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Trump’s RNC purge: His obsession with “loyalty” is as dumb as it is evil

Trump’s RNC purge: His obsession with “loyalty” is as dumb as it is evil
Trump’s RNC purge: His obsession with “loyalty” is as dumb as it is evil

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Donald Trump’s infatuation with Adolf Hitler is both well documented and profoundly disturbing. What’s often overlooked is how painfully stupid it is. The latest round of stories about this phenomenon underlines why: Trump doesn’t seem to understand that Nazi Germany lost World War II. John Kelly, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, told CNN in a recent interview that Trump praised Hitler for doing “good things,” including that the Nazi dictator had “rebuilt the economy” and also the demonstrably false claim that German generals were “loyal” to Hitler. 

Kelly pushed back against Trump on the latter point, pointing out that German officers had conspired to assassinate Hitler on several occasions. Kelly also noted that Trump had apparently “missed the Holocaust,” adding that it was “pretty hard to understand how he missed the 400,000 American GIs that were killed in the European theater.” Hitler’s leadership wasn’t exactly a win for Germans who supported him either. Far from “rebuilding” the nation, Hitler left Germany in literal ruins with several of its cities reduced to rubble. Millions of German soldiers died in six years of devastating warfare, along with many civilians. Hitler ended by killing himself in an underground bunker rather than risking capture by the Soviets, a fact Trump also overlooks in mythologizing the man who started the deadliest war in history. 

Trump’s rejection of history isn’t just about his apparent innate faith that fascism is more efficient. It’s also a manifestation of his limitless narcissism and his obsessive belief that he is owed unquestioning loyalty from the people around him, although he’d happily throw every single one of them under the bus for a nickel. He publicly indulged this fantasy late last week, when hosting Viktor Orbán at Mar-a-Lago. Amid his slobbering praise of the Hungarian prime minister, Trump said, “He’s a non-controversial figure because he says this is the way it’s going to be, and that’s the end of it. Right? He’s the boss.”


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In reality, Orbán, like most authoritarian leaders, encounters plenty of resistance and is now disliked by most Hungarians. Holding power has required acting like an occupying force in his own country, gutting Hungary’s legal system and dismantling its democracy. Being a dictator is an exhausting endeavor, highly conducive to paranoia and alienation, since you can never be sure whether your underlings’ professed loyalty is real or an act.

Trump may believe that always watching your back and lashing out at anyone who questions you is “strength,” but it’s really a sign of a weak and pathetic leader. That’s evident in this week’s startling purge at the Republican National Committee. As Politico reports, “more than 60 RNC staffers who work across the political, communications and data departments will be let go.” This comes is after Trump already pushed out the RNC leadership, replacing them with perceived loyalists, including Lara Trump, his own daughter-in-law. 

Trump’s preference for sycophants means that he shuts himself off from actual feedback and sensible advice. After the E. Jean Carroll verdicts, his desire for ego-fluffing over legal competence is getting expensive.

Mind you, the former leadership of the RNC was already a bunch of Trump bootlickers. Former chair Ronna McDaniel literally dropped “Romney” from her surname to appease Trump, who views her uncle, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, as a mortal enemy. Lara Trump’s public statements, along with complaints from other Republican sources, suggest that the main source of this intra-GOP conflict is money. Trump’s escalating legal costs are straining his campaign coffers. McDaniel had suggested that she’d rather use RNC funds in the normal fashion, to support Republican candidates, than to pay Trump’s lawyers. She learned her lesson the hard way: Never get between Donald Trump and someone else’s money. 

There’s good news here for those who want to defeat Trump: His preference for sycophants means that he shuts himself off from actual feedback and sensible advice. That’s evident when you look at his legal team, which is built around his hunger for flattery, instead of competent lawyering that might help him in court. During his first civil trial for the sexual assault and defamation of E. Jean Carroll, Trump reluctantly took his lawyer’s advice to stay away from the courthouse. In the second trial, he dumped that lawyer and went with Alina Habba, who barely even tries to win cases in court and endlessly indulges her client’s desire to throw tantrums and preen for the cameras. Yes, he lost both cases in the face of overwhelming evidence. But the first trial resulted in a $5 million judgment, while the second will cost him more than $83 million. Trump’s desire for ego-fluffing over legal competence is proving expensive. 

Trump surrounds himself with losers like Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis and the clown car full of pillow pitchmen and conspiracy-mongers who tried to manage his coup attempt. These are people who have been shut out of power through their own failures, and try to glom onto it by becoming Trump’s lackeys. That’s one reason Trump was furious with his own vice president, Mike Pence, after the latter refused to play along with his scheme to steal the election. Pence was pretty much a failed small-state politician when Trump picked him as a running mate, a sufficiently incompetent governor that even blood-red Indiana was ready to bounce him from office. No doubt Trump thought Pence “owed” him a bit of treason and sedition.

On the most recent episode of his Daily Blast podcast, host Greg Sargent made an interesting observation about how misleading it is for reporters to quote anonymous Trump campaign officials who claim that they’re pushing Trump to “pivot” to less fascist rhetoric. These articles convey the false impression that maybe a second Trump term wouldn’t be so bad, since he’s surrounded by reasonable people who will somehow restrain him. But they don’t, and they won’t. On the contrary, his speeches are getting nastier by the day as he threatens to deport millions of people and send his opponents to prison. There’s no actual reason to believe that his staff is voicing any such “concerns” to Trump himself, rather than just whining to reporters. They know full well that their boss has a fragile ego. They’re probably too worried about being fired to ever say anything to him that isn’t sniveling agreement with every word. 

Trump’s tendency to value toadyism over competence may be a blessing in some regards. It’s a big reason his coup failed, and it consistently undermines his legal strategy. Gutting the RNC staff is likely to damage the GOP’s electoral chances this fall. But none of this is a reason to be complacent. Sadly, there are talented people working for Trump — not out of personal loyalty, since many of them hold him in contempt, but because they believe in the fascist cause. That’s what we see with the folks behind the Project 2025 initiative or the recently exposed Society for American Civic Renewal. These are educated, professional operatives, working on Trump’s behalf but at a modest distance, which gives them the freedom to help his cause without being hindered by his obnoxious personal behavior. 

Trump’s narcissism has always been his Achilles heel. He prefers the illusion of power offered by genuflecting yes-men over the hard work involved in gaining real power and exercising it. That creates real opportunities for Joe Biden’s campaign and other Trump foes to undermine the would-be despot’s comeback by rattling his ego and sowing division amid his ranks. A thin skin and an unwillingness to take advice from others, after all, are common traits of “strongman” leaders that show how weak they really are. 

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