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.