We don’t have a prayer of changing anybody’s mind about Donald Trump.
Perhaps the most depressing aspect of this week’s revelations about the treachery of the 45th President is the reality that at bottom, only progressives are truly morally outraged. No Republican cheerleader will have an attack of conscience, ever. Those who made the ghastly decision to elect this man still love him; they really do think former FBI director James Comey is a “nut job.” They don’t care about Trump’s ties to the Russians and they never will.
Simple. Like L. Ron Hubbard before him, Donald Trump has created his own religion.
Every religion needs a demon and a messiah. There are multiple demons in the teachings of Trumpism: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Muslims, Mexicans, et. al.
Then there is the messiah: Trump, the man who declared that “I alone” can fix the problems of the world. In other words, salvation only comes through him. Trump is, to his followers, the way, the truth and the life, the one path to eternal glory.
This is a dynamic that I fear progressives who think Trump won’t last a full term don’t fully understand. Trump’s believers cannot let the “demons” win. If Trump is forced out of office, that will be the triumph of evil in their minds. They will do anything and everything to prevent the humbling of their holy figure, because Trump’s supporters would feel lost without him. Take away Trump and their lives have no purpose or meaning.
Trump knew exactly what he was doing in his campaign. We often talk about Trump as the embodiment of ‘80s culture, the symbol of the wretched excess of the Reagan era. Don’t forget that televangelism was big in the ‘80s, too. Trump surely studied the most prominent TV preachers of the era, and figured he could pull off the same thing too, in a political context.
“Make America Great Again” is the Lord’s Prayer of this religion. The Art of the Deal is its Bible. Scott Pruitt, Mick Mulvaney, Steve Bannon and Tom Price are among this messiah’s disciples. There are “miracles” in this religion: magic crowd sizes, resurrection of coal jobs, mystical victories over terror. Like so many religions, it’s also profoundly misogynist.
When Saturday Night Live and Stephen Colbert mock Trump, his supporters regard it as blasphemy, as religious discrimination. They feel persecuted for their faith, regarding themselves as a shunned religious minority. Ironic, of course, considering their contempt for an actual shunned religious minority. Sick? Yes…but that’s the way virtually every person who voted for Trump thinks.
When progressives discuss how childish and wayward Trump is, they must acknowledge the reality that those who voted for him were just as childish and wayward, just as devoted to delusion, just as scornful of facts and truth.
The truth is that those who voted for Trump effectively betrayed and assaulted this country. What they did on November 8, 2016–the day of the intellectually dead–can never be forgotten and can never be forgiven. In the name of their religion, they ushered a tyrant into power, allowing him to degrade our democracy and injure our institutions. Their savior could well destroy this country before he’s through.
With any luck, their children will reject this false faith, and raise their own children to embrace the values of compassion, peace, tolerance, selflessness–values that have no place in Trumpism. With any luck, those who reject Trumpism will teach their own children that Donald Trump was the god that failed.