Sunday, December 22, 2019

Trump rules with fear and loyalty - in spite of Republicans' fear and loathing

Return of the King

The founding fathers recognized the potential for a return to a monarchy. We as a nation have avoided that for two centuries. But now a substantial number of voters are just fine with Donald as King. And those sentiments motivate GOP politicians. God save America - because the Republican base and sycophantic politicians most certainly will not. Read on for a perspective on how Trump rules - and I mean that in the sense of an Americonarchy.

A case study in fear and loyalty - or fear and loathing

Fear and Loyalty: How Donald Trump Took Over the Republican Party. The president demands complete fealty, and as the impeachment hearings showed, he has largely attained it. To cross him is to risk a future in the Republican party. In this NY Times report, Jonathon Martin and Maggie Haberman observe that “President Trump has kept Republicans members of Congress in line throughout the impeachment process.” How does he do it?

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. — By the summer of 2017, Dave Trott, a two-term Republican congressman, was worried enough about President Trump’s erratic behavior and his flailing attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act that he criticized the president in a closed-door meeting with fellow G.O.P. lawmakers.

The response was instantaneous — but had nothing to do with the substance of Mr. Trott’s concerns. “Dave, you need to know somebody has already told the White House what you said,” he recalled a colleague telling him. “Be ready for a barrage of tweets.”

Mr. Trott got the message: To defy Mr. Trump is to invite the president’s wrath, ostracism within the party and a premature end to a career in Republican politics. Mr. Trott decided not to seek re-election in his suburban Detroit district, concluding that running as anti-Trump Republican was untenable, and joining a wave of Republican departures from Congress that has left those who remain more devoted to the president than ever.

“If I was still there and speaking out against the president, what would happen to me?” Mr. Trott said before answering his own question: Mr. Trump would have lashed out and pressured House G.O.P. leaders to punish him.

… All the incentives that shape political behavior — with voters, donors and the news media — compel Republicans to bow to Mr. Trump if they want to survive.

Sitting in a garland-bedecked hotel restaurant in his former district, Mr. Trott said that he did not want to seek re-election “as a Trumper” — and that he knew he had little future in the party as an opponent of the president.

There is no market, he said, for independence. Divergence from Trumpism will never be good enough for Democrats; Mr. Trump will target you among Republicans, Mr. Trott added, and the vanishing voters from the political middle will never have a chance to reward you because you would not make it through a primary. That will be ensured in part by the megaphone the president wields with the conservative news media.

“Trump is emotionally, intellectually and psychologically unfit for office, and I’m sure a lot of Republicans feel the same way,” Mr. Trott said. “But if they say that, the social media barrage will be overwhelming.” He added that he would be open to the presidential candidacy of former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York.

On the other hand, Mr. Trump dangles rewards to those who show loyalty — a favorable tweet, or a presidential visit to their state — and his heavy hand has assured victory for a number of Republican candidates in their primaries. …

… why was there no introspection within the party after the midterms about the damage Mr. Trump did to Republican candidates, particularly in the suburbs?

“If you go to any Republican event, you’re going to find more people at that event than ever before,” Mr. Trott said, “and every single one of them to a person will be all in for President Trump. They’ll all have ‘Make America Great Again’ hats on and they’ll be saying what a tremendous president he is.”

Mr. Trott recounted one of his most vivid memories of his time serving with Mr. Trump. It was the day in 2017 when House Republicans voted to repeal the A.C.A. and celebrated afterward at the White House.

Mr. Trott was one of the first lawmakers to enter the Oval Office after the Rose Garden celebration and he stood behind the president’s desk when Mr. Trump pulled out a sheet of paper.

“He already had a list of 20 people who had voted against him two hours earlier,” he recalled.

Back home in the districts Trump voters show “slavish devotion”

Lawmakers not seeking re-election are often the most candid about the slavish devotion Mr. Trump engenders with voters — and the pressure it puts on them.

“Public officials need to be held accountable, and I don’t think any governmental system works well with blind loyalty without reason,” said Representative Francis Rooney of Florida, who announced his intention to retire earlier this year after criticizing Mr. Trump for his conduct with Ukraine and suffering an immediate backlash.

Mr. Rooney ultimately voted against impeachment, but told colleagues he felt uneasy about it. Recalling an appearance on a Florida television station afterward, Mr. Rooney said: “They interviewed me after the vote and then they interviewed one of these Cape Coral Republican ladies and she said, ‘Well, it’s about time they came around to realize it’s a big media hoax.’ How do you argue with that? How do you reason with that?”

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