Leader Principle

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I mentioned this yesterday on the Chris Hayes show. We can see how President Trump has united the GOP behind his openly and aggressively racist attacks on four freshman congresswomen of color. Yesterday all but four Republican members of the House voted against a formal criticism of the President’s attacks. Two of those are retiring. So they barely even count. What jumps out to me though is this. I suspect if any Republican member of Congress said exactly the same things he or she wouldn’t have survived the controversy. At a minimum they would have been roundly denounced and forced to apologize.

We’ve been chronicling Rep. Steve King’s racist jabs for years. But I can’t think of any one thing King has said or tweeted that is worse than what the President tweeted and has continued tweeting. Yet the GOP conference essentially deplatformed King within the House. After he wouldn’t resign they stripped him of his committee assignments and now treat him as persona non grata. My point here isn’t to praise the GOP’s policing of their own members’ outrageous or racist statements. It was year’s late in coming. But, again, what the President said was by most standards considerably worse.

If some garden variety GOP senator had gone off on this rant I doubt he’d have survived it. So what we’re seeing here is not only the white nationalist grievance politics that Trump has made explicit and open and really at the core on present-day GOP politics. Just as much and perhaps more this episode is an example of the ‘leader principle’ at the heart of the Trump GOP. If Trump says it, the GOP will fall in line behind him, either with cowed silence or explicit assent, usually trending from the former to the latter. That applies to really anything Trump says. No matter what.

What we’re seeing here is more the authoritarianism of Trumpism than the racism, though of course it’s both. Like all personality cult political movements, party or movement ideology is defined by what the leader is saying on that given day. Think about Trump/GOP policy today on North Korea and how mind-bogglingly different that is from anything any Republican has said over decades or what Trump himself was saying until he decided to switch. The limits of the acceptable or standards of behavior are defined simply by what the leader does. Period.

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