There was an immediate result of the summit last Monday in Finland: both sides of the aisle, for once, agreed that President Trump’s choice to side with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin was contrary to the interests of the United States of America.
The administration spent the rest of the week shuffling the Three-card Monte, hoping to trick the public into accepting the original statement.
But that was always going to be the result. It was the result the last time they met and on every other occasion that Mister Trump has spoken of the illegal Russian Federation’s interference in America’s elections.
The same week, we learned of the arrest and indictment of Mariia Butina, a Russian Federation national that is charged with using the National Rifle Association as a vehicle to illegally peddle Russian Federation interests and influence.
It was the perfect choice, a perfect vehicle. Take something that conservatives love (guns), add some fur trimmings and some random Cyrillic letters, and Vlad’s your uncle. Suddenly Republicans want to stand in line for bread. It also delineates the NRA as a particular vulnerability for the Republicans. There does not seem to be anything comparable for the Democrats.
But the main question of the day is whether the summit could have gone otherwise. Or could the NRA have decided not to accept infiltration. The question is whether the conservative movement cares so much about victory that they no longer care about anything (including victory).
Earlier examples of this phenomena include McConnell’s refusal to entertain the Garland nomination, the Republican refusal to work with Democrats in creating the Affordable Care Act, and the complete lack of congressional action by Republicans on cyber defenses following the 2016 attacks.
The modern Republican Party does not care about winning. They care about believing they won. The difference is real, and is another brick in the wall of rejecting reality. There are historical records of cult behaviors, and the bulk of Republican voters seem to suffer from the disease of cultism. The politicians, apparently and behind closed doors, acknowledge reality. But they feel powerless over their cultified constituents.
The only real answer to a cult is let the shock of reality wash over the members that don’t drink enough of the Flavor Aid, don’t catch a ride on Hale-Bopp, who are willing to feel the truth of the Great Disappointment. Many who will vote in November hope to deliver a cold splash of water to the cultists. But we must remain aware that we could as easily become enamored with a siren’s song of perpetual correctness and righteous delusions of infallibility. Cultism happened to strike these voters for reasons that psychologists will hopefully tease out before it happens again, but it will strike others from time to time.