March 6, 2021

Orlando: The Faustian Bargain

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Well, in all fairness, not all Republicans who attended the Orlando spectacle necessarily intend to vote for Trump should he ever run again. In fact, 45% according to one poll of the attendees said he is not their choice for President in 2024. But the majority of Orlando C-PAC attendees were those in the thrall of the former President—those who fancy themselves conservative Republicans. Now that’s a larceny of language if ever there was one, but that’s for another essay.

The Faustian Bargain:

Simply stated, the reader will recall it was Dr. Faust’s bargain with Mephistopheles, a bargain with the dark side, or to be less dramatic—saying whatever must be said, and doing whatever must be done, to stay in Donald Trump’s good graces.

It is hard to know precisely what motivates someone in public office to embrace a leader who demonstrates chronic contempt for the truth, who recklessly inflames a mob before not-so-subtly sending it on its way to attempt to violently overthrow an American presidential election, who tolerates no criticism, and who embraces, it seems, anyone who fawns over him. Goodbye Mitt Romney, Liz Cheney and Colin Powell, welcome Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Margorie Taylor Greene.

What motivates people to follow such a leader? Do none of this coterie of pseudo-conservatives understand the long-term damage that will inure to their party for such perceived short-term gain? Actually, I suspect they do understand. Like Upton Sinclair, the prolific Pulitzer Prize-winning author and one-time candidate for Governor of California wrote over 80 years ago, “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his income depends on his not understanding it.

Yes, I think it’s really that simple. They understand, but they have so much riding on his good graces, they’ll pretend the last election was stolen from him, because that pretense is the price one has to pay to stay in his good graces.

Let one of them, any one of them, suggest the former President lost the 2020 election fair and square, and he or she will be banished from MAGA world, and consigned to the nether reaches of Republican irrelevancy.

Never mind that just this week FBI Director Christopher Wray said his agents couldn’t find evidence of significant fraud, and certainly none that would have affected the outcome of the election. Never mind that his former Attorney General William Barr came to the same conclusion. Never mind that 60 judges, even the Supreme Court, including his own appointees, wouldn’t dignify his absurd deceit. Never mind that the entire massive fraud exists only in the former President’s head. They came to Orlando to praise him, because unbridled praise is what he demands of them. That’s the price to gain his support and to avoid his rancor.  

And so, the Republican attendees in Orlando, like the Whigs of another era in search of irrelevancy paid homage to their leader, to their party’s standard-bearer. Rallies such as the spectacle in Orlando are not new to history. We’ve seen them before. They never portend good things, those outrageous speeches, and the rapturous responses. Most people look at archival newsreels of those rallies of yesteryear with mouths agape in sad wonderment that history could have taken such a turn. And that’s how people, years from now, will view footage of the Orlando spectacle, and those Trumpian rallies that preceded it.

The theme of the Orlando conference was “America Uncanceled.” How quaint…how witless. What they in Orlando were, in fact, trying so hard to cancel is the reality of January 6th. That the man they came to praise, the man they rhapsodized with, “We  love Trump, We love Trump,” watched, with delight, the bloody spectacle that took place on January 6th, ignored for nearly two hours pleas from his own party leaders to call it off, and then finally, when it was clear the insurrectionists had failed, bid them farewell with, “you’re very special” and “we love you.”

What the Orlando conference really tried so hard to cancel was any memory of, and any responsibility for, the insurrection their leader encouraged, and the wounds and the deaths that resulted from one of the most irresponsible acts in the history of the American presidency. That awful day will be what history will most remember of the Trump Presidency.

The Orlando conference is but a footnote to history and a tiny, flaccid, but, nonetheless, telling footnote at that. But the man they celebrated in Orlando will loom large for years to come. He will continue to insist in the years ahead, just as he insisted in the months and years leading up to the 2016 and then the 2020 election and the insurrection that followed, that only a steal, a grand hoax, could cost him an election.

He brags that never before in history had any candidate for President ever garnered so large a vote as he did in the 2020 election; blind and deaf to the fact that never before in history had any candidate for President been rejected by so large a vote as he was in that very same election.

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16 responses to “Orlando: The Faustian Bargain”

  1. Perry says:

    As a supporter of President Trump I viewed the speech Trump
    gave and was appalled at it’s content. I wanted and expected
    a true vision of the future condemnation of political extremism
    on the left but what I got was the rehash of 2020 election .

    My focus will be on electing someone in the mode of Gov. Ron
    DeSantis of Florida who led his state keeping schools open,children doing athletics ,businesses open and all the while cutting the State’s budget,,.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,That’s an administration one can be proud of.

    Conversely I have been acutely aware of the first 50 days of
    Biden administration and I am MORE appalled at the lack of
    solid accomplishments. No Ambassadorial appointments nor
    many department heads of agencies vital to running an efficient, accountable organization.

    In viewing the obviously weak Biden in his few appearances and when he does appear I also am worried for true leadership
    and direction of the country.

    Keep up the fine column and love the comments even the one’s
    opposite to my point of view…………..That’s the America I love.

  2. Joanne says:

    Perry! You have expressed my thoughts perfectly! Ditto

  3. Susan Duman says:

    You have circled the wagon, as they would say. I feel like you’ve tried to give the Republicans around him lots of time to come to their senses.
    You were very patient.
    Please try to address a new Republican Party. It is badly needed.

  4. Robert borns says:

    Perhaps the best composed and written essay yet. But frankly it’s display of composition excellence is a diversion of the coverage that should be given to disaster that president Biden is causing to America. The foreign policy humilliation with Iran with us begging for the renewal of the pact and Iran spitting in our face saying no unless we give in first. The southern border disaster. That is probably stupidity almost unprecedented in American history. The appointments to various positions of violent haters of Israel. The passing of a bill to alleviate virus suffering that has only minority of the money doing that. The apparent coverup of Biden’s inability to function as a president with the example of his staff turning off his mike when he asked for questions and his wife speaking for him when he started losing it. And on and on. Will this be repeat of the Woodrow Wilson era when it was hidden from the public that he couldn’t function as president. This past election got rid of someone who fell off the rails and brought in a gang of people who make trumps gang look like geniuses. And fauchi-he is a joke. He says what he thinks his president wants. Don’t wear a mask wear a mask. Love China hate China love China. I like John’s Hopkins medicine. They tell it like it is. Bob borns

  5. Judy Allen says:

    Bob Borns, I agree and fear for our future when Kamala will be our President. Great, she’s a woman, etc. However, she has no experience at all for the job and too pretentious to ever acknowledge it and surround herself with good people. And, good ole Joe will never get it….. Yes, I am more concerned for jour Country and our grandchildren than ever…….

    PS Term limitations

  6. Stuart Goldfine says:

    The first 40 days of the Biden administration shows why the Republicans can win in 2 and 4 years. So far,Biden has destroyed jobs, made no new jobs, has had no press conferences, and has not spoken to Americans. Next we shall see the Cuomo clowns do an interview with Biden with their “softball” questions. Joe is just a puppet now and is wrong on Iran, Climate Control( I would believe it if Russia, China, India, and Brazil were equal participants in the regulations, and the Border Wall.

    • Reply to Stuart Goldfine: Mr. Goldfine, like some other commenters to this week’s column, has chosen to express his unfavorable opinion of President Biden, rather than the subject of the essay, which focused on the Orlando C-PAC meeting. Given that his comment suggests that no improvement in employment has occurred during the Biden presidency we offer the following. “The Labor Department reported Friday that nonfarm payrolls jumped by 379,000 for the month (of February) and the unemployment rate fell to 6.2%. That compared with expectations of 210,000 new jobs and the unemployment rate holding steady from the 6.3% rate in January. Mr. Goldstein is, of course, entitled to express his opinions, whether or not they comport with the facts.

  7. sheila says:

    Perry, and Bob Borns: before you go off on Biden – let me remind you of where we started in January: –please remember that Biden has repeatedly stated that his first priority as President would be to get Covid under control – that he would be unable to resuscitate this country while the disease was still rampant. He has spent the first months of his administration coordinating the infrastructure to get everyone in our country vaccinated. Before he took office, it was impossible to get a vaccine unless you were a first-line worker or lived in a nursing home. 500,000 Americans had died from Covid by January of this year. 500,000! That’s than the number of Americans that died in combat in WWII. Multiple hundreds of thousands (that number is no doubt grossly understated) were left homeless with their savings drained and unable to pay their rent or mortgage. Do you have any idea how terrifying and demoralizing it is to find yourself homeless or unable to care for yourself or your family? This entire tragedy falls directly in Trump’s lap. If DeSantis continues to ignore Covid safety measures, you will see death rates ramp up again in Florida as well.

    Biden has been President only 6- ½ weeks, and we are now in a position to vaccinate everyone in the country by May. This is no small accomplishment in a country of roughly 330 million people.

    Moreover, the $1.9 trillion bill that just passed will provide relief to desperate Americans who have lost everything in the pandemic, who are unemployed, have lost businesses, are now uninsured, and it will help children get safely back into schools, to name just a few items.

    Re: Climate Change and Iran: Biden has rejoined the Paris agreement and hopefully we will be on track to modify the carbon output of our country and to develop a greener economy. This is huge! We may disagree on iran — in my opinion, the JCOPA should never have been overturned — leaving that agreement damaged our reputation with both Iran and our allies – who now question whether we can ever honor an agreement. Iran did not violate the JCPOA –multiple agencies that haven’t been sullied by Trump’s extortionist demands have so testified.

    Robert Borns — I remind you of the many video clips of Trump slurring his words and forgetting mid-sentence what he was saying. Why didn’t that horrify you at that time?

    Finally, Biden has overturned some of Trump’s most cruel and inhumane Executive Orders which desecrated our values related to immigration and family, collective bargaining, the regulation of toxins in our air and water, respect for public lands and much more.

    This isn’t to say that Biden is perfect. I agreed with Hal that Biden should have embraced the “Moderate 10” on Covid relief – that he did not, was a strategic error. But that misstep notwithstanding, If all this is a lack of accomplishment – just let it continue!

    For the last four years our country has been reeling from the systematic rape of our democracy, our ethics/values, our resources, our health, our wealth, our way of life, by the most corrupt President in our US history. We are now in desperate need of healing. And while we still have a long way to go, as Hal has described so well in his essay today – Biden has started the ball rolling, and at less than 2 months in –despite redoubled pushback from intransigent Trump party Republicans, he has given us hope for the future – that there can be a future. Even when I don’t agree with him, I trust him and that he has only the interests of our country at the forefront of his interactions with Congress, in his selection of executives for our critical agencies, with foreign leaders. Biden is sane, he has heart, he has strength of character, he is forward looking. Long life and safety to him and his family on this difficult journey.

  8. Janice Marcus says:

    Trump is probably the best president of my lifetime, with Kennedy close behind.
    He secured our borders. Lowest unemployment For women, Blacks,And Hispanics in history. He moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and much much more.
    If you think Biden is such a wonderful guy, look at his sons laptop. There you will find pornography of the lowest form. And also the deals he made in Russia,China, and Ukraine to enrich the Biden Family. Very strong evidence that Biden our president was also enriched.
    Bidens advantage is that he has the media on his side, all of which have economic ties to China.
    Trump almost magically got a vaccine in nine months. And you expected it to be all around the country in like a month Biden isn’t doing anything special trust me.Trump would’ve had this vaccine distributed in a timely fashion.

  9. BLB says:

    Another essay on Trump…. can’t we leave him behind?He’s gone!! But if he were to read the blogs posted , he would love that he’s taking up so much space, be it negative or positive.
    Obviously your readers are interested in our Current Events, rather than another Trump bashing! We should be focusing on our new administration, bless his heart he needs help and suggestions!!
    There’s so much more to discuss than Trump….
    No State of the Union address, Cuomo, border protection, voting bills in Congress…Just to start the list.
    I echo the positives about Trump and the negatives about Biden. I’m very scared for our country based on the Biden agenda so far. It’s frightening!!
    P. S. Biden wouldn’t have a vaccine distribution problem now if Trump the businessman had not moved private enterprise along quickly to get us a product. Trump does deserve credit for that!!

  10. Robert borns says:

    Since this is comment 2 from me today Sheila and you are still covered with joe idol dust let me comment briefly-trump did warp speed including paying ahead of product and cut red tape. The product started being delivered just a short time before his term ended. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor which started our war 2. Roosevelt was president so all the death and wounded were under his watch. So under your logic the horror of war 2 was Roosevelt’s fault. We were attacked in a pandemic war so you blame trump. Your comments are all using similar logic. I read Hal’s essay again and though I disagree with things he writes I must say he is a rather brilliant writer. Better than most of The NY Times so called writers. Bob borns

  11. Evc says:

    Hurray for people like BLB, Janice Marcus and Stuart Goldfine. We need more like them to speak up. They see what is happening to our country. It won’t be good for the poor and the middle classes. Wake up America, our freedoms are disappearing. And that means the end of our democracy. Can you not see what this administration is doing.

  12. sheila says:

    Robert Borns, Far from idolizing Joe Biden, I am simply grateful that we no longer have a President who operates like a Mafia Boss, who is so pathologically narcissistic and tangled in conspiracy mentality with autocratic delusions, that it is impossible for him to view the Presidency as anything but a tool for his own self-interest and enrichment – that he would actually allow Putin to hack every U.S. national security and homeland security computer system without saying a word — that he would allow Putin to place bounties on the heads of American soldiers –that he would summarily fire US attorneys who are investigating his business practices, that he would actually separate children and babies from their families at the border, that he would extort a state AG in order to “find votes”, that he would actually incite a violent white supremacist/neo Nazi mob to storm the Capitol with the intent of overturning a Presidential election and kill anyone in their path along the way – including Capitol police, Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pense. I will never forget the horrifying image of the gallows and noose constructed outside the Capital intended for Mike Pense. In our country! If given another term, Trump would have destroyed every democratic institution we hold dear.

    Janice — I cannot fathom why you believe this cruel, selfish and pathologically deluded man is the greatest President of your lifetime. I love you as family, but we will never come to a meeting place on this point.

    As to Trump’s response to the virus: his disdain for science was evident from 2018 when he dismantled the White House Pandemic Response team. Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas has conveniently created a timeline for Trump’s response to the coronavirus in our country. Very early on – in January, he knew of its virulence – in early February, 2020 he admitted to Bob Woodward that the virus was more deadly than the flu, was transmitted through air, yet he continued to deny to the public, insisting that everything was under control.

    https://doggett.house.gov/media-center/blog-posts/timeline-trump-s-coronavirus-responses

    https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/10/trump-coronavirus-bob-woodward-412222

    I won’t belabor the statistics, but suffice it to say that Trump was far more concerned about the stock market and his re-election than about American lives. He lied consistently to the public, he encouraged his followers to gather in large crowds and made them feel that wearing a mask was weakness — this, after he almost died from the virus –he refused to manufacture the PPEs needed by health care workers and others to protect themselves, he convinced his cult followers that through magical thinking the virus would just go away. Tragically, he muzzled the scientists so the public would not know the full truth – and pushed insane conspiracy theories about hydroxychloroquine and bleach therapy. It looks from the outside that creating maximum chaos was his only goal.

    So. yes, Bob Borns, this pandemic falls directly into Trump’s lap. How many hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved if he had acted sanely in January or February to protect our country? If he believed in science over conspiracy theories?

    While he FINALLY did push big pharma to develop vaccines, he delayed for crucial months in order to protect his image –and even then it was a rush job – not the way science is done– there are still no longitudinal studies that show the long term effects of this vaccine — whether it will cause cancer in some individuals or other diseases.

  13. Chris Haedt says:

    Hal, another great essay, although I did not view it for those reasons stated above. The Republicans WILL have a different candidate in 2024. A shout out to ALL who are asking that we stop speaking and thinking about Trump and move on to the collision course that is going on in the White House,…, with Biden , the puppet, speaking from a script when he is told, and not aloud to hold a press conference. Kamala is anxiously waiting to step in his place. As I have said many times, I FEAR for our country, my children and grandchildren.

  14. Michael Gong says:

    The Orlando love-in reminded me of the film “Triumph of the Will.”. Chilling.

  15. sheila says:

    Robert Borns, Far from idolizing Joe Biden, I am simply grateful that we no longer have a President who operates like a Mafia Boss, beholden only to Putin, who is so pathologically narcissistic and tangled in conspiracy mentality with autocratic delusions, that it is impossible for him to view the Presidency as anything but a tool for his own self-interest and enrichment. I will never forget the horrifying image of the gallows and noose constructed outside the Capital intended for Mike Pense when he incited a violent white supremacist/neo Nazi mob to storm the Capitol with the intent of overturning a Presidential election, and kill anyone in their path along the way. As we know, this is only one of many egregious/criminal acts undertaken by Trump. If given another term, he would have destroyed every democratic institution we hold dear.

    As to Trump’s response to the virus: his disdain for science was evident from 2018 when he dismantled the White House Pandemic Response team. Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas has conveniently created a timeline for Trump’s response to the coronavirus in our country. (You can google his website) Very early on – in January, Trump knew of the virulence – in early February, 2020 he admitted to Bob Woodward in his taped interview that the virus was more deadly than the flu, was transmitted through air, yet he continued to deny to the public, insisting that everything was under control. See Politico article dated 9/10/20: What Did Trump Know and When Did He Know it. Inside His February 7 Admission.

    I won’t belabor the statistics, but suffice it to say that Trump was far more concerned about the stock market and his re-election than about American lives. He lied consistently to the public, he encouraged his followers to gather in large crowds and made them feel that wearing a mask was weakness — he refused to manufacture the PPEs needed by health care workers and others to protect themselves, he convinced his cult followers that through magical thinking the virus would just go away. Tragically, he muzzled the scientists so the public would not know the full truth – and pushed insane conspiracy theories about hydroxychloroquine and bleach therapy. It looks from the outside that his only goal was to create maximum chaos.

    While he FINALLY did push big pharma to develop vaccines, he delayed for crucial months in order to protect his image –and even then it was a rush job – not the way science is done– there are still no longitudinal studies that show the long term effects of this vaccine — whether it will cause cancer in some individuals or other diseases.

    So. yes, Bob Borns, this pandemic falls directly into Trump’s lap. How many hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved if he had acted as a real President in January 2020 to begin preparations to protect our country? How many millions could have been saved from infection and potential for spreading this disease if he had only encouraged social distancing and mask wearing. This is all on Trump.

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