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Why Trumpists Demand Complete Loyalty

The answer depends on whether you’re talking to cowards or fanatics.

Nick Ottens

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Nick Ottens
Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump attends a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

Jonah Goldberg wonders in his newsletter why it’s not enough for conservatives like him to accept Donald Trump’s impeachment is an overreach while recognizing that the president did something wrong.

Trump’s supporters demand complete loyalty to an ever-shifting party line — or they’ll accuse you of suffering from “Trump derangement syndrome”.

I suspect the answer depends on whether you’re talking to cowards or fanatics.

Cowards

Many Republicans, including members of Congress, will concede to Goldberg in private that Trump was wrong to withhold aid from Ukraine until the country announced an investigation into the family of his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.

In public, they utter incredible and unsubstantiated excuses — Trump’s phone call, in which he blackmailed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, was “perfect”; Trump only cared about fighting corruption in Ukraine; Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election — and denounce anyone who speaks the truth.

These Republicans know better. They have known better all along. Many criticized Trump in the strongest terms during the 2016 primaries. But they surrendered to Trump, his base and his politics of make-believe for fear of losing reelection or lucrative book deals and speaking slots. The few Never Trumpers who did not compromise are a constant reminder to these Vichy Republicans that they did not have the courage to put their principles first.

Fanatics

The true believers hate Trump’s Republican critics for a different reason.

Much like supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom or Bernie Sanders in the United States are more interested in finding heretics on the left than converts in the center, Trump’s Breitbart-reading white nationalist fanboys (and they are overwhelmingly male) see center-right intellectuals like Goldberg as part of the Republican “establishment” they have been fighting for years.

Now they are the establishment, but the trouble with electing outsiders, whether it is Trump in America, Viktor Orb├ín in Hungary, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel or Law and Justice in Poland, is that they never grow comfortable in power. They remain bitter and suspicious, tyrannize their opponents, whether in their own party, the opposition or an imaginary “deep state”, and alienate potential supporters (like Never Trumpers in the United States), thus setting the stage for their downfall, which they will inevitably blame on their enemies rather than their own incompetence.

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