“Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.” Anonymous saying
In my previous column (“Living in Trump’s America,” Aug. 26), I wrote about some of President Donald Trump’s authoritarian actions. Now the Republican Party has displayed its underlying authoritarian tendencies in a blatant and unmistakable manner.
Before the 2020 Republican National Convention, Republicans decided not to compose a political platform. Instead, they created a pledge of personal loyalty to Trump. Their political philosophy was boiled down to, “Whatever Trump wants, we’ll do.”
RNC resolution: “RESOLVED, That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda. The 2020 Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention” (Washington Post, Aug. 24, 2020).
Historian Federico Finchelstein described this phenomenon in his book “A Brief History of Fascist Lies” (2020): “Trump replaces the [party] platform because, like Hitler, he is seen as incarnating the program.”
This replacement of principles for a person has transformed the Republican Party from a political party into a cult of personality. Political parties stand for something; they have guiding philosophies with actual policies. Under Trump, the Republican Party has become a party of victimization, of fear, of greed, of intolerance. The only unifying principle is, “Trump is always right.”
In contrast, the Democratic Party put together a detailed platform of principles and plans, starting with a preamble summarizing their beliefs: “Democrats will fight to repair the soul of this nation. To unite and to heal our country. To turn this crisis into a crucible, from which we will forge a stronger, brighter, and more equitable future.
“We must right the wrongs in our democracy, redress the systemic injustices that have long plagued our society, throw open the doors of opportunity for all Americans, and reinvent our institutions at home and our leadership abroad. We do not simply aspire to return our country to where we were four years ago. We know we must be bolder and more ambitious.”
To create this platform, Democratic delegates worked together. They figured out what they wanted for our country and then put it in writing. The Democratic platform can be found online for anyone interested in facts. There are no calls to confiscate guns, no open borders, no defunding of police, no removal of God, none of the things Republicans keep claiming Democrats want to do.
Republicans, in contrast, believe whatever Trump tells them to believe. They follow Trump’s whims, which can change at any moment. This makes it difficult to draft long-range policies, which leads to confusion about what America’s policies are.
Because they have lost their basic principles, Trump followers are prone to believing whatever conspiracy theories are floating around. One of the deadliest is the QAnon conspiracy.
On May 30, 2019, the FBI designated QAnon as a “domestic terrorism threat.” Why? Because QAnon adherents believe, among many other things, that Democrats and others are stealing, torturing and killing babies in order to harvest a chemical from their blood. To protect these non-existent victims, QAnon followers have committed violent acts including murder.
As irrational as QAnon’s beliefs are, Trump welcomes these supporters. When questioned about QAnon’s beliefs, Trump said, “I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate.” That sums up Trump’s philosophy — if you like him, he likes you, no matter how dangerous your worldview (Business Insider, Aug. 29, 2020).
Because the Republican Party has become the party of Trump, abandoning traditional Republican ideals, thousands of Republicans have formed groups working to elect Biden. These include the Lincoln Project, 43 Alumni for Biden, Republican Voters Against Trump, Republicans and Independents for Biden, and Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform (REPAIR). Individuals such as Gen. Colin Powell are also working to elect Biden.
On Nov. 18, 1978, more than 900 people in Jonestown, Guyana, swallowed poison because their leader, Jim Jones, told them to. Those who hesitated were murdered by the truly faithful members. Other suicide cults such as the Branch Davidians and Heaven’s Gate show the power one man can have over a large group of seemingly normal people.
Today, millions of Americans are swallowing the poison being ladled out by Trump. Since they stand for nothing except blind loyalty to Trump, they have fallen for his message of fear and hate. Those who understand facts have to keep spreading the truth. We can’t let Trump’s message of chaos and division win.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.