In the history of the cult of personality hysterias, the case of Donald Trump is unique. He is worse than a zero sum game. Trump is to politics what Bitcoin is to financial speculation: he is unprecedented in the degree to which there is no there there.
Trump is the Kim Kardshian of political nothingness. He is a weak, stupid, untalented, little man who is sustained by other weak and little men and women voluntarily trying to outdo each other in their race to the bottom, the race to see who can become the weakest and the littlest in his service. He is Adolf Littler. He is the Nuclear Option for morons. He is to stupidity what Albert Einstein was to genius.
Trump is a Pavlovian electric shock to his followers offering only punishment each time they tell the truth. Telling the truth automatically makes you Trump’s enemy. Your punishment can be as humiliating as being hauled in front of Tucker Carlson and forced to grovel — as Ted Cruz was — and commanded at camera point to recant your claim that January 6th was a violent terrorist attack. Or it can be as excoriating as being stripped of your House Republican Conference chair, as was Liz Cheney, for daring to vote to impeach the man who started the insurrection. Or it can be as absurd as Kevin McCarthy descending into self-mocking projection by telling Fox News how Democrats are “politicizing” January 6th and “rigging elections.”
And, speaking of politicizing, we know that Trump started the insurrection. We sat and watched him do it. People like Trump always let other people do their dirty work for them. After all, Bin Laden didn’t fly the planes. He let suckers and losers do that.
We now know just how low the party of so-called patriots can sink. They watched other Americans take their most sacred symbol — the American flag — and use the flagpole that held it as a cudgel, to smash windows and beat and stab people, and they were okay with it. Just as long as it was Republicans doing the desecration they were just fine with everything.
It all began when members of the Republican Party made the same miscalculation toward Donald Trump that members of the Weimar Republic made toward Adolf Hitler. Each saw a man they thought they could control. Each saw a man who would provide them with a means to power.
What they didn’t understand, these Weimar Republicans, was that Trump had nothing to lose. He didn’t want to be president. That made him free to repeat outrageous, bigoted lies, and the outrageous, bigoted liars of America loved him for it and elected him president with a squeakingly thin minority.
Now Republicans have become not just Trump’s slaves but slaves to his legacy, the legacy of Trumpism. They must ride this wild horse of their own creation. They have created a constituency of bigots and fools that needs to be fed. Apart from the slavering, Goebbels-esque fanatics like Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz, I guarantee you not a single one of them is happy about it. They admit to each other in private that they hate what they have become. That is how democracies die.
And what have they become? A group of people outwardly willing to endorse violence and unconstitutional means to treasonously hang on to power. A group of people whose aim is no longer democracy but the tyranny of theocracy. A group of people willing to repeat the Big Lie in the abject service of a man whose ego can’t handle the idea that he lost an election.
America is no longer unique in its tradition of free speech. Lots of other countries have free speech and freedom of movement too. I know, I live in one. America is simply the oldest example of a country with such traditions. That is no guarantee that America will come out of this crisis with those traditions intact. The only thing that stands in the way of the destruction of America as we know it is us. We, the people, must not allow it. Vote. Speak out. Get active. Take others to the polls with you. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.