Trump’s defenders have adopted a doctrine of infallibility | News, Sports, Jobs – Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Posted: October 9, 2019 at 9:44 am


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Theres a reason people think President Trump has a cult of personality, but it may not be the reason you think.

Yes, there are those who think Trump was delivered to us by God and that his decisions and actions are imbued with divine providence and authority. But that sort of stuff is taking the word cult too literally. It harkens back to pre-Enlightenment notions like the divine right of kings, the Roman imperial cults or the Chinese mandate of heaven which were mainstream, not cultish, beliefs anyway.

As with so many words and ideas, cult of personality in the modern sense probably begins with Karl Marx, who used personality cult in a letter to a friend in 1877. Nikita Khrushchev cited that passage (and several later ones by Marx) in his famous 1956 secret speech, formally titled On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences. That address began the de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union and the de-escalation of Stalins terror.

Before I go on, let me state unequivocally that Trump isnt Stalin. Hes not even close.

Khrushchevs speech was monumentally important for numerous reasons, but Im going to focus on the part thats relevant to my point. In Marxist lingo, cult of personality is synonymous with cult of the individual indeed, Khrushchev used the phrases interchangeably in his speech. Both terms refer to the idea that a single person can be greater than the party, or wiser than the ideology the party stands for. Think: I alone can fix it. Such a mindset is a threat to the power of the party and the legitimacy of its doctrines.

Stalin didnt care. He encouraged, often through murder and terror, the idea that his judgment trumped any other authority or doctrine. He was infallible.

And it worked. During Khrushchevs speech, delivered to the cream of the Communist Party leadership, some members of the audience grew physically ill and had to leave the room it was that alien to their ears to hear Stalin criticized. Theres still a cult of Stalin in Russian. One might even say that Vladimir Putin is its high priest.

Of course, having dictatorial control over a country and possessing the will to murder and terrorize tens of millions makes it easier to cultivate a cult of personality.

None of that has much relevance to American politics today. But theres a simpler reason for a cult of personality: Its the only sustainable line of defense. Stalin violated party ideology all the time. He contradicted his past positions cavalierly, adopting and discarding ideas on a whim. He would even change his views to test his loyalists. Today, insist that chocolate ice cream is the best flavor and get everyone to agree with you. That way, if anyone disagrees tomorrow when you say its vanilla, youll know who the potential traitors in your midst are.

This is where Trumps cult of personality comes in. For several years theres been a kind of competition on the right to come up with a coherent intellectual or ideological framework to support Trumps presidency. Every single one that comes out of the clouds of theory to get close to the reality on the ground has crashed. Hes a nationalist who puts America first but says well await Saudi Arabias say-so on a military strike against Iran. He says he wants free trade but also thinks tariffs are good.

Just this past week, the same people who insisted that Trump would never collude with a foreign nation for his political interest are now defending collusion with foreign nation for his political interest. The people who turn crimson with rage when you point out Trumps decades of corrupt business practices now insist his only interest in the Bidens is his concern about corruption. They say its outrageous that Bidens son sat on the board of a Ukrainian company when Biden was vice president, but they also say its fine to have a daughter and son-in-law duo running vast swaths of foreign and domestic policy while also making a fortune from their business interests around the world. Enemies are sinful or decadent when they lie or cheat on their wives, but who are you to judge Comrade Trump?

Theres no halfway defensible ideological, intellectual or moral standard that Trump doesnt violate, often routinely. A cult of personality that replies Trumps right or his enemies are worse before the question is even asked is the only place to hide.

A doctrine of infallibility is the only defense of this deeply fallible man.

Jonah Goldberg is a Creators Syndicate columnist.

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Trump's defenders have adopted a doctrine of infallibility | News, Sports, Jobs - Williamsport Sun-Gazette

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October 9th, 2019 at 9:44 am

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