An Accurate Description

I have previously cited observations and analyses from David French, a genuine conservative with whom I often agree. (Tomorrow, I will post about a significant disagreement with him, so it isn’t all sweetness and light.) French recently published a very perceptive essay in the New York Times, considering the worst possibilities of a second Trump term in office.

French began by recognizing that a second term wouldn’t be characterized by the internal divisions of the first, which saw an effort by responsible aides and appointees to contain Trump’s worst impulses. He recognized that, in a second term, there would be sufficient numbers of “pure Trump sycophants” to completely staff the White House–and “his MAGA base would replace the Federalist Society as the screener of his judicial appointments.” But he has an even more ominous fear.

I dread the division and conflict of a second Trump term, and I don’t minimize the possibility of Trump doing permanent political damage to the Republic. But the problem I’m most concerned about isn’t the political melee; it’s the ongoing cultural transformation of red America, a transformation that a second Trump term could well render unstoppable.

To put the matter as simply as possible: Eight years of bitter experience have taught us that supporting Trump degrades the character of his core supporters. There are still millions of reluctant Trump voters, people who’ve retained their kindness, integrity and good sense even as they cast a ballot for the past and almost certainly future G.O.P. nominee. I have friends and family members who vote for Trump, and I love them dearly. But the most enduring legacy of a second Trump term could well be the conviction on the part of millions of Americans that Trumpism isn’t just a temporary political expediency, but the model for Republican political success and — still worse — the way that God wants Christian believers to practice politics.

I will inject here my assumption that French’s own (genuine) Christianity is what has allowed him to continue dearly loving those in his family who support Donald Trump. Not being a Christian of any sort–and being blessed with a family utterly devoid of Trumpers–I will admit that I can conceive of no way I could continue to respect a family member who failed to see Donald Trump for the ignorant, self-absorbed and increasingly mentally-ill specimen he is. And in the absence of respect, love comes hard…

As French writes, he has never before seen extremism penetrate a vast American community so deeply, so completely and so comprehensively.

As the Iowa caucuses approached, Trump escalated his language, going so far as to call his political opponents “vermin” and declaring that immigrants entering America illegally are “poisoning the blood of our country.” The statement was so indefensible and repugnant that many expected it to hurt Trump. Yet a Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll found that a 42 percent plurality of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers said the statement would make them more likely to support Trump — a substantially greater percentage than the 28 percent who said it would make them less likely to support him.

French notes with alarm that  numerous “Christian” Republicans believe Donald Trump is God’s chosen man to save America. Trump himself shared a video modeled on Paul Harvey’s famous video “So God Made a Farmer,” that proclaims “God Made Trump.” The result–as French quite accurately notes–is “a religious movement steeped in fanaticism but stripped of virtue.”

Absent public virtue, a republic can fall. And a Trump win in 2024 would absolutely convince countless Americans that virtue is for suckers, and vice is the key to victory. If Trump loses a second time, there is a chance he’ll end up a painful aberration in American politics, a depressing footnote in our national story. But if he wins again, the equation will change and history may record that he was not the culmination of a short-lived reactionary moment, but rather the harbinger of a greater darkness to come.

I’ve quoted liberally from French’s essay, because I think he is absolutely correct–he has identified the (terrifying) stakes of this year’s election, and the consequences of victories for Trump and the MAGA Republicans who idolize and emulate him. (Here in Indiana, that most definitely includes mini-Trumpers Braun and Banks.)

Sociologists, psychologists and political scientists have a variety of theories about why people embrace fascism. We’re still exploring the reasons so many “good Germans” refused to see the writing on those walls.

Whatever the reason, the rest of us absolutely cannot allow America to enter that “greater darkness.” Polls may show a majority of Republicans have lost their way, but a majority of Americans have not. That majority needs to vote.


  1. A second trump term will almost certainly mean the end of our democratic republic and the beginning of something akin to the Third Reich or perhaps Margaret Atwoods “Gilead” from A Hand Maidens Tale.

  2. David French’s quote, “In the absence of respect, loves comes hard.”, jumped off the page. My personal experience is that this is true, and for some, the conclusive point. For me it’s a point that begs further exploration.
    I wouldn’t stop there, but ask what it is, and how David French can say he dearly loves his Trump family and friends?
    Without such an inquiry, I’m left more confused and frustrated than ever. I don’t understand the Maga’s and don’t understand those nonMagas who love the Magas.
    We used talk about friends and family who are Trump supporters, saying, “How can they believe what Trump says, what are they thinking, where did this come from?” For me confrontation was not worth the cost of relationship, so I didn’t talk about Trump, and rather dwelt on common ground.
    Meanwhile, we/I, in opposition to Trump, bore down with questions from the beginning, among ourselves, in letters, publications, the news. We continue to be alarmed and outraged by Trump and his advocates, and because of our questions, many are now more informed of the truth vs fiction of Trump, and some are reformed.
    Without examining David French’s “love,” I’ve failed to balance the equation. I have not taken up a thread that seems to lead Mr. French to a place of balance and ease in difficult public and private relationships without being lost to himself. Thanks for inserting David French into the conversation. I’m Googling him now!

  3. I would also recommend the recent issue of “The Atlantic” that was devoted to predictions from the various staff writers of what will happen if he wins the 2024 general election and reclaims the White House. Chilling to the bone.

  4. I’m hoping that in the coming months the dementia that was on display during a Trump speech where he was disparaging Nancy Pelosi, but kept saying Nikki Haley happens more often.

    I think the supreme court is going to totally flub the questions on the 14th Amendment and all of the criminal cases are going to get delayed until after the election.

    I really am starting to understand how Adolf Hitler came to power. Trump’s Beer Hall Putsch happened on 1/6, and it did nothing but raise his profile with his supporters.

  5. This is becoming a daily “feed the fear” place…not sure it does anyone or our country/world any good. And “just vote Blue whatever you do” doesn’t either. Those frightened here and elsewhere will do that – just like the frightened MAGAs. That is insufficient and a finger in the dike. We must take our fear and turn it into energy for real good, personally, locally, nationally and globally.

    End of late Shabbat, early Sunday sermon…with my dwindling upward pointing hopes.

  6. Using the word trump chose to refer to immigrants I am going to refer to his supporters as maga vermin.

  7. “I have previously cited observations and analyses from David French, a genuine conservative with whom I often agree. (Tomorrow, I will post about a significant disagreement with him, so it isn’t all sweetness and light.)”

    Isn’t this the essence of intellectual living? Exploring all thinking and sorting the wheat from the chaff. That’s how progress evolves. It’s also how life itself grows. Constantly trying new mutations and letting the improvements spread while extinguishing the dysfunction. Culture emulates life.

    Our love of fossil fuels and conservative politics are subject to that same peer review. So was slavery. So was fascism in its previous incarnation in Europe. Things that don’t lead to progress may have their trial, but often, their weaknesses are the source of their failure for humanity.

    Fascism part deaux is on us here and now—simple fact. It is what any one of us assumes will be the near-term future.

    I have faith in democracy. In the freedom of and respect for the individual.

    Of course, nowadays, the stakes are existential. Everything about humanity, including our vaunted ability to capture universal reality for our own application, is constantly on trial by the Universe. We could end this experiment in life on Earth now if we can’t control ourselves.

    I choose to believe that we won’t. That we’ll go on being a force for progress.

  8. Please read Heather Cox Richardson’s latest newsletter for January 27 on Substack.

    She covers the speech by a young Abraham Lincoln at the age of 28, speaking at the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois (“Lyceum Address”).
    Lincoln warned then that the destruction of the United States, if ever, would not come from a foreign power, but could come only from within. The trouble he envisioned came from the rising lawlessness in the country then as citizens ignored the rule of law “and acted on their passions, imposing their will on their neighbors through violence.” Lincoln said that the only way to guard against such destruction was to protect the rule of law on which the country was founded. In his words, “Let reverence for the laws…become the political religion of the nation….”
    What Lincoln so eloquently stated back in 1838 is as relevant today as it was in his time.

  9. On the way here, I just noted a headline stating that Morning Joe has belittled Trump’s attempt, as he called it, to mimic Hitler types. It is not laughable, as Sheila, and French, point out, it is dangerous…because it resonates with way too many people.
    If Trump is not SOUNDLY beaten at the polls the country is in for a massive shift in a seriously awful direction, and Vlad the Putin will just love it!

  10. “And in the absence of respect, love comes hard…”
    I can love my relatives who support tfg, but I don’t have to like them or what they do and think. Most are males and have grown up in a very patriarchal culture, especially in the extended family. They can’t imagine anyone but themselves having a valid opinion on almost any subject. At the bottom, they are fearful of loss of status and power, as it affects them personally. How dare anyone challenge their self-embraced superiority, whether it is based on gender, life experience, race, religion or education! Of course, they conveniently forget that much of that list was not from effort but from privilege.
    I often feel sorry for them more than anything. If they feel the same level of fear and anger that I do at the prospect of another tfg term in office, then their life must be as sad and chaotic as mine appears to be coming.
    It is definitely a no win situation.

  11. Love of personal power rather than collective people is a pox that vaccines offer no relief from. It’s a fact of human life that only democracy so far can manage. Give all the people who are subject to the law the right to an equal say regularly and reliably on who is given power to create, enforce and adjudicate the law. Such a simple solution for such an existential problem.

    “We are met on a great battleground of that war”. Here and now. We can win with votes, no need for guns at least this time.

    Let knowledge prevail over darkness in the human soul.

  12. I think it is important to maintain personal contact with our MAGA neighbors, friends and family if for no other reason than that it makes it much harder for them to see us as vermin or groomers or whatever the slur of the day Trump chooses to throw at us.

    We can choose to ignore their attempts to provoke us and redirect conversation toward safer topics. It is imperative that we not fall into the trap of seeing them as vermin. Dehumanizing each other destroys any possibility for peaceful reconciliation. It is entirely counterproductive to argue with them and try to change their minds.

    I find it is difficult to not be provoked, but when I have taken this path, it has been well worth the effort. They are operating from a place of fear. If I do the same there is no hope of peaceful coexistence.

  13. I’m with you too Sharon. Dissociating from relatives reinforces their feelings of isolation and leaves an unnecessary empty place in your life.

  14. the issue of the takeover by trump blessed mental issues, seems too far out there. but as we all have studied the past, recent past as in less than a century, how Germany and its cronies followed a mental case all the way to its demise. seeing theres no other political/world power to help us if trump is reelected.and if, the planned coup of our goverment happens, we sink with only words and past history collectively seen as smoke from the ruins, to the winds. they,the trumpers may say the ones who gave some,and some gave all, as suckers. all those who died or were injuried protecting our democracy around the world,would have gave all for nothing…I am tied to my oath to protect our (present)consititution,I hope you are too…

  15. We need to shift our focus to the deeper problem: “Hybrid Warfare”

    The USA has a dangerous infection. The virus is particularism. Its toxins are distrust, cynicism, and self-privilege.

    MSM and social media (SM) are focused on the symptoms, the toxins, and the virus itself. That is necessary and good. But it’s fatally insufficient.

    MSM and SM are like bullfight announcers directing everyone’s attention — including the bull’s — to the matador’s outraging cape, flashing sword, and clever sidesteps.

    MSM and SM do FAR too little to direct attention to WHY the bullfight exists and HOW a matador and new bull are always there.

    MSM and MS do FAR too little to direct attention to:
    1. WHY this particularist virus infecting the USA appeared when it did in the virulent and weaponized form it did?
    2. HOW it persists so strongly against our collective disgust with it?
    3. WHY we keep getting reinfected by it?

    We’ve (the USA specifically and the developed West generally) have been in a war with Russia for a decade. And we’ve never realized it. We’re being ruthlessly and relentlessly attacked. And aside from occasional hacking or dark money stories, no connected narrative pulls it together to point out the obvious — we are the target of “Hybrid Warfare”.

    “Hybrid Warfare?”

    Let’s say a fox in a race with a cheetah. The fox knows and accepts it can’t physically outrun the cheetah? How does the fox win the race?

    The fox uses “Hybride Warfare”.
    1. The fox notices the cheetah has 4 legs which need perfect coordination for top speed and agility
    2. The fox notices differences in each leg — front/back; left/right, which each leg itself would notice when pointed out
    3. Before the race, the fox finds subtle ways to point out those differences to each leg AND tells each leg the cheetah won’t win if any of the other 3 legs are ever in front
    4. During the race, the fox amplifies each leg’s self-awareness and it’s sense of race-win betrayal and leg-disparagement whenever any of the other 3 legs is in front
    5. The cheetah begins to stumble and soon can hardly move.
    6. The fox trots by to win the race

    Russia has been at war with the USA for a decade. And it has allies — Iran, North Korea, and (occasionally) China.

    Russia’s undeclared war isn’t a hot, shooting war. We (USA, EU, the Industrial West) would recognize that and push back with an overwhelming response.

    Russia is using “Hybrid Warfare”.

    In a Rand Corporation paper by Christopher S. Chivvis (CT-468) covering expert testimony to the House Armed Services Committee on March 23, 2017, Russia’s “Hybrid Warfare” toolkit includes:
    1. Information Operations
    2. Cyber
    3. Proxies
    4. Economic influence
    5. Clandestine measures
    6. Political influence

    We don’t realize Russia is at war with Russia because its war tactics are intentionally hidden. We think we’re at war with ourselves.

    By not realizing we’re being attacked, we fall victim to Russia’s attacks, we don’t fully block their attacks. And we don’t counterattack or destroy the ultimate sources of the attacks.

    All of this social and MSM focus — Wokeness, “Replacement Theory”, border issues, Christian Nationalism, urban vs rural, MAGAts vs Libtards — need to be seen as what they are: the trust-killing, society-dividing “bullets” of anti-social weapons crafted and financed by determined, media-savvy adversaries to cause a superior, highly functioning adversary to self-hobble.

    Our acute infection won’t weaken and wane until we notice and stop the virus-generator — Russia, et. al. — intentionally and cynically fueling inflammatory, trust-destroying narratives and memes, and weaponizing that chaos with laundered money and Kompromat.

  16. It’s obvious Putin was the source for the eventual denial of Barbie receiving an Oscar.

    It has been said that Rock n Roll music was created by the Soviet Union to corrupt the youth of America.

  17. Kudos to Sharon. I agree – non-Trumpsters are a stabilizer to the Trumpsters who may choose to self isolate from non-Trumpsters and become more susceptible to Trump lies in the process. Non-Trumpsters are not vermin or other assorted characterizations of Trump.

    Most folks want to be thought of as good and thoughtful folks. A good portion of them want to be thought of as God-fearing and God-followers. Trump doesn’t care about being either and shows it repeatedly. Most of his followers know he’s crass, coarse, and uncaring but get some kind of joy seeing him defy conventions. Yet they wouldn’t behave that way themselves. (Yes, there are some bullies who WOULD copy Trump’s language and actions, but they are a minority.)

    Like French, I worry about the debilitating effect Trump is having on our whole society, but he is wearing increasingly thin as court judgements arrive. Maybe, just maybe even Trump supporters – including his evangelical true believers – are learning there is accountability on earth as there is in heaven.

Comments are closed.