The party that triumphed in the U.S. Civil War is racked by its own civil war, one in which the followers of Trumpism are guzzling down the kool-aid of conspiracy-thinking. And woe betide anyone who dares to question “dear leader”.
Former President Donald Trump is expected to be top speaker this weekend at the rightwing Conservative Political Action Conference where he will lay claim to the Republican Party being still under his sway.
It is the first time that Trump will make a public appearance since he left the White House as a failed president on January 20. His speech to the annual CPAC, held this year in Orlando, Florida, is intended to reinforce Trumpism and his populist MAGA movement as the lodestar of the Republican Party.
There is even speculation that Trump will announce himself as the presumptive presidential candidate for 2024.
This is in spite of Trump being the only American president to have been impeached twice – the second time for inciting a violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 to overturn the 2020 election result. Trump’s ambition to lead his party is also in spite of it losing both chambers of Congress under his watch.
But his base within the party is as loyal to the former reality TV star as ever. Recent polls show nearly half of Republican voters are willing to quit the party if Trump were to set up a new one. That’s unlikely to happen because the Republican Party already provides Trump and his followers a serviceable electoral vehicle. History shows that third parties in the U.S. tend to flounder in the traditional two-party system that dominates American politics.
Trump’s loyalists are still convinced that the 2020 election was stolen from him by massive voter fraud. It’s just one of the many conspiracy theories that have come to define the Republican Party under Trump. Fox News and other rightwing media outlets have given up the ghost of election fraud after vote-counting companies threatened billion-dollar lawsuits for defamation. Lack of evidence sobered up their reckless media narrative. But not so among the “Trumpenproletariat”. The grassroots are sticking with the dead-end claims that their leader was cheated out of the White House.
The QAnon network, which Trump has endorsed, is a chief purveyor of the stolen election narrative, as are myriad extremist, gun-toting, white supremacist groups. The latest iteration of the conspiracy theory is that Trump will actually be elected to the White House on March 4 because QAnon “insiders” believe that is the rightful historic date for presidential inauguration, not January 20.
This descent by the Republican Party into the gutter of reactionary, far-right delusions has been a long time underway, going back at least two decades. The party is now a haven for xenophobes, anti-immigrants, white ultra-nationalists, gun fanatics, and evangelical Christian fundamentalists who dispute evolution. People like the Neo-fascist commentators Alex Jones and the late Rush Limbaugh have formulated hate-filled manifestos for the party. Trump had the knack for politicizing the nihilism and making it electable.
The way Trump puts it, as does his QAnon zealots, America is being taken over by a “far-left socialist” Biden administration. The Biden administration is thoroughly imperialist and capitalist. But such is the breakdown in political discourse in the United States that all sorts of terminology is being mangled with mind-numbing oxymorons.
It’s hard to believe that the Grand Old Party formed in 1854 was once the party of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president. Lincoln is seen as one of the greatest American statesmen, who took a principled stand against slavery and fashioned the modern United States.
There was a time when the GOP stood for intelligent and principled political philosophy. Not any more. It has become a cult for conspiracy nuts and freaks who live in a delusional world of deception and denial.
The QAnon network is even openly supported by Republican members of Congress, such as Representative Majorie Taylor-Greene. Like many of her fellow cultists she believes that mass shootings in the U.S. have been fabricated by “big government” and “crisis actors” to pursue an agenda of taking away citizens’ rights to bear arms.
Trump has deftly played into the conspiracy culture for his own personal political gain. He made his name as a Republican rising star by promoting the racist “birther” narrative which claimed that Barack Obama was ineligible to be the 44th president because he had been born in Kenya, and was not a U.S. citizen.
Trump plied legions of other dangerous piffle. The coronavirus pandemic was “nothing more than a flu” that could be cured by “injecting household bleach” into a person’s body. A year later and more than 500,000 dead Americans, this is what happens when you do down the rabbit hole with Trump and his cult that has taken over the party of Lincoln.
(Admittedly, Trump did get one thing right: the whole “Russiagate” scandal peddled by Democrats and the liberal media accusing Trump of being played by Russia was indeed a crazy delusion spouted by the other side.)
The Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend presents sharp illustration of how the Republican Party is splitting into two irreconcilable camps. An equal number of traditional Republican supporters are sickened by the extremism and denialism that has taken hold of the party, especially since the January 6 attack on the Capitol incited by Trump.
Several prominent GOP lawmakers are not attending the conference. They include Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, former vice president Mike Pence, and Senators Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Richard Burr, as well as House Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, among others. Some of them voted to impeach Trump but the majority of Congressional Republicans have stayed loyal to the former president – so far. Their loyalty is not so much out of principle as it is out of fear that Trump’s wrath could end their careers. Typical of cults, the basis for the leader’s rule is often fear.
The party that triumphed in the U.S. Civil War (1861-65) is racked by its own civil war, one in which the followers of Trumpism are guzzling down the kool-aid of conspiracy-thinking. And woe betide anyone who dares to question “dear leader”.