Andrew Bjelland: Too many Republican politicians are dancing with the devil

Republican politicians have become hostages to the monster they have created.

(Evan Vucci | AP photo,) In this Jan. 4, 2021, file photo President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally for Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and David Perdue at Dalton Regional Airport in Dalton, Ga. Trump will be making his first post-presidential appearance at a conservative gathering in Florida next weekend. Ian Walters, spokesman for the American Conservative Union, confirmed that Trump will be speaking at the group's annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 28.

Marc Racicot is a conservative who dares publicly assert that character still counts. He was the former Republican governor of Montana (1993-2001) and chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2002 until his 2003 appointment as chairman of President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign.

In a recent Washington Post commentary, Racicot stated “Donald Trump does not possess the essential qualities of character to lead this nation, most especially in a time of crisis.”

He excoriated the former president for calling NATO “a paper tiger;” for his tasteless and delusional comments extolling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as “savvy,” “smart” and “genius;” for his overall mendacity and for “his profound lack of knowledge or intellectual curiosity.” He also targeted Trump’s enablers who still find humor in the former president’s crudity or who continue to compromise their own moral principles to curry favor with Trump and his MAGA-loyalists.

He advised Trump’s enablers and supporters to heed J.M. Smith’s warning: “‘If you dance with the devil, then you haven’t got a clue, for you think you’ll change the devil, but the devil changes you.’”

Far too many Republican politicians are dancing with the devil. For them, the end justifies the means. Their chief end is the acquisition and retention of power. They are far less concerned with governing, with promoting the general welfare, with protecting democratic institutions or with fostering democratic ideals, values and norms. Their primary means to their objective is the retention of the Trump vote.

They fail to recognize the wisdom of John Dewey’s insight: Ends and means are organically connected. In the realm of politics, means shape the very quality of the ends. When emotive manipulation, mendacity and fear are adopted as the means whereby Republican politicians forge party loyalty, they should not be surprised that they in turn will come to fear the ignorant, emotionally charged and violence-prone members of their base. They should recognize that the character of their party will further devolve, and their own political futures will be at risk.

Republican politicians have become fearful hostages of the Frankenstein’s monster they themselves have loosely sutured together and endowed with fearsome power.

Republican elected officials have mounted the far-right tiger — a beast red of maw and claw. Before the advent of Trump, Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, and Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, were viewed as too compromising — as lacking in Tea Party ideological focus and commitment. They were devoured in their next GOP primaries. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, having heard the tiger’s ferocious growl, chose not to seek re-election. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-South Carolina, criticized Trump and the tiger ensured he, too, was primaried out of office.

Utah’s Sen. Mitt Romney voted for Trump’s removal from office and the tiger immediately turned on the RINO and threatened him with censure. At the recent Salt Lake City meeting of the Republican National Committee, the tiger censured Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for their investigation of the January 6 Insurrection and for publicly speaking truths that many others state solely in private.

Republican politicians called the tiger forth, mounted it and dare dismount solely at great peril. The cost of staying mounted, many believe, is giving full head to the tiger’s anti-democratic instincts. The tiger demands regular feeding and accepts only the reddest of meat.

Racicot forcefully reminds us that Trump, like Putin, is narcissistically mired in self-deception and bad-faith. Trump and his loyalists are willing to destroy others and do so without the least sense of shame.

One lesson to be learned from Putin’s present atrocities and threats: It is sheer folly to place a malignant narcissist in command of a nation’s nuclear arsenal and military. Will most Republican voters remain intent on doing so?

Bring back the Commander in Cheat in 2024? Really?

Andrew G. Bjelland

Andrew G. Bjelland, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus, philosophy department, Seattle University. He resides in Salt Lake City.