Republicans Embrace The “Cult” Of Trump
Fiercely and undeniably, the Republican Party this week confirmed its rebranding as the party of Trump.
Buoyed by a late Tuesday presidential tweet, voters in South Carolina cast out Rep. Mark Sanford, a firmly conservative member of Congress who had survived earlier scandal, in favor of a state legislator who had condemned Sanford for publicly criticizing the president. In Virginia, Republicans nominated for senator a Trump-like candidate with a history of embracing, as the president has, Confederate symbols and white nationalists.
The week was marked by continued deference to Trump on the part of congressional leaders who have swallowed the president’s upending of long-standing party views on several major issues. Legislative efforts by some in the party to wrest trade authority back from Trump and rewrite the nation’s immigration laws in ways he has opposed both fell in defeat.
Meanwhile, many in the party who in the past have opposed talks with North Korea’s leader this week praised Trump for his summit with Kim Jong Un.
As a result, the Republican Party appears united now not by fealty to ideas or policies but to a man, one who defied the odds to win the presidency and who has magnetically drawn the party’s power bases to himself.
“It’s becoming a cultish thing, isn’t it?” Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee told reporters Wednesday morning. “It’s not a good place for any party to end up with a cultlike situation as it relates to a president that happens to be of — purportedly — of the same party.”
The president has expanded his power throughout the Republican political firmament in an unexpectedly broad way, given his narrow 2016 victory after a campaign filled with internal party drama.
His social media habits have commanded the airwaves and obliterated any efforts by Republicans or Democrats alike to change the subject.
His hotel, down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, has become the requisite gathering place for Republican groups, political donors and foreign visitors, a visual and, for the president, financially rewarding symbol of demonstrated loyalty.
Driving it all has been the sentiment of Republican voters, who have swiftly adopted the president’s issue positions and looked the other way at a progression of missteps and conflicts that would have doomed prior presidents.
Despite misgivings about Trump’s behavior, Republican voters have rewarded him with support unmatched by a Republican president since George W. Bush’s tenure in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And they have rained down punishment on those who disagree with Trump.