Donald Trump’s Enablers Are the True Problem
The media continues to give virtually 24-hour coverage to Donald Trump, with commentators wringing their hands over his latest cruelty or bizarre behavior. But none of that bewailing is likely to change anything. If 12,000 lies and counting have not had any impact on his popular base or Congressional sycophant accomplices, further revelations, even of insanity, are not likely to move the needle either.
Trump is Trump by virtue of his personality — some say pathologies. But his sycophants are supporting him by choice. That’s why the focus should not be on Trump, but on his enablers. If they had been true to their early insights into his dangerous flaws, Trump would have been gone long ago. Sycophants and enablers beware: You will be held responsible.
And Israelis should be cautious about their praise of Donald Trump, even though his popularity in Israel is greater than in the US. It’s understandable that many Jews around the world, and particularly in Israel, welcome his enthusiastic support of Israel and his moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — although not everyone agrees with the wisdom of that move for the peace process.
But for Israel to reward these actions with blanket endorsements of Donald Trump, in much the same way American sycophants have endorsed his behavior, this could backfire. The post mortem on Trump’s administration will surely decry his damage to democracy, international treaties, and a civil world order. And Trump’s demand that American Jews must vote for him or they will be voting against Israel is likely to incite antisemitism. Adding fuel to that fire, Trump embraced the claim of a conservative radio host that Israelis love him because he is the Messiah and “the greatest president of the Jews.”
How to wake up the sycophants?
They must be persuaded to realize that when the Trump regime ends, they will be excoriated forever, especially if Trump brings on a colossal disaster, which is always an imminent possibility. But the fate of the sycophants must be illustrated in specific graphic depictions, not just vague statements such as “history will be harsh on you.” This approach might be effective in giving some a wake-up call that could move the needle.
Donald Trump’s regime may last just four years if he is defeated in 2020. But don’t tell that to his sycophants in Congress and his administration. They too are so intoxicated with the aphrodisiac of power that they are blind to the consequences of their actions, which are likely to haunt them.
The court of worldwide public opinion and its judgments will be brutal when the floodgates open.
We have seen a glimpse of what might happen, with leaks and revelations from those who have been in the administration and from a British ambassador who was appalled at Trump’s incompetence and “uniquely dysfunctional White House.” Most people — especially diplomats and world leaders — who hold back their honest assessments of Trump are restrained by decorum while he remains president.
When Trump’s reign ends, the sycophants will be reviled because it’s no secret that they always knew exactly who Trump is. They painted an accurate picture of him before he became the Republican candidate for president, but did an abrupt about-face when he won the Republican nomination and then the presidency.
Many of the leading Republican politicians denounced Trump and sounded an alarm several years before psychiatrists warned the public about him in a bestselling book.
Senator Ted Cruz: “[Donald Trump] is a pathological liar … he doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. The man is utterly amoral. You know, morality does not exist for him.”
Senator Lindsay Graham: “I think he’s a kook, I think he’s crazy. He would be a terrible commander-in-chief. Donald Trump is not fit to be president.”
Senator Rand Paul: “[Donald Trump] is a delusional narcissist and an orange-faced windbag. A speck of dirt is way more qualified to be president. If the dirt doesn’t go away, it will keep scratching your cornea until, eventually, it blinds you with all its filth.”
With these frightening assessments, how could the Republicans hand Trump access to our nuclear codes? How could these prominent political figures and others endorse Trump and later willingly rubber-stamp his erratic and destructive policies and actions? In fact, that’s precisely what happened. How can we explain this phenomenon?
The sycophants have succumbed to the conviction that Donald Trump is their intravenous life support connection. Attaching themselves to him allows them to remain in the power circle, which fuels their belief that it guarantees their reelection. Today that belief is unshakable. That’s why they will help him conceal and cover up possible criminal acts. We have seen their endorsements or silence every time Trump lowers the bar. That explains why they are unable to envision life after the Trump presidency, and unable to imagine how history will record their actions.
First, they must understand that Trump’s presidency will end after one or two terms — despite Trump’s assertion that he might stay longer in defiance of the 22nd amendment to the United States Constitution. And therefore, the sycophants should be thinking hard about life without Trump life support. That’s why it’s important to confront them and demand their responses to every one of Trump’s reprehensible actions, while reminding them that evasion, refusing to respond, or giving convoluted equivocal answers will be on record as part of their dossiers when the Trump administration’s ugly chapter ends.
They should also be reminded that Donald Trump is likely to be a pariah after leaving office. He and members of his family may well face indictments from federal and state prosecutions, rendering him an outcast. Since he will not have the power to help anyone get elected — and may be a detriment toward that end — the sycophants will find themselves standing stark naked with their hypocrisy fully exposed, facing an outraged public. Some will distance themselves from Trump, trying to maintain the fiction that their support was intended to control him. That strategy is unlikely to work. Their hypocrisy is too well documented. They have been too good at playing sycophants.
And yes, in usual fashion, other Republicans will try to use spin to make Trump’s ugly chapter go away. But the damage that Trump has wrought — undermining the Constitution and our democracy, weakening the separation of powers, perversion of the Attorney General’s office, the alienation of our allies, and, more horrific, the cruel separation of children from their parents, internment of them in cages, denying them medical treatment, and now a ruling that will enable holding these migrant children for five years if not longer — are tragedies not likely to be forgotten with an amnesic return to business as usual.
Scholars and mental health experts will try to understand the psychology of the sycophants. They will surely be the subject of study in textbooks in a variety of fields such as law, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, and economics. They will be a rich source for exposition, expose, and ridicule for novelists, playwrights, filmmakers, and comedians. And they may be shocked to find that, rather than adulation, they will achieve fame by inclusion in the historical gallery of figures such as Caligula, Nero, mad King George, Benedict Arnold — and worse.
Can Democrats and the media awaken the sycophants with warnings about their likely fate? Can they convince these Trump supporters that there is still time to redeem themselves by restoring the priorities of country, democracy, and the Constitution over party and the lust for power? Will the sycophants recognize that the window of opportunity for redemption is rapidly closing?
There may be some defections — and not just from retiring Republicans — and these could encourage more defections. This strategy may be a long shot, but worth a try since it’s probably the only possibility for defeating Trump other than voting him out of office.
On August 6, 1974, two days before President Richard Nixon announced his resignation, Senator Barry Goldwater, the icon of Republican conservatism, raged at a Senate Republican Conference lunch: “There are only so many lies you can take, and now there has been one too many. Nixon should get his ass out of the White House — today!”
Now that’s a real patriot! Any others? Please stand up.
Bernard Starr holds a PhD in psychology from Yeshiva University in NYC. He is currently Professor Emeritus at CUNY, Brooklyn College. Starr is a past president of the Brooklyn Psychological Association and a past president of the Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy. His book Escape Your Own Prison: Why We Need Spirituality and Psychology to be Truly Free is published by Rowman and Littlefield.