Conservative Washington Post journalist Max Boot has made no secret of the fact that he considers Donald Trump’s presidency to be one of the worst things that has happened to the Republican Party in recent years. The 49-year-old Boot’s disdain for President Trump is so vehement that he left the GOP after decades as a member. But many others on the right, unlike Boot, have been rallying to Trump’s defense—and Boot explains the psychology behind loyalty to Trump in his most recent Washington Post column.
Reflecting on Attorney General William Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1—when he evasively responded to questions from U.S. senators about his response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report for the Russia investigation—Boot cites Sen. Lindsay Graham as an example of a veteran Republican who went from being Trump critic to Trump sycophant. Graham, Boot observes, went out of his way to “spout pro-Trump conspiracy theories from his perch as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and berate FBI agents for expressing opposition to Trump in 2016 —while conveniently forgetting that he himself called Trump a ‘kook,’ a ‘bigot,’ ‘crazy’ and ‘unfit for office.’”
Boot quickly adds, however, that Graham is hardly alone is praising a president he once attacked. “A similar metamorphosis has occurred not only among other conservative politicians, but also, conservative commentators,” Boot explains. “National Review, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro, RedState founder Erick Erickson, New Criterion Editor Roger Kimball and too many others to cite have all gone from opposing to supporting Trump.”
Quoting a May 1 New York Times op-ed by former FBI Director James Comey, Boot asserts that Trumpism has a way of separating principled conservatives from unprincipled conservatives—and he cites former Defense Secretary James Mattis as one of the principled ones who wasn’t afraid to stand up to Trump. Conservatives who have character, Boot writes, have been able to resist Trumpism, while Graham and others lacking character fear that resisting Trumpism would be a bad career move.
“The fear of economic extinction is a powerful inducement to see Trump in the best possible light, to focus on things you like—tax cuts, judges, Israel—while ignoring or excusing things that are hard to defend, like blatant xenophobia, attacks on the media as the ‘enemy of the people,’ demands to lock up the opposition, declarations of ‘love’ for Kim Jong Un, etc…. Eventually, you end up excusing the most blatant assault on the rule of law since Watergate and saying that Trump is the best president ever.”
Boot ends his column by quoting Comey again and stressing that after a conservative has succumbed to Trump’s influence, “you are lost. He has eaten your soul.”