In the light of this year’s CPAC, I’m reminded of a post from 2020: The Republican Fundamentalist Cult.
I had written this during Trump’s first impeachment trial, and I predicted that the Republican party would justify his misbehavior, even against clear evidence. I was right. I wish I had been wrong.
The current Republican party is a political fundamentalist cult, and Trump is its god. His defenders are not trying to make a cogent argument for his innocence. That’s not their job. Rather, they are apologists. Their function is to recite the apologetic narratives that the true believers within the party are expected to recite, to themselves and to each other and to the world, in order to justify Trump’s malfeasance.
They are not addressing the reasoned voter or the impartial juror, any more than a religious apologist is addressing the rational skeptic. They aren’t expressing a reasonable defense any more than William Lane Craig is expressing a reasonable faith. That’s not their job. Rather, they are speaking to the true believer, to the party loyalist. Their job is to recite the marching orders for the loyal Republican. Their message is: This is the rationalization that you will use to defend the party position.
And as it is for a religious fundamentalist, anyone who fails to toe the party line is going to be branded a heretic (or a traitor) and excommunicated. There is no room for honest disagreement over dogma within a fundamentalist religion. God is good. God is all-knowing and all-powerful. We worship God, always and only, and we never shine the spotlight of truth upon his misdeeds or seriously question the lies our religion tells us. Because God is always right.
And to the current Republican party, so is Trump.
It has only gotten worse. Since then, there have been many other episodes and scandals too painful to enumerate. There has been another impeachment and trial, during which Republicans, by and large, engaged in the same sort of apologetic self-justification as they had all along.
The more you do it, the easier it becomes. And the more you buy into the lie, the more you feel you have to self-justify. It’s like a drug. The more you use it, the more elusive the high, and the more of the drug you need just to feel normal.
And that brings us to this past weekend’s CPAC. I didn’t watch it, but if the reporting is to be believed (and I think it can because both conservative and liberal sources are reporting the same thing), it was nothing more than a Republican cult tent revival. They did not talk about policy. Rather, they rehashed old hurts, and they repeated all the same lies and all the same self-justifications.