The logic of why Republican leaders abandoned their principles in support of an immoral and dangerous president.

This post analyzes the logic of the recent article in Atlantic, by Anne Applebaum, History Will Judge the Complicit Why have Republican leaders abandoned their principles in support of an immoral and dangerous president?

The main purpose of this article is to analyze why people accept and conform to an ideology and set of values that are in direct conflict with their own ideology and set of values.

The key question the author is addressing is, why have Republican leaders abandoned their principles in support of an immoral and dangerous president?

The most important kinds of information in this article are: conformity is a very normal human desire, everyone feels the urge to conform, and conforming can solve numerous personal and professional life problems, A collaborator is someone who conformed to betray one’s nation, ideology, morality, and values.

There are two types of collaborators, “voluntary” and “involuntary.” Involuntary collaborators, over time, slowly begin to recognize they have no choice but to collaborate. Intuitively, we think that loyalty to a particular place implies loyalty to a set of values. Involuntary collaborators rationalize that collaboration is required to preserve an ideology and set of values. Intellectuals accept and acknowledge the pleasure of conformity.

Involuntary collaborators eventually become eager to be active collaborators. After certain behaviors become “normal,” we stop seeing them as wrong. When all of your friends, teachers, and employers are firmly behind the system, how do you find the courage to oppose it? We see ourselves as moral and honest and resist change of that self-image.  To be part of a mass movement removes alienation, we want to feel close to our single community.

Voluntary collaborators are further divided into two categories. The first collaborate in the name of “national interest,” to preserve an economy, or culture. The second are active ideological collaborators. Many ideological collaborators are the rich, landowners, politicians, and top military and business leaders. Voluntary collaborators improve their political and personal futures. Once the intellectual has accepted that there is no other way, they acknowledge the pleasure of conformity.

Both Graham and Romney were devoted to America’s democratic traditions, honesty, accountability, and transparency in public life—all of which Trump hated. Yet, Lindsey Graham, an involuntary collaborator, became an eager active collaborator, by willingly betraying ideas and ideals that he had once stood for. Mitt Romney refused to conform.

Graham, born and raised in a small town in South Carolina, was devoted to the military, “The Air Force has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” he said in 2015. “It gave me a purpose bigger than myself. It put me in the company of patriots.” Yet, Graham golfed with Trump, made excuses for him on television, supported the president as he slowly destroyed the American alliances—with Europeans, with the Kurds—that Graham had defended all his life.

Romney acquired companies, restructured them, then sold them, and became very rich. Yet, Romney was the only Republican senator to vote to impeach the president. “Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office,” he said, is “perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.” Romney would not conform to betray his nation, ideology, morality, and values.

The main inferences (and conclusions) in this article are:

  • Trump First, not America First. The true nature of the ideology that Trump brought to Washington was not “America First,” but rather “Trump First.”
  • The built-in vision of the American patriot and loyal party member, was cognitive distortion that blinded many Republicans of trump’s incredibly different value system.
  • Like the boiling frog, with each violation of America’s Constitution Americans absorbed, rationalized, and accepted what we once knew better to accept.
  • “Dissidences.” People can suddenly change their minds because of spontaneous intellectual revelations .
  • “Upbringing”. For some people, the struggle not to collaborate is easier through their upbringing in families that had respect for the Constitution, faith in the rule of law, believe in the importance of “no agenda” public service, and who have values and role models from outside the world of the Trump.
  • If Trump wins a second term Americans may well accept even worse. Unless they decide not to.

The key concept(s) to Republican conforming and collaborating we need to understand in this article are:

  • We can use this moment to achieve great things…Trump was destroying America’s reputation ….but Mark was so important to the cause of the Uighurs that people like him could, in good conscience, keep working for the administration.
  • We can protect the country from the president.… the argument used by “Anonymous,” the author of an unsigned New York Times op-ed published in September 2018….Anonymous did not quit, protest, make noise, or campaign against the president and his party.
  • I, personally, will benefit. Many people in and around the Trump administration are seeking personal benefits….. As an ideology, “Trump First” suits these people, because it gives them license to put themselves first
  • I must remain close to power.…the intoxicating experience of power, and the belief that proximity to a powerful person bestows higher status….prisposoblenets—that means “a person skilled in the act of compromise and adaptation, who intuitively understands what is expected of him and adjusts his beliefs and conduct accordingly.”
  • LOL nothing matters.….Cynicism, nihilism, relativism, amorality, irony, sarcasm, boredom, amusement—these are all reasons to collaborate, and always have been……If the president doesn’t respect the Constitution, then why should I? If the president can cheat in elections, then why can’t I? If the president can sleep with porn stars, then why shouldn’t I?
  • My side might be flawed, but the political opposition is much worse.….the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore.” The existential nature of the threat from “the left”…. The nation is dead or dying—so anything you can do to restore it is justified.
  • I am afraid to speak out. …Fear, of course, is the most important reason any inhabitant of an authoritarian or totalitarian society does not protest or resign, even when the leader commits crimes, violates his official ideology, or forces people to do things that they know to be wrong..
  • Republican leaders don’t seem to know that similar waves of fear have helped transform other democracies into dictatorships.….They are scared, and yet they don’t seem to know that this fear has precedents, or that it could have consequences….They did not use the opportunity to rid the country of a president whose operative value system—built around corruption, nascent authoritarianism, self-regard, and his family’s business interests—runs counter to everything that most of them claim to believe in.

By these concepts the author means: There is a gap between propaganda and reality. The price of collaboration in America is already extraordinarily high. ….And yet, the movement down the slippery slope continues, just as it did in so many occupied countries in the past. Each violation of our Constitution and our civic peace gets absorbed, rationalized, and accepted by people who once upon a time knew better.

The main assumption(s) underlying the author’s thinking is(are):

  • Republicans did not use the impeachment opportunity to rid the country of a president whose operative value system—built around corruption, nascent authoritarianism, self-regard, and his family’s business interests—runs counter to everything that most of them claim to believe in.
  • Trump was stating, as clearly as he possibly could, that a new set of values was now replacing the old,…It takes time to persuade people to abandon their existing value systems. The process usually begins slowly, with small changes.
  • The point was to demonstrate trumps power to proclaim and promulgate a falsehood. Sometimes the point isn’t to make people believe a lie—it’s to make people fear the liar.
  • After the U.S. and the world were plunged into crisis by a coronavirus that had no cure, the damage done by the president’s self-focused, self-dealing narcissism—his one true “ideology”—was finally visible.
  • The personal, the political, the intellectual, and the historical combine differently within every human brain, and the outcomes can be unpredictable. 
  • This utter Trump disaster was avoidable.
  • One step at a time. The choice to become a dissident can easily be the result of “a number of small decisions that you take”— Often, this process involves role models. You see people whom you admire, and you want to be like them.

 

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