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July 24, 2024

Chris Honoré: Super Tuesday and cognitive dissonance

Former President Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination this week for this year's presidential election. Democracy Now! photo
March 15, 2024

It’s hard to reconcile Trump’s unsuitability for office with the wave of Republican support that has clinched his presidential nomination

By Chris Honoré

After a string of losses on Super Tuesday, March 5, (with the exception of Vermont), Nikki Haley bowed out of the Republican presidential primary contest in which she challenged Donald Trump for her party’s nomination. Haley’s departure removed from the political stage what many moderate Republicans hoped would offer them a choice other than the MAGA-driven Trump.

Chris Honoré

What Haley’s departure signals is that mainstream Republicans, to include her own state of South Carolina, have unambiguously chosen a criminally indicted candidate as their standard bearer in this year’s presidential election.

How, you might ask, is it possible for millions of Americans to ignore or justify the reality that Trump has already been found liable for sexual assault, and will soon face a Manhattan court trial in which prosecutors will allege that on the eve of the 2016 presidential election he falsified business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star? Is it not immediately obvious that the courtroom prosecutorial narrative will be tabloid salacious and will unfold while Trump campaigns? 

Do Republicans not fully comprehend that this coming election, like no other, will ultimately represent a choice, not one framed by policy or issues, but one that affirms how we wish to be governed? In other words, our democracy is first and foremost on the ballot.

What is therefore profoundly disconcerting about last week’s Super Tuesday primary vote is that millions of Americans cast their ballots for a man who would be a monarch, a self-described authoritarian, a man who, as this is being written, is creating, with countless enablers, the infrastructure to begin, on Day One, the process of overturning our democracy.

Is it not self-evident that his is a desperate, fevered dream, unrestrained by the rule of law, anti-democratic, often voiced from rally podiums and town hall interviews, shared with a chilling, raised fist and swaggering conviction? Why else would he argue so emphatically that going forward as president he must have total immunity? Immunity not just for past bad acts (consider his appeal to the Supreme Court, but for the retribution he has promised, using a transformed Department of Justice as the tip of his spear.

The Republican primary voters have chosen a man (he reached the required delegate count this week) who was a keynote speaker at the recent Conservative Political Action Committee, gathering in Washington, where he delivered a dark, dystopian 90-minute speech to an embracing, cheering audience of supporters. With a can’t-look-away fascination, I watched news clips in disbelief, compounded by a familiar sense of cognitive dissonance, meaning I struggled to make sense of what I was hearing. Who are these people who claim to be patriots? Are we not all watching the same movie?

Trump said the following to the flag-waving CPAC audience: “Our country is being destroyed, the only thing standing between you and its obliteration is me. It’s true. A Biden reelection would lead to a failing nation, crime-ridden streets, and widespread collapse. Gangs will invade the burbs, Hamas will terrorize the streets, and Antifa will rise to take the streets while China dominates America.”

Having referred to himself as a “proud political dissident” (did he not recently compare himself to Alexei Navalny?), he concluded his speech by saying, “Nov. 5 will be our new liberation day. But for the liars and cheaters and fraudsters and censors and imposters, who have commandeered our government, it will be judgment day.”

And not to overlook the introductory, unabashed comments that preceded Trump’s riff, delivered by far-right activist Jack Posobiec. Looking out at the receptive audience, he said, with a smiling certainty, “Welcome to the end of democracy. We are here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on Jan. 6, but we will endeavor to get rid of it and replace it with this, right here,” and gestured to the ribald crowd. Pausing for effect, he said, “All glory to God.” Is the subtext to his words not that of white Christian nationalists? It was reported that there were neo-Nazis in the audience.

And did the Republican primary voters not hear Trump when he warned that migrants were disease-ridden, and gangsters, smugglers and rapists, while attempting to stoke fear while pledging that when elected he will begin sweeping roundups and deportation of undocumented migrant residents (some 11 million). Have his supporters not heard the reports that camps will be built to detain those waiting to be exited back to their countries of origin? Is the subtext of such a policy not that of Hitler’s lethal scapegoating that defined Germany in the late 1930s?

There’s more to tell, but the coming campaign will, hopefully, remind voters of who Donald Trump is.

But one last point: According to a Reuters poll, when Republican voters planning to vote for Trump in the general election are asked, “If Trump is convicted of a crime would that change their vote?” Fifty-five percent responded that it would.

While acknowledging that a jury vote of guilty would be a legal confirmation of what has been alleged, the question that comes to mind is this: After four chaotic years in the White house, his term ending with the Jan. 6 insurrection, followed by his attempt to overturn the 2020 election, do Republicans need a jury to say what they already know about this man who poses an existential threat to our democracy? I would argue that as a nation we have had ample opportunity to review his resume.

Email Ashland resident Chris Honoré at honore307@gmail.com.

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