Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
The Congressional show-trial disguised as a House committee investigation of the January 6 “insurrection” serves several partisan purposes. Most obviously, it attempts to distract the voters from Joe Biden’s and the Dem’s dismal record of failure both at home and abroad. But it’s also useful for NeverTrump Republicans who may find it difficult to attack President Trump given how starkly Biden’s failures contrast with the policy successes of their bête orange.
The hearings, then, provide Republican NeverTrumpers an opportunity to rehash some of their typical hyperbolic smears from the last six years, as well as potentially ending Trump’s political career. But in the end, all they will achieve is to remind us why ordinary voters distrust the Republican establishment and its fifth-columnist pundits like Bret Stephens.
A New York Times house-conservative and terminal NeverTrumper, Stephens recently posed the question whether the January 6 House investigation “can begin to steer some of the Trump faithful toward the kind of cult deprogramming they so desperately need.” Stephens here is reprising a favorite NeverTrump cliché that the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump in 2016, and the 74 million in 2020, are members of a “cult of personality,” as NeverTrumper Jonah Goldberg put it. Indeed, Stephens speculates that “Americans may someday come to understand Donald Trump as the most successful cult leader of our times.”
The first problem with Stephens’ question is its obvious approval of a House committee that is a transparent exercise in partisan propaganda rather than a good-faith effort to establish facts. We knew this was the case when Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of Republican Minority House leader Kevin McCarthy’s recommendations for the Republican members of the committee. Instead Pelosi picked arch-RINOs Liz Chaney and Adam Kinzinger.
This move insured that there would be no one to challenge the statements of witnesses, or otherwise publicly hold the Dems accountable for their blatant rigging of the process. As a result, the Committee has publicized specious, unchallenged testimony based on second- and third-hand gossip. For example, ex-Trump administration staffer Cassidy Hutchinson claimed last week that on January 6 Trump tried to take control of his limo and choke a Secret Service agent––charges that were immediately debunked by agents.
Add the mass arrests of participants in the January 6 riot, the vast majority for misdemeanors; the lengthy time they have spent isolated in dismal unsanitary jails; the numbers of Trump’s advisors who have been dragged manacled from their homes by heavily armed FBI agents, and the “show trial” comparison is an apt one.
Indeed, the purpose of the House “investigation” also recalls that of the Soviet terror. In 1918, Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Bolsheviks’ secret police, explained its goal: “We are not waging war against individual persons. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class…. The first questions that you ought to put are: To what class does he belong? What is his origin? What is his education or profession? And it is these questions that ought to determine the fate of the accused.”
Change “bourgeoisie” and “class” to “Trump supporters” and you get the purpose of the House investigation––to liquidate Trump’s political career and “cancel” his supporters. But our media fonts of moral rectitude and upholders of “democratic norms” have fulminated more over Trump’s “mean tweets” than this government violation of half the Bill of Rights.
This very selective outrage, of course––this straining out the Trump gnat while swallowing the Obama, Hillary, and now Biden camels––has been the NeverTrumpers’ modus operandi. What is most remarkable is that they still don’t get that they are insulting millions and millions of Trump supporters. When a “conservative” pundit like Bret Stephens writes of Trump’s “irrepressible bigotry, misogyny, bullying,” as he hyperventilated after the 2016 election, normal people outside the D.C. establishment silo see rank hypocrisy and inveterate class snobbery.
These NeverTrump defenders of “norms,” after all, seldom got so passionate over Barack Obama’s blatant race-baiting and support for racist outfits like Black Lives Matter that incite riots and assassinations of police officers; or Hillary’s felonious influence-peddling, violations of security protocols, and callous lies she told about the cause of the violence in Libya that killed four Americans––while she stood face-to-face with the parents of the dead as they grieved over their children’s coffins.
Or take the “cult of personality” charge Stephens flogs in this column. There has never been a president who while alive came as close to being the object of a personality cult than Barack Obama––especially Donald Trump, whom the establishment media, universities, and popular culture have been viciously attacking for over six years.
Think I’m exaggerating? Peruse this catalogue of cringe-inducing worshipful praise of Obama:
He is a “rock star,” the Democrats’ “Tiger Woods,” a politician “it’s hard to be objective when covering,” who made one reporter’s leg “tingle,” and whose very trouser-crease astonished another; one “so impressive, so charismatic,” “something special,” possessing “chiseled pectorals,” a “keen analytical intelligence,” “prodigious talents,” who promotes an “amazing legislative agenda,” and possesses “huge achievements”; “one of our brightest presidents,” a “huge visionary,” “our national poet,” “the most noble man who has ever lived in the White House”; the “political equivalent of a rainbow,” “a sudden preternatural event inspiring awe and ecstasy,” “something special, a man who makes difficult tasks look easy,” the “visionary leader of a giant movement”; a president “able to game out scenarios before the experts in the room,” “a confident, intelligent, fascinating president riding the surge of his prodigious talents from triumph to triumph,” Hegel’s “world historical soul”; “the perfect father, the perfect husband, the perfect American,” a president “better than the body politic deserved,” and “a great speech writer” whose words comprise “one of the most moving, inspiring valentines to this country that I’ve ever heard.”
Let’s not leave out my personal favorite, from SFGate: “Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment.” But what do you expect when Obama, typical of a cult leader, preposterously claimed in 2008 that his securing the nomination “was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”?
Rhetoric doesn’t get any more cultish than all this embarrassing drivel, all of which was encouraged by a besotted media that carried on a “slobbering love affair,” as Bernie Goldberg put it, with a politician whom the media are supposed to monitor like a “watchdog of the public weal,” as journos like to fancy themselves.
It also puts one in mind of Charles Mackay’s classic Extraordinary Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, where he observes that
[L]ike individuals, [nations] have their whims and their peculiarities, their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.
Cults display this same delusional fixation, along with a fierce intolerance for heretics and critics who must be silenced, slandered, and smeared for their blasphemy. And true believers must be exalted for their doctrinal conformity to the sacred narrative. Here’s Stephens from March of 2018:
Liberals tend to admire NeverTrumpers, because they see them as conservatives with a moral sense and, perhaps, a brain. By contrast, MAGA Republicans — whether of the fully or merely semi-Trumpified varieties — detest NeverTrumpers with an animus they can scarcely extend to liberals or progressives.
Typical are the smug self-congratulation, the implied validation of progressives’ claims that they are “brights” smarter than doltish “MAGA Republicans,” and the unseemly delight in being praised by progressives––all while serving as their “useful idiots,” which is the real reason liberals “admire NeverTrumpers.”
Stephens gives us a classic case of projection. It’s the NeverTrumpers who “detest” Trump supporters with an “animus” they have never extended to Barack Obama, a disaster for the country both at home and abroad; or Hillary Clinton, who committed numerous violations of her oath to uphold the Constitution and the nation’s laws; or Joe Biden, who in just 18 months has in both domestic and foreign policy managed to be the most destructive president ever. Nothing Trump did equals a fraction of the Democrats’ substantive failures of character and governing.
But NeverTrumpers have never been about actual deeds and achievements that are good for the country, but rather class snobbery and disdain for the 63 million Americans who aren’t part of the credentialed cognitive elite, and who offended the self-appointed global village-explainers by ignoring the mandarins and laughing at Trump’s relentless exposure of their hypocrisy and pretensions. Calling fellow citizens members of a “cult” who need “deprogramming” just reminds them why they voted for Trump in the first place.