Wednesday, June 29, 2022


For the 6,987th time since 2015* (*a rough estimate), we've reached the moment when Donald Trump is really in trouble now, certain to be brought to justice/abandoned by his followers/both.

I don't know about justice -- the conventional wisdom about Cassidy Hutchinson's congressional testimony yesterday is that it laid out a nearly ideal road map for criminal charges against Trump, though I'll believe that when I see it. But abandonment? Bret Stephens thinks it might happen now, if only gradually:
Maybe this is where the cult of Trump will begin to crack.

Margaret Singer, a clinical psychologist who studied cults, noted that among the ways cults succeeded was by creating “a closed system of logic” and belief.

... But after Tuesday, the threat of a legal indictment has become very real. The president may indeed be liable for seditious conspiracy....

To Trump’s supporters, his name was all but synonymous with their sense of America. They saw in him a proudly raised middle finger to progressives who found more to fault than praise with the country. Now it doesn’t entirely compute.

I doubt there will be any sort of moment when the Sean Hannitys and Laura Ingrahams of the world will tell the faithful: We were wrong; we made an idol of the wrong man. But there may be a quiet drifting away. In a moment like this, that might be just enough.
But Trump is still "a proudly raised middle finger" to his base. Trumpism isn't a cult as much as it is a fandom, with Trump as the central figure in a pop-culture franchise. And one thing Hutchinson said yesterday unfortunately fits quite well into the mythology of this franchise:
An angry Donald Trump tried to grab the steering wheel of the Secret Service limousine when the then-president was told he would not be joining supporters moving on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a former aide testified on Tuesday....

"I'm the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now," Hutchinson quoted Trump as saying to Secret Service agents.

When he got into the limo ... he was told they would not be going to the Capitol.

A Secret Service agent had to physically restrain Trump who, sitting in the back seat, used his free hand to lunge toward the neck of Secret Service agent Robert Engel, Hutchinson testified.
Trump and his followers are angrily insisting that this is a lie. But they're also enjoying this supposed lie quite a bit. They're making it into memes that star Trump as a manly action hero:

Did I say "manly"?

They know he's really an obese septuagenarian. They have to know that, right? But in video games, comics, and CGI movies -- the dominant art forms of our era -- metamorphoses like this are routine. So why shouldn't they believe at least within the confines of this cinematic universe?

But why Trump? I haven't seen memes of other right-wing heroes -- Ron DeSantis or Tucker Carlson -- with bulging biceps and pecs.

Maybe it's his self-presentation: the billionaire boss in a banker suit, the looming figure everyone calls "Mr. Trump." Maybe it's that plus the fact that -- let's face it -- he still lives rent-free in most liberals' heads. They see him as powerful. And Cassidy Hutchinson inadvertently played right into that. Her words might eventually send him to prison, but in the meantime she provided a canonical moment for the franchise.

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