Friday, October 11, 2019

Republicans sell their souls to the idol of the Offal Office

[Scriber’s Note]: I’ve added another blog to my repertoire. I explain at the end of this post.

The NY Times reports that At Minneapolis Rally, an Angry Trump Reserves Sharpest Attack for Biden. The audience mob lapped it up with enthusiasm fueled by Trump’s cruel and crude remarks.

MINNEAPOLIS — A fired-up President Trump lashed out against Democrats at a combative campaign rally on Thursday night, deriding them as “very sick and deranged people” who were only investigating him for abuse of power in order to “erase your vote.”

Facing impeachment in the House, Mr. Trump took his case to his core supporters, arguing that Democrats were trying to overturn the 2016 election because they knew they could not beat him in 2020. He singled out former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as nothing but a toady for President Barack Obama.

“He was only a good vice president because he knew how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass,” Mr. Trump said, a line that drew huge roars of approval from the crowd.

Let’s stop there. (You can read more from the target post if you wish to endure Trump at his crudest.)

Here is another instance of Trump’s serial sexual abuses via 538’s significant digits email. Is this going to draw huge roars of approval from the crowd?

43 new accusations
Two dozen women have already publicly accused President Trump of inappropriate behavior, but a new book details 43 new allegations, including more than two dozen cases of “unwanted sexual contact.” The book is “All The President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator” by journalists Monique El-Faizy and Barry Levine, and draws upon more than 100 interviews to illustrate the president’s relationship with women across different periods of his life. Assistant Esquire editor Adrienne Westenfeld writes, “What emerges from the authors’ reporting is a portrait of a serial predator who hides behind wealth and institutional power to frequently harass and abuse women.” [Esquire]

Michael Gerson (Washington Post via the Daily Star) exposes Trumpublican lack of principle in Trump’s supporters are complicit in the moral decay of politics. I’ve tried to capture the essence in a few excerpts.

Trump is effectively setting a new standard of political morality and requiring his supporters to defend it. He is asking elected Republicans in particular to agree with his claim that a practice uniformly viewed as corruption in the past is actually an example of fighting corruption. That is the little thing, the small thing, which Trump demands of his followers: To call hot, cold. To call black, white. To call wrong, right.

Philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre’s idea of “incommensurability” strikes me as relevant here. If all moral claims are merely “emotive” — statements about ourselves rather than the nature of reality — then there is no way to argue between them. The statement that “stealing is wrong” can be debated. The statement “I feel that stealing is wrong” is not subject to rational dispute. Someone else could simply assert, “I feel that stealing is right,” and the argument would be at a stalemate.

Republicans are being called to follow their leader down a relativist rabbit hole. Trump is not only asking them to accept his arguments on policy matters like building a wall or provoking a trade war. To be loyal foot soldiers, they must affirm that morality means what Trump says it means — even when it violates their clearest instincts. They know, deep down, that if a Democratic president had asked France or China for help in destroying a prominent Republican rival, they would be in a fever pitch of outrage. But, in the Trump era, this isn’t supposed to matter anymore. Consistency means nothing. Principle means nothing. Character means nothing. It only matters who wins.

So we are left with positions that can’t be reconciled. Trump honestly seems to have no moral objection to what he did. His opponents are left sputtering: But this has always been seen as serious corruption! The president simply doesn’t care. And, if his GOP supporters remain loyal, they will be further implicated in the moral decay of American politics.

Writing in The Bulwark, Robert Tracinski asks of Dear Republicans, Is This the Idol to Whom You Have Sold Your Souls?.

In the past few weeks, Donald Trump has gone from saying that no, he didn’t collude with a foreign dictatorship to interfere with the U.S. election, to doing it on live TV, asking the government of China to investigate Joe Biden and his son, for no clear reason.

Exactly two prominent Republicans denounced this: Ben Sasse and Mitt Romney. Marco Rubio took the brave course of pretending it didn’t happen, dismissing it as “not a real request.” Other Republicans, and much of the conservative rank and file, made a seamless move from declaring that Trump never did it to affirming that of course he did it. And it was good.

All of this has me wondering: Is this the idol to whom conservatives have decided to sell their souls?

The big thing we’ve discovered over the past four years is the number of people for whom the actual content of ideas and policy is largely irrelevant, compared to the pure tribal satisfaction of venting their hatred for the “elites” and the “mainstream media.” The source of Donald Trump’s bizarre allure among conservatives is the constant, unrelenting intensity with which he allows them to indulge in this—a form of tribal hatred that is all the purer precisely because it has been freed from any pretense of having to be loyal to abstract principles.

In short, conservatives have sold their souls for the sheer pleasure of partisan hatred. And it’s not going to be easy to break this spell.

For the last few years, outside observers have believed, time and again, that surely the latest revelation will be so blatant that conservatives will have to draw back from their support of Trump.

Well, that’s not how it works when you have sold your soul. Once people are corrupted and drawn in, there is a kind of sunk-cost fallacy that pulls them farther down. Having already compromised their principles to go along with Trumpism, they need to keep on justifying their original investment by minimizing or making excuses for every new awful thing he does.

They have to keep on justifying Trump, because otherwise they would have to face up to the reality of how foolish and venal they have been all along.

… spare a moment to contemplate the fate of Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina who first resisted Trump, then reluctantly supported him, then became a reliable Trump sycophant.

One of the central issues of Graham’s long political career is that he is a foreign policy hawk, advocating that America be active and vigilant in the fights against tyranny and radical Islam. Now observe Graham’s reaction when, late Sunday night, Trump decided to sell out our best allies in the Middle East, the Kurds—the people who stood and fought effectively against the Islamic State when nobody else was doing it, and who are now about to be attacked by the Turkish dictatorship with Trump’s go-ahead. Where does this leave Senator Graham? Completely on the sidelines:

I don’t know all the details regarding President Trump’s decision in northern Syria. In process of setting up phone call with Secretary Pompeo. If press reports are accurate this is a disaster in the making.

There is nothing more pathetic than being a senator whose signature issue is foreign policy—and having to confess publicly that you were left out of the loop and you’re begging for a meeting just to figure out what the hell is going on. But why should Trump have consulted Graham? He’d already sold his soul. He’d already indicated that he will back Trump no matter what, so why should Trump bother to inform him about future compromises that will be required?

This is where everyone will end up, eventually.

Conservatives have been drawn from small compromises to bigger and bigger ones, from venial sins to mortal ones. There is no bottom to it.

That is the inevitable logic of selling your soul.


I ran across a conservative blog, The Bulwark. I know it’s conservative, if for no other reason, than by noting its founders: Charlie Sykes and Bill Kristol. Yesterday and again today I’ve featured a post to that blog that maps nicely onto my view of politics in the age of Trump. I am not delusional - there are many issues covered in that blog that will cause me to take exception. I know the prospect of Elizabeth Warren as president, for example, is a source of joy for me and a source of horror to conservatives. I won’t hesitate to take issue with the Bulwarkians when appropriate. But reading conservative posts in that blog might get me off the civil discourse hook as I steadfastly refuse to watch Faux News.

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