2019

Who gives a damn?

A theme in my recent columns is about the need for Republicans of good character to speak out about what is happening in and to their party. It is disconcerting to see few willing to rebuke their leader by condemning his degrading and despicable tweets, comments, and statements.

I hold to the belief—hope—that not all Republicans are of his/that mindset. Perhaps I am naïve, but it is difficult to fathom Republicans I know trafficking in racism, xenophobia, and misogyny. Yet, they seem not to realize by not speaking out it appears as if they agree with him.

My co-host of The Middle Way on KYGT, Matt Bergles, asked me during our show about why those Republicans remain silent.

“Terror,” I responded immediately.

They’re afraid of the blowback. By speaking out against Trump, one is likely to find him/herself ostracized and shunned not only from party affairs but also private and personal engagements. For those who feel their groups and social tribes are essential to their well-being, risking ostracization or shunning asks too much.

When one thinks of religion, it’s usually in context of a belief in a supreme deity. But religiosity extends beyond church, temple, or mosque. It’s an aspect of one’s psyche. Religion is an outward expression indicative of one’s outlook on life.

Different religions demand different levels of adherence to their dogmas and teachings. More strict practices such Catholicism, evangelical Protestantism, and Mormonism impose higher levels of rigidity—discipline—upon their members. While that discipline might be admirable in some contexts and situations, it can lead to something injurious to the individual: Groupthink, in which there is no room for deviation, for individuals entertaining alternative ideas or acting independently.

Groupthink is fundamental to ideologies and cults. As with religion, they cannot allow heretical thinking. In that sense, religion, ideology, and cults are differences without a distinction. All three demand one subordinate or surrender his/her individualism to the collective will.

Ideologies and cults differ from religion in focus: In an ideology, it’s the Big Idea(s); in a cult, leader worship, before whom ideas become secondary.

Trumpism is a cult, not an ideology. It’s not about a Big Idea; instead, it’s about the Leader. As with Mao, Stalin, Jim Jones of Jonestown, and David Koresh of the Branch Davidians, groupthink and leader-worship are powerful behaviors for Trumpists. They are the glue that holds Trumpism together.

The New Yorker’s John Cassidy mirrors what I wrote about the Republican assault on Robert Mueller.

“The wanton disrespect that these elected Republicans showed Mueller was perhaps the most alarming testament yet to Trump’s total conquest of the Party. In today’s G.O.P., as in Stalin’s Russia, evidently, decades of loyal public service count for nothing when the leader and his henchmen decide someone represents a threat and the apparatchiks have been ordered to take that person down. All that matters is carrying out the order and staying in the leader’s good graces.”

Trumpism reveals another sinister feature of neo-Americanism, something Andrew Sullivan in the New York Magazine identifies.

“The notion that the average citizen should care deeply about the rule of law and constitutional norms — and even actively defend them — has become terribly passé. Now, all that truly matters is whether we are entertained by someone who can command televisual excitement the way Trump does on a daily, hourly basis. If he can’t, whatever the underlying facts, no one gives a damn.”

I disagree with Sullivan on his last point. I give a damn. Many others do as well. But the larger question: Are there any Republicans in Clear Creek and across Colorado who give one?

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