July 2, 2020 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Has the GOP lost faith in Trump?

Russian bounties create cognitive dissonance difficult to resolve.

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I disliked President George W. Bush immensely. I thought he was illegitimate. The US Supreme Court decided his 2000 victory, not voters. I thought he was weak. Dick Cheney was in charge more than he was. I thought he was a liar. Iraq did not possess “weapons of mass destruction.” I thought he was dangerous. His gross ineptitude destabilized the international order. It enfeebled what had been the Pax Americana.

I never thought he was disloyal, though.

Indeed, his love of country was such that he believed democracy could grow out of the end of a gun barrel; that scores of thousands of dead Iraqis were an even trade for 3,000 dead Americans; that moral and legal abominations like torture and “enemy combatants” were acceptable to achieving American security; that war crimes and atrocities were OK if they meant preserving life and liberty at home; that being an American citizen meant more rights and privileges than being a mere human being. Call me quaint if you wish, but I want presidents to pursue truth, justice and the American way—in that order. For George W. Bush, it was the American way or zip.

Betrayal is a feature, not a bug.

For the current president, there is no American way. Sure, he won on a message of “America First,” but the “America” in that hoary campaign slogan never meant the United States. It meant a wholly imagined community, a confederacy of the mind and the spirit, that’s always already at work, often covertly but these days overtly, and that seeks to undermine the US by any means, including treason, to accomplish its goals.

George W. Bush, as bad as he was, was a patriot. Donald Trump and his confederates in the Republican Party, however, are not. They are quite literally the enemies within.

You could say, well, they’re still American. They’re not traitors. They haven’t done anything to help another country at the expense of the US. That depends on what you mean by “another country,” though. During the American Civil War, the Confederate States asked but failed to get imperial powers to lend a hand in destroying the union. Trump and his GOP confederates are also seeking foreign assistance. In standing idly by, Senate Republicans are tacitly inviting Russian propagandists to poison public understanding of Joe Biden. More explicitly, the Trump campaign, namely Rudy Giuliani, is working with a Ukrainian lawmaker to smear the Democratic nominee. The enemies within are working with the enemies without to injure the United States.

The GOP confederates don’t believe they are traitors. They believe their confederacy of the mind and the spirit is the true home of the “real Americans” for whom God chose a flawed leader to deliver unto their hands an America that is subordinate to their righteous domination. That arrangement demanded that they trust Donald Trump, which meant that arrangement could not possibly endure. At some point, sooner or later, there’d be a moment in which it was clear, even to GOP confederates, that the president had betrayed them the way he betrayed everyone else in his life.

Don’t forget the tip jar!

That moment seems to be here. The Times, the Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press and others have reported that the president knew the Kremlin was paying Afghani terrorists to kill American troops stationed overseas. The AP says Trump knew about Russian bounties in early 2019. Yet the administration did nothing, and continues to do nothing, even as it denies that it knew anything at all. Moreover, he’s defending the Russians and their association with the Taliban, the very people who aided and abetted Osama bin Laden, who conceived and executed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a time of existential angst among GOP confederates that comes close to rivaling the election of the first Black president of the United States.

The Washington press corps is reporting a split in the Republican Party between people loyal to the nation-within-a-nation and people, especially senators up for reelection, worried about the appearance of being loyal to the nation-within-a-nation. But I think the GOP is being split in another way not yet being reported: between confederates disloyal to the United States and a president disloyal to Republican confederates. The “American Taliban” are supposed to be liberal activists tearing down statues of the founders, according to US Sen. Ted Cruz. They are not supposed to be members of the Republican Party whose chief loyalty is the nation-within-a-nation. The president is creating cognitive dissonance that may never be resolved.

If I’m right, the GOP confederates will crumble the way the Confederate States crumbled. Betrayal is a feature, not a bug. For all his flaws, George W. Bush’s allies and opponents knew where he stood. This is what happens when a major political party abandons its values, its history and its former leaders. It inevitably self-destructs.

—John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition open and available to all. Find him @johnastoehr.

3 Comments

  1. Mary J Berry on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    Many of those republicans “party within a party” are now working for Putin, have gone to Russia in groups on July 4th Weekend for the past several years for “instruction” what kind of instruction, one can only guess…
    GRU hacked into RNC at the same time they hacked DNC, I’m sure that there was plenty of info in those email to hold over Republican heads for the duration of Trumps squat in the White House. Most of them have kept their grumbles away from Trump’s hearing, for the same reason that Lindsay Graham certainly wished he hadn’t stuck out a hand of friendship towards Trump, thinking of having an innocent game of golf…but is now terrified of Trump outing the kompromat Russia/Putin and now Trump has on him. A good example of why Republicans are afraid of upsetting the apple cart.
    GOP have used up every bit of goodwill they may ever have had, except for the die hard base Trump is always talking about, as his followers, but are really those who are die hard conservatives, most of them racists, xenophobic, who hate government and just want to burn it all down. The rest of us see a “do nothing“ party who spend their time concocting plans to become re-elected, holding inquisitions of innocent democrats using up mega tax payer $$ and filling the courts with judges that take instruction from their paymasters, because they never made the good grades in law school, none have enough motivation to do better or run a law career, hunting for clients-not only because they lose, but because they don’t know enough to win…

  2. Thornton Prayer on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    Trump’s only loyalty is to himself, not to America or the GOP. The GOP’s loyalty is only to its revanchist and reactionary ideology, not to America. So long as these two treasonous loyalties were fairly aligned, they could sorta work together in their clunky, disjointed way.

    My observation is that temperamentally that conservatives are highly wired to perceived territorial threats. Ostensible allies will quickly turn of each other under the slightest provocation. The internal political dynamics of the Confederacy and the Nazi regime were very chaotic because of these behavioral tendencies.

    Now that Trump’s loyalty is clearly shown to be anti-American, the GOP’s political goals are now being undermined by his apparent treason. He may have originally been their proverbial SOB but now the SOB is seriously jeopardizing their political objectives.

    This week has seen Republicans in the senate emphasizing wearing of masks in the face of DJT’s idiotic refusal. Why is that? Is it because it’s the right thing to do morally or medically? Or is it that Mitch McConnell and other GOP senators recognize that the majority of voters are going to kick out enough GOP senators for the Democrats to seize control in the 2020 elections?

    I don’t think the GOP has lost faith in Trump. It’s more likely he is so severely damaging their short and long-term political prospects that they’ve got to step away from him. If there is no honor among thieves, there certainly isn’t any among traitors either.

    • Holly Bryan on July 30, 2021 at 10:45 pm

      You (unlike Trump, ha!) have the best words! I had to look up “revanchist” — fits perfectly 👍🏼

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