As I write these words the U.S. Senate is in its first day of deliberations over whether or not Donald Trump should be held accountable for the attempted insurrection on January 6, 2021. The deliberations on this day are focusing on whether or not a former president can be held accountable for actions in office after he is out of office. The House has impeached him saying he should be tried and convicted, but it is up to the Senate to determine Trump’s guilt or innocence. A straw poll taken in the Senate before the House voted to impeach suggests that there won’t be two-thirds of the Senate voting for conviction.
While I would love to see Trump found guilty, what fascinates me is Trump’s hold on the 72 million or so people who voted for him. Several politicians seemed caught fear of backlash back home if they don’t support Trump but what is it that holds so many people rabidly loyal to Trump? I have filled this blog with my reasons for distrusting him and wanting him out of office, so it is hard for me to understand why anyone would not just vote for him, but be so doggedly devoted to him.
Seeking to Understand
Shortly after the January 6 raid had been quashed, I wrote three friends of mine who I knew were Trump supporters and asked them: How do you interpret the events of January 6? I stressed that I did not want to get into a debate; I just wanted to understand. One quoted former Congressman Newt Gingrich claiming that Hunter Biden was guilty of taking money from China [under investigation but not proven]. Another said that George Floyd died of a drug overdose and not by suffocation and referenced an article that Antifa had actually sparked the move on the Capitol. The third said there was mass election fraud. None of the answers related directly to my question, but the third seemed close. When I asked for evidence of fraud, he mentioned facts, to which I replied none of the courts who heard Trump’s case found it credible, and we went back and forth on what constituted facts.
Finally realizing we could not agree on what constituted a fact, I asked: “Help me understand: what is it you gain with Donald Trump as President or put another way, what do you fear you will lose if he is not? What is at stake for you in this?” I am still waiting for an answer. Perhaps my friend thinks it’s a trap, but in all honesty, I just don’t get it.
The Mystery of Devotion to Trump?
I suspect that some people, especially evangelical Christians, voted for him because of his stances on abortion and gay marriage, and perhaps limiting immigration. I suspect some are afraid of words like “radical left,” socialist” and “Marxist” that have been attached to Biden, which would be laughable if there won’t so many conservative media types using that kind of language. But none of that explains the fervor and anger so many Trump supporters demonstrate. On one level it’s admirable, but on another level, it’s dangerous for our country.
The sad thing is there are very few political leaders in the Republican Party who are willing to take a stand and call a spade a spade. Those that do like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are now being reviled, and for what? Calling a spade a spade, and telling the truth. While I will grant that some may truly believe that Trump is innocent, but not every Congressperson who hid in offices, closets, bathrooms and secret chambers can honestly believe Trump had no role in it.
Where are the Leaders of Conscience?
In 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing discrimination based on race in all aspects of public life. Johnson was from Texas, a lifelong Southerner, who had supported segregation and Jim Crow laws much of his career. Yet he was compelled by the events of the Civil Rights movement to pass that bill. Later that night he confided to his aide Bill Moyers (who later became an award-winning journalist), “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican party for a long time to come,” he said. Johnson didn’t make the popular or politically astute choice, he made what he had come to realize was the just and moral choice. He chose to listen to his conscience, rather than the political pundits.
Sadly, there are few political leaders in the Republican Party willing to follow their consciences as Johnson did in 1964. (By saying that, I am not exempting Democrats who might do the same thing if they were in the same boat). So Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, and Mitt Romney, and a few others stand alone, as millions of people, and the politicians who represent them, remain caught in a web of lies, fear, and delusion for a man who cares only for himself and encouraged his followers to storm the Capitol and attempt to stage a coup.
What is his hold on so many people? I struggle to understand.