Opinion: GOP devolving into a cult of personality

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(AP)

As part of their year-end review, the good folks at the Pew Research Center compiled a list of its 16 most striking poll findings in 2016. One of those top 16 is reprinted below in chart form:

 

7_4

As the chart illustrates, Republican and Democratic voters have historically been roughly equal in their support of free-trade agreements, and while that support has fluctuated, it has done so within a rather narrow range. In a Pew poll taken as recently as May of 2015, for example, 51 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters said free trade was a good thing for America; just 39 percent said it was a bad thing.

But in three successive Pew polls taken in 2016, as Donald Trump moved closer to winning the GOP nomination and then the presidency, support for free trade among Republicans collapsed. By October, 68 percent felt that free trade was bad for the country; a mere 24 percent still supported it.  (In the wake of Trump’s November victory, I suspect that the next Pew poll will find that downward trend has accelerated.)

As Pew notes, that’s a pretty stunning shift in opinion over a very short period of time, and it has all kinds of implications. For example, it suggests that Chamber of Commerce types and top Republicans in Washington who still believe that they can fend off Trump’s demands for high tariffs against imports may be in a much weaker position with the GOP base than they realize should the president-elect press the case.

I’m also struck by the parallel between changing Republican attitudes toward trade and changing attitudes toward Vladimir Putin and Russia over the same time period. I’ve run this chart before, but will do so again for those who missed it:

yougov-1

In July of 2014 — the findings in blue in the chart above — just 9 percent of GOP voters reported a favorable view of Putin; 51 percent reported a very unfavorable view. By December of 2016 — the numbers in orange — a remarkable transformation had taken place. Suddenly 37 percent had a favorable view of the Russian dictator, a four-fold improvement. A mere 14 percent still viewed him very unfavorably.

That represents a startling repudiation of a century of Republican animosity and suspicion of Russia, dating back at least to the communist revolution of 1917., and it occurred within a span of just 16 months.  As with the poll numbers on free trade, there is only one plausible explanation for that change, and its name is Donald Trump.

Clearly, the Republican electorate is proving far more malleable than I for one thought possible. When challenged to choose between loyalty to longtime party positions and loyalty to Trump, an awful lot of Republican voters are abandoning previous positions to align themselves with Trump. Their loyalty is now to the man, rather than to the party or ideology.

That doesn’t bode well for longtime movement conservatives and party traditionalists, who still hold out hope that their Grand Old Party can retain its identity and resist becoming the Party of Trump. It also suggests that party leaders such as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have much less ability to rein in Trump’s potential excesses and oversteps, particularly now that Fox News and the rest of the conservative media-entertainment complex have also enlisted in Trump’s cult of personality. It’s just hard to see how an effective “principled opposition” to Trump could be generated from within the party.

In fact, the GOP appears to be turning into a case study of what German theorist Max Weber called “charismatic authority.” Writing a century ago, Weber observed that people who become disenchanted with traditional or constitutional forms of authority will often turn to a charismatic authority instead, someone “considered extraordinary and treated as endowed with superhuman, supernatural or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.”

” … it is the duty of those subject to charismatic authority to recognize its genuineness and act accordingly,” Weber wrote. “Psychologically, this recognition is a matter of complete personal devotion to the possessor of the quality, arising out of enthusiasm, or out of despair or hope.”

Under charismatic authority, rules and tradition don’t apply. In fact, the breaking of rules and tradition is kind of the whole point. Instead of consistency or ideology, “Formally concrete judgments are created from case to case, and are originally regarded as divine judgments or revelations,” Weber writes. He didn’t envision such revelations being communicated by Twitter, but other than that he pretty much nails it.

But as Weber also notes, charismatic authority is inherently unstable. It relies on the charismatic leader producing miracles, and in Trump’s case, his unlikely winning of the GOP nomination and the presidency probably meet that qualification. However …

“If proof and success elude the leader, if he appears deserted by his god or magical or heroic powers, above all, if his leadership fails to benefit his followers, it is likely that his charismatic authority will disappear.”

 

 

Reader Comments 0

1109 comments
Jackson
Jackson

A great article how jumping to conclusions can be dangerous!

REUTERS:

This is a prospect that has long worried Richard Clarke, the former White House cyber czar under President George W. Bush. “It’s highly likely that any war that began as a cyberwar,” Clarke told me last year, “would ultimately end up being a conventional war, where the United States was engaged with bombers and missiles.”


The problem with attempting to draw a straight line from the Kremlin to the Clinton campaign is the number of variables that get in the way. For one, there is little doubt about Russian cyber fingerprints in various U.S. campaign activities. Moscow, like Washington, has long spied on such matters. The United States, for example, inserted malware in the recent Mexican election campaign. The question isn’t whether Russia spied on the U.S. presidential election, it’s whether it released the election emails.

Then there’s the role of Guccifer 2.0, the person or persons supplying WikiLeaks and other organizations with many of the pilfered emails. Is this a Russian agent? A free agent? A cybercriminal? A combination, or some other entity? No one knows.


There is also the problem of groupthink that led to the war in Iraq. For example, just as the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the rest of the intelligence establishment are convinced Putin is behind the attacks, they also believed it was a slam-dunk that Saddam Hussein had a trove of weapons of mass destruction.    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-cyberwar-commentary-idUSKBN12X075


Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

Jay Bookman  -  "Clearly, the Republican electorate is proving far more malleable than I for one thought possible."

-

Yeah. Exactly what I've been thinking about the Democratic Party/liberal electorate, which has gone from being more or less neutral towards Vladimir Putin and Russia to shaking their fists at his image and baying for blood - and all in a quite short time. 


Citizen-of-the-World
Citizen-of-the-World

@Donnie_Pinko Why should I remain neutral toward Putin after he has interfered in our election in a deliberate attempt to sway voters against Clinton and toward Trump? That makes no sense. 

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@Donnie_Pinko I don't feel it's even the majority of the electorate.  It's probably some.  Most of the Democratic/liberal electorate wants an investigation.

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

@Citizen-of-the-World @Donnie_Pinko 

Because 1) we don't know whether he actually did (all we have are allegations and circumstantial evidence), and 2) because even if he did, it amounts to basically a drop in the bucket compared to Washington's decades of interventions in and attempts to meddle with and otherwise subvert elections and democracy in other countries (Iran, Guatemala, Venezuela, Haiti), a listing of which would fill a nice-sized volume. So there's sort of this hypocrisy thing going on, you know?

LordHelpUs
LordHelpUs

The "party of life" is BS

The "party of fiscal responsibility" is BS

The GOP is nothing more than "the party of BS"

RexHavoc
RexHavoc

The post election democrats have clearly displayed their hatred of everything NOT THEM.  All you have to do is read any political thread on NPR's FB page.  They are scary in their xenophobia, and desire for this County to be destroyed just to prove their point.  This is not a Republican cult of personality as much as it is a Democrat cult of hate.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@RexHavoc Just look at the comments on FoxNews and you will xenophobia and more...

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

The same could be said about Obama in 2008. 

The only difference?

Obama had finesse. Trump showed up raw and untamed.

When Trump showed up talking about trade and immigration, I knew folks would be listening around their kitchen tables.

It was about jobs and the economy. Obama treated both as an afterthought.

When he started talking about non-interventionism, I knew he had the war-weary isolationists.

I'll allow Trump the same grace period I allowed Obama.

I'm not expecting miracles. 

Kamchak
Kamchak

@FIGMO2 

The same could be said about Obama in 2008. 

It could?

Good thing I never voted for him otherwise I might feel embarrassed.

Schnirt-a-doodle-dooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Juuuuuuuuuussssssssssssssssst schnirtin'.

Kamchak
Kamchak

Rare early morning SHEETZ!

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

Good morning!  What's Trump telling our conservative friends to believe today?

KUTGF
KUTGF

What are we going to do?  Build the Wall
Who is going to pay for it?  The taxpayers but at some unspecified time in the future by some unspecified method that Mexico has not agreed to, they will cut us a check to reimburse us.

Menace
Menace

@KUTGF  Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@KUTGF 

This just in!

Unnamed GOP sources are saying the check will be delivered by North Pole based package delivery service, S. Claus Enterprises LLC. Company founder, S. Claus said that his chimney based delivery system is perfect for the job.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange threw a spanner into the investigation, saying earlier this week that Russia wasn’t the source of Democratic Party emails that his secret-spilling group published—a claim then amplified in a tweet from president-elect Donald Trump. But America’s top spies have made clear that no statement from Assange, even one backed by the next president, will sway their finding that the Kremlin is behind those political attacks...Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who has called for a severe retaliation against Russia in response to those attacks, took the opportunity in a hearing Thursday to ask American intelligence officials to rebutt Assange’s claim. “Do you think there’s any credibility we should attach this individual given his record?” McCain asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

“Not in my view,” Clapper answered.

“I would second those comments,” added NSA director Michael Rogers.

RexHavoc
RexHavoc

@BuckeyeGa He actually said they weren't HIS source.  They are obviously THE source.

skruorangeclown
skruorangeclown

Excellent Post Jay. Trump is not head of GOP Conservatives but rather head of  the Fascist/Anarchist wing of the GOP.Pence keeps trying to appease the conservatives but he is going to have sh-t on his face pretty soon.


"""""""""In an interview with PBS NewsHour that aired Thursday, Biden was asked about President-elect Donald Trump's tweets, specifically one where he called Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer "the head clown" and another in which he wrote, "Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going to be a smooth transition - NOT!"

Biden responded it was time for Trump to "be an adult."

From CNN Today
Best VP ever.




Menace
Menace

@lvg  Saw this interview - Joe Biden is truly one of the good guys.  He would have cleaned Trumps clock.

Kamchak
Kamchak

Donald J. Trump ‏@realDonaldTrump

"The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!"

Mexico to Trump: The check's in the mail.

ROFLMAO!

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@Kamchak First it was we won't pay one dime for the wall now it's "Mexico will repay later" ...and some cons lap it up. fiscal conservatives have evaporated I guess olol

Kamchak
Kamchak

@BuckeyeGa 

Odd that they can always find the resources for investigating the Clintons....

Menace
Menace

@BuckeyeGa @Kamchak  Same meme as Cheney's "The Iragui's will greet us as liberators".  You can fool some of the people all of the time.

mick2k
mick2k

Follow follow the stock portfolio of Tom Price, answers why the re-importation of drugs  from outside the country at far cheaper prices will continue to be prohibited in his healthcare plan or will Medicare be allowed to negotiate the price of its' drugs


Price is soaked to the bone and dripping swamp water.

carterjoseph1950
carterjoseph1950

What amazes me is that anyone could fall for his 'all-sizzle-no-steak ' act to begin with. Since he appeared on the scene decades ago, this man has always struck me as a huckster. Not to mention that I find him physically repugnant, with a voice to match. He needs new words, and new gestures. Time to face the music, Trump and Trump lovers. He will bankrupt you all, then blame you for it.  

mick2k
mick2k

Tom Price tainted, Dems smell blood, dump Price #damage_control

omark
omark

As a beer drinking, long time football fan, I’ve noticed successful teams tend to acquire the personalities of their coaches. Reporters, interviewing Alabama players, are amazed by how much they sound like Little Saban’s.  They also mirror his intensity, and tireless work ethic.

With that in mind, it’s hardly surprising that the Republican Party should mirror the personality of their fearless leader. When it comes to political courage, taking a strong position, and fiercely defending it over an extended period, you’re talking about Bernie Sanders. Certainly not Donald. Over the years Donald’s positions have been as timeless as sand castles on the beach. He has the amazing ability to contradict himself. Sometimes in a single sentence. If Donald changes his mind faster than a sociopath empties his assault rifle, his followers have to adapt his moral flexibility. Love of Donald remains the only constant.

Though Donald changes his core values as often as he exchanges his wives, dupes his investors, or changes his underwear, I have found one area where he has remained steadfast. Donald fell head over heels for Vladimir Putin, the first time he ever laid eyes on him. Who says true love doesn’t exist?

JKToole
JKToole

@omark  One of the biggest causes of the rancor in our political today systems today is the belief that we are all engaged in some kind of sporting event; as evidenced with the constant barrage of sports metaphors, everywhere. In a game, there is but one winner and one loser. Life, society and especially politics viewed through such a narrow lens is asinine.

Politics and sports " ain’t the same f****n’ ballpark. It ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same f****n’ sport."

TomGaff
TomGaff

FINAL thought of the night. Build that wall and place Hillary on the other side. If she wants to return, have her e-mail us! Could not resist!

YouLibs
YouLibs

Awareness itself is all that inherently exists, everything else is imputed by mind.


_GodlessHeathen_
_GodlessHeathen_

Well I have to go and pack for the assault.  I am confident that we will do better than the Wehrmacht did in the '40s.  They didn't have Gore-Tex and Columbia Fleece.

And I have an app on my phone to locate Starbucks on the eastern front.

TomGaff
TomGaff

Good night all. GOTNOLIFE get some rest tonite, brother you need it. Hope it does not snow on your double-wide? 

mick2k
mick2k

The man proved the Old Party had it wrong. The party is now being led by a conservative populist agenda as Trump called it, a movement. Strange Bernie was so much the same on message, though all so totally different on method. Trump the capitalist Sanders the socialist.


The saga continues between capitalism and socialism, so long as the charismatic concern never forgets those old White "corn-pone rusty" farmers' and blue collar factory workers the populous will remain so incline to follow the one who remembered them, Jay.  

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

@mick2k 

The saga continues between capitalism and socialism

-

Which one deserves to win? 

mick2k
mick2k

@Donnie_Pinko @mick2k

Yet to be decided. The American people are a fickle bunch.

Watch the "rug" and "keep one eye on the swamp water"


Republicans have set themselves up, if they don't get health care right, I can see a President Bernie Sanders in our future.

That knife happy witch-doctor Price is a noose around the GOP neck, as though he does not know we have had three "high risk pools" in existence for years: one called Medicare, another called Medicaid, and the other called SCHIPs'. Thank GOD whatever Price tries to do it will have to go through Ryan and Trump before it will ever make it into law. The Democrats would be well advised to cooperate in the replacement process this time; add the re-importation of prescription drugs to the replacement Law: That alone will cut medical treatments in half make the Jack Kemp establishment GOP NEO CONS drop those FREE TRADE  barrier!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  instead of paying $264 dollars for an inhaler Americans will be able to pay around $24. Add real transparency to doctor and hospital cost to force real competition in the marketplace and prohibit "Balanced Billing"  one of Price's beloved practices and fund the needed supplements into each individuals  HSA to assist paying for the healthcare insurance of their choice they can buy across all state line, even outside the country. Keep the necessary mandates  like pre-existing ,no drop for any reason other than failure to pay premiums on the insurance companies and I'd say you got a fairly good replacement for the ACA.

For the Dems, scraping the ACA or parts of it will not affect Medicare Medicaid or SCHIPS here without ACA/Obamacare.