one would have to reach Jim Jones level of control though. Perhaps cult is the wrong term for Trumpism, aspects in common but no cigar.

  70. Jen says:

    @Kathy:

    What I think happened, is we got both a blue wave and a red wave, and the blue wave won.

    Yes. And this is why 2022 is going to be so tragically important. Democrats need to maintain their voting behavior pattern exhibited in 2020 in a non-presidential year.

    1
  71. DrDaveT says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Perhaps cult is the wrong term for Trumpism, aspects in common but no cigar.

    Just to be clear, I have never asserted that all Trumpism is cultist behavior. I think there’s a clear subset of Trump voters who are cultists in the sense I have described, and that this calls for an explanation. I think there are also lots of other Trump voters, with various motivations. Conflating them doesn’t help.

  72. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    I think there’s a chance of that. Since the spineless faction acquitted him, and since prosecution is not very likely (it should be, but it ins’t), a Trump restoration is a distinct possibility. Losing any part of Congress will be damaging to Biden and beneficial to Trump. And that’s the way to motivate Democratic voters for 2022.

    I expect if trump does run in ’24, that will be all the motivation Democratic voters need.

  73. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: So “none” is even a less desirable choice this time? WA! That is bad news!

  74. Kurtz says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    This would require, in my mind, a pretty expansive definition of a cult (one that might sound more like the definition of a political party if one were pressed to come up with an alternative label).

    I tried to make this point the other day. I pressed someone to nail down a description of a cult, and it pretty much described contemporary political parties.

    Even the ‘approved’ information sourcing is part and parcel with both parties today as well as the fringier parts of the coalitions. GVOR, wr, and I all have issues with NYT because it reflects a particular slice of Americans.

    I also made another point you made upthread here. It’s difficult to call it a cult when Trump just took the politician filter off the GOP. He and his team just repeated what AM radio/FNC opinion hosts said without the varnish applied by professional political advisors.

    He didn’t add much substance, he just excised the polspeak. Kingdaddy’s posts about fascism are apropos here. The only thing unique about Trump in the GOPsphere is style.

    In one of your exchanges with Michael, he provided a laundry list of Trump reversals from recent GOP positions. I spot checked to see, and saw that his positions were only reversals for the party, but not their voters. They were issues on which the party was out of step with their voters.

    Many of us, including myself, need to question how much we resemble the “cult” even if we aren’t going to storm the Capitol anytime soon.

    1
  75. CSK says:

    Trump released a 2-page broadside against McConnell today, obviously not written by him since it was reasonably literate and used words with which I’m sure he’s not familiar.

    He also claims that McConnell “begged” for his endorsement and went up by 20 points after Trump uttered the magic words.

  76. Jen says:

    @CSK: For an adult, he is utterly pathetic in his need for recognition. Honestly, someone so coddled should not be permitted anywhere near the public square.

  77. Kurtz says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Just to be clear, I have never asserted that all Trumpism is cultist behavior. I think there’s a clear subset of Trump voters who are cultists in the sense I have described, and that this calls for an explanation. I think there are also lots of other Trump voters, with various motivations. Conflating them doesn’t help.

    This is a much more reasonable take. But I’m of the opinion it describes subsets of every political faction.

    1
  78. Nightcrawler says:

    @charon:

    That’s another possibility. There’s definitely more to this than not being able to find a venue.

  79. Nightcrawler says:

    @CSK:

    That’s why him not holding rallies makes me so suspicious.

  80. charon says:

    Trump on turtle:

    https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/539077-trump-unloads-on-mcconnellpromises-maga-primary-challengers

    In a statement released through his Save America super PAC, Trump blamed McConnell for the GOP’s 2020 Senate losses and called for Republicans to elect new leaders to carry on his legacy.

    “Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again,” Trump said.

    “He will never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our Country. Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First. We want brilliant, strong, thoughtful, and compassionate leadership,” Trump said.

    https://www.rawstory.com/donald-trump-mitch-mcconnell/

    “The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm,” Trump argued. “McConnell’s dedication to business as usual, status quo policies, together with his lack of political insight, wisdom, skill, and personality, has rapidly driven him from Majority Leader to Minority Leader, and it will only get worse. The Democrats and Chuck Schumer play McConnell like a fiddle—they’ve never had it so good—and they want to keep it that way! We know our America First agenda is a winner, not McConnell’s Beltway First agenda or Biden’s America Last.”

    “In 2020, I received the most votes of any sitting President in history, almost 75,000,000. Every incumbent House Republican won for the first time in decades, and we flipped 15 seats, almost costing Nancy Pelosi her job. Republicans won majorities in at least 59 of the 98 partisan legislative chambers, and the Democrats failed to flip a single legislative chamber from red to blue. And in “Mitch’s Senate,” over the last two election cycles, I single-handedly saved at least 12 Senate seats, more than eight in the 2020 cycle alone—and then came the Georgia disaster, where we should have won both U.S. Senate seats, but McConnell matched the Democrat offer of $2,000 stimulus checks with $600. How does that work?” he asked. “It became the Democrats’ principal advertisement, and a big winner for them it was. McConnell then put himself, one of the most unpopular politicians in the United States, into the advertisements. Many Republicans in Georgia voted Democrat, or just didn’t vote, because of their anguish at their inept Governor, Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and the Republican Party, for not doing its job on Election Integrity during the 2020 Presidential race.”

    “My only regret is that McConnell ‘begged’ for my strong support and endorsement before the great people of Kentucky in the 2020 election, and I gave it to him. He went from one point down to 20 points up, and won. How quickly he forgets. Without my endorsement, McConnell would have lost, and lost badly. Now, his numbers are lower than ever before, he is destroying the Republican side of the Senate, and in so doing, seriously hurting our Country,” Trump argued.

  81. Gustopher says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Speaking as an atheist…

    Oh, that dedicated, almost professional-level Atheist crowd with the capital A is insufferably smug, but I don’t know if I would call them a cult…

    They’re as bad as Vegans.

    1
  82. Kathy says:

    @charon:

    Oh, so it was McConnell who went to Georgia on the eve of the runoff elections, and told people their votes don’t count?

    I don’t recall Mitch looking so orange, wearing ridiculously long ties, or going without eye glasses. Odd.

    1
  83. Moosebreath says:

    @DrDaveT:

    “A proposed explanation of why Trump was elected and how he continues to drive the GOP’s behavior isn’t convincing (or at least is badly incomplete) if it doesn’t also account for the cult — in the same way that an explanation of gravity would be incomplete if it accounted for why masses attract, but did not explain why light also bends around masses.”

    Exactly this. My difficulty with Steven’s commentary on Trump is that he focuses on what makes him similar to other Presidents and leaves it there, instead of trying to explain what makes him different.

    1
  84. Jim Brown 32 says:

    I checked Kinzingers military bio. He’s a tanker pilot who transitioned to surveillance aircraft supporting Air Force SpecOps (I believe Mikey was also part of this community). I was assigned to a tanker base and have also supported Air Force SpecOps.

    These are red-headed step-child communities within the Air Force and within SpecOps—Kinzinger is completely within his element being part of the “out group” of the Republican Party. It appears his time in SpecOps rubbed off on him–he’s seizing the initiative and finding opportunity to outflank the GQP in both messaging and his PAC.

    He makes me proud to be part of the same Profession of Arms. This is the caliber of men & women I mostly encountered during my time. I wish him well.

    8
  85. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @DrDaveT: Most of the Trumpers—Trump brought into the Party. Many of these people had never voted or hadn’t voted in years. He energized them because no other profession candidate would take a chance on being as vile as Trump. And Trumps problem is that he needed to offset the Never Trumpers somewhere–and he had nothing to lose.

    Some of these people will remain politically engaged–but I predict that many of them won’t. No one has the skillset of Trump–while also being a sociopath and malignant narcissist desiring to be President.

    1
  86. DrDaveT says:

    @Kurtz:

    But I’m of the opinion it describes subsets of every political faction.

    I can’t think of any other factions that reject any information that does not originate from a source approved by the faction’s gatekeepers. Most factions don’t even have information gatekeepers. If you know of some, I’d be curious to hear about them.

    1
  87. @Moosebreath:

    Exactly this. My difficulty with Steven’s commentary on Trump is that he focuses on what makes him similar to other Presidents and leaves it there, instead of trying to explain what makes him different.

    I think that the main thing that makes him different is that he was an amateur who didn’t want the job and wasn’t very good at it.

    I think, too, he tapped into white supremacy and grievance politics more overtly than other recent candidates. He was more overtly populists than any successful candidate I can think of. He is also the most anti-democratic major party politician that I can think of (in US politics, that is).

    I think that the reality is that our system can very easily produce a buffoon of a president of this poor of quality and, by the nature of our system, take over the party to become its main leader.

    I don’t think this is all the result of cultlike behavior, I think it is the result of a presidentialism with a weak party system that places nomination power in the hands of primary voters.

    And those last points are why I find it more disturbing and problematic to deal with him as a product of our party and electoral system than trying to call him a cult leader is actually missing the real problem.

    It is was just a cult/cult of personality, then this would just be a pause in normal politics.

    1
  88. @DrDaveT:

    Most factions don’t even have information gatekeepers. If you know of some, I’d be curious to hear about them.

    Two points.

    1. I think you are exaggerating the degree to which the people you are referring are truly beholden to singular gatekeepers.
    2. It was quite common in the 18th and 19th centuries (and into the 20th) for newspapers to be partisan organs. Does that mean that back then parties were cults?

    2
  89. @Kurtz:

    Many of us, including myself, need to question how much we resemble the “cult” even if we aren’t going to storm the Capitol anytime soon.

    You tap into a broader point with this observation that I have been trying to hint at without being overt.

    2
  90. @Moosebreath:

    My difficulty with Steven’s commentary on Trump is that he focuses on what makes him similar to other Presidents and leaves it there, instead of trying to explain what makes him different.

    One more thought on this. I would note that I have consistently noted that Trump represented a serious threat to American democracy. I point this out not to be defensive in the least, but to note that it is one rather key was I have very much noted a difference.

    2
  91. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: @Steven L. Taylor:

    I view your responses as missing the point.

    The main thing that makes Trump different is how his supporters think of him, which goes far beyond typical loyalty to their party leader. While you and I believe he is nothing more than a buffoon, his supporters deeply believe that ungodly man is a saint, that ignoramus is wiser than anyone else, and that person with a string of bankruptcies is the most successful in history.

    Analyzing Trump without looking at his true believers is missing at least half the story.

    3
  92. CSK says:

    Trump has dumped Giuliani and instructed his aides not to pay his legal fees.

    2
  93. Moosebreath says:

    @Moosebreath:

    And to forestall one objection to what I said, I don’t believe all 74 million people who voted for him last November are the sort of true believers I described. But a significant percentage of them are. And they are unlike the supporters of any President in my lifetime.

    1
  94. @Moosebreath: Ok, but how many of those people are there? (And are there enough to explain the topic of the original post?). And, did similar groups of people exist for other candidates, but they were less prominent?

    On that last point, it is quite common for Evangelicals to talk about how God sent a given candidate–it’s not just Trump.

    And, as I have noted on multiple occasions, once you reduce the choices to two, each side will engage in a lot of rationalization to promote their own side. There was just more to have to rationalize with Trump than normal and it looks even nuttier to those on the other side.

  95. My main problem with all of this is it is vague. And that vagueness is amplified by the fact that using the term “cult” is also a colloquial way of identifying a group of people that we don’t like.

    But it seems to me that commenters at OTB do not have a shared definition of “cult” that I am just not accepting. Rather, there is a range of definitions of “cult” even within these conversations. This fact actual strengthens my position that the term is not especially useful (or so I would argue).

    2
  96. @CSK: Who could have seen that coming?

  97. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “Ok, but how many of those people are there? (And are there enough to explain the topic of the original post?). And, did similar groups of people exist for other candidates, but they were less prominent?”

    I have not seen good polling on the percentage of Trump’s 2020 voters who fit my description, but anecdotally, I would estimate it in the 30% range. I cannot recall similar groups for other candidates, with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders’ strongest supporters.

    “And, as I have noted on multiple occasions, once you reduce the choices to two, each side will engage in a lot of rationalization to promote their own side. There was just more to have to rationalize with Trump than normal and it looks even nuttier to those on the other side.”

    I would agree that it is likely most of Trump’s supporters fit your description. But there are enough true believers that they are now a force in the Republican Party that the others dare not cross. And discussing current politics without accounting for them is missing a significant chunk of voters.

  98. dazedandconfused says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Cult is IMO an accurate description for the ones who were running around the capitol building in Q tee shirts, they have a messianic vision of Trump. However there are not 74 million of those running around. The word cult dismisses the largest part of Trump’s base, which appears to view him as an agent of change, a cleaning out of the old order, and they want that so badly they like the image of it being done with gusto.

    1
  99. @dazedandconfused:

    Cult is IMO an accurate description for the ones who were running around the capitol building in Q tee shirts, they have a messianic vision of Trump

    Indeed. And I have stated that I don’t have a problem using the term in that context (although I still find it analytically not all that helpful). I have even stated I don’t get all that excited about it being used for rally-goers in the main.