Tag Archives: cult of personality

One cannot overestimate voters’ gullibility

The proverbial light bulb flashed on in my skull the other evening as I was listening to a young Sirius XM reporter offer her view on how Donald J. Trump got elected president of the United States.

She noted that voters elected an “entertainer,” someone they knew via his reality-TV exposure. He brought that personality with him to the presidential campaign and . . . presto! He won!

Then it occurred to me. Voters are susceptible to this kind of nonsense. Indeed, I witnessed a case of unfold up close in Potter County, Texas, in 2000. That was the year voters in the Texas Panhandle county elected a profoundly unqualified — and as it turned out, profoundly corrupt — individual as their sheriff.

Mike Shumate won that year’s Republican Party primary for sheriff, defeating a man who had served with distinction as the chief deputy under Sheriff Jimmy Don Boydston. Art Tupin, though, did not have Shumate’s cult following developed over the years he ran the Amarillo Police Department’s Crime Stoppers program.

Shumate was a media star in the Texas Panhandle. That stardom translated to votes in that year’s GOP primary. He would sound off on radio stations talking about how APD would arrest criminal suspects, how the courts would convict them and how a fictional prison character named “Bubba” would receive the criminal once he got sentenced.

Man, the guy was a laugh a minute.

Except that he had no business running a sheriff’s department in a county comprising a population of around 125,000 residents. Shumate’s tenure as sheriff didn’t end well. He lost his job after being convicted of embezzling funds and serving time in a Texas Panhandle jail.

The point here is that voters too often become suckers for a personality. They glom onto an individual’s “star status,” ignoring his or her actual qualifications. Donald Trump benefited from the form of “cult of personality” that surrounded him as he campaigned for the presidency; meanwhile, more qualified GOP opponents never got the traction they deserved while this carnival barker kept piling up victories in state after state.

Let us hope voters won’t be fooled in 2020.

Sen. Kyl is his own man, however …

It didn’t take Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey long to fill an important seat in the U.S. Senate.

He picked a one-time former senator, Jon Kyl, to succeed the late, great John McCain in the upper congressional chamber. It’s a solid, mainstream selection, with one conservative Republican succeeding another conservative Republican.

A part of me, though, wishes something different from Sen. Kyl, who rejoins his colleagues.

Sen. McCain, who died on Aug. 25 of brain cancer, was known as a maverick. He was courageous and unafraid to challenge partisan orthodoxy within his own GOP. He incurred the wrath of far-right conservatives who actually, with a straight face, accused McCain of being a RINO, a Republican in Name Only; such a preposterous notion is laughable on its face.

McCain sought a return to “regular order” in the Senate. He despaired of the cult of personality that has taken over many within the Republican Party, which has become the Party of Donald Trump. His clashes with the president — stemming in part from the insults and the disparagement that Donald Trump would hurl at McCain — became legendary.

My hope for Jon Kyl is that he follows his predecessor’s lead. He isn’t known to be as feisty as McCain could be when the occasion presented itself. Then again, he is occupying a seat once held by a man who became legendary in the Senate for the battles he fought with Democrats and Republican.

I realize fully that Sen. Kyl is his own man. He also works for Arizona’s 7 million residents. Perhaps many of them will express their view that Sen. Kyl pick up where Sen. McCain left off.

May the new senator give the president all the hell he deserves.

It’s true: Trump has stolen the GOP

As if we needed any more evidence on top of the mountain of it that has piled up, Donald Trump’s decision to impose steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum has proved what already has been known.

The president has co-opted the principles of the party under which he was elected. He is no more of a “Republican” than, um, I am.

And I am not.

What we have here is a man who has turned the Republican Party into the Trump Party. The right and far-right wing of the GOP stands behind this man — even though this protectionist trade policy flies in the face of traditional Republican principle.

This is a dangerous trend, folks.

I believe we are witnessing — and this is not an original thought; I didn’t think of this — the development of a “cult of personality.” This is the kind of tag one usually associates with dictators and despots.

Kim Jong Un? Pol Pot? Fidel Castro? Hugo Chavez? Francisco Franco? Adolf Hitler? Benito Mussolini? Juan Peron?

Is the president of the United States a despot and dictator in the mold of those men? No. However, I believe it is a legitimate concern that he has perverted the principles of a once-great political party and turned them into a political tactic.

I cannot pre-determine what Donald Trump has in store for the party for as long as he is president. I do believe that we are witnessing an evolution of sorts. The most fervent Republicans in this country should be aghast at the trade war that Trump seems willing to launch. Instead, they are standing by their man.

If that doesn’t define a cult of personality, then I don’t know what does. It’s a very good thing, indeed, to have two other co-equal government branches — Congress and the federal courts — on board to keep the president’s power grab in check.

But still … this is frightening.