The Republicans and the golden calf
Sometimes reality is more unbelievable than satire.
I’ve written many times that if it sounds too stupid to be true, it probably is. However, I’ve also written a somewhat contradictory corollary to that statement, which holds that, quite often in our times, reality is more unbelievable than satire. It was the second statement that was on display this week at CPAC when Republican activists wheeled out a golden statue of Donald Trump.
Given the high percentage of self-proclaimed Christians among the activists at CPAC, you might think that some would see the parallel between a golden, graven image of the former president and the numerous Biblical admonitions against idol worship (as well as idle worship, but I digress), but the crowd seems to have been lacking in such self-awareness.
If you’ve seen these pictures, you may have wondered, as I did, why and how the conservative conference came to play host to a modern-day icon of a political figure for quasi-religious veneration. CNN provides the backstory on the golden Trump:
Tommy Zegan, a California-based artist, created the Trump statue in response to the multiple pieces of art mocking Trump.
"Two years ago, when I saw all those statues of naked Trump and Trump on a toilet, I said, 'You know what? I can do better,' " Zegan told CNN Friday as attendees gathered around the statue to snap photos with it.
Zegan said the piece on display at CPAC is actually the fiberglass mold of the real, stainless steel sculpture currently stored in a warehouse in Tampa where it awaits a potentially high-profile showcase.
"It is museum-quality, and that's the one I'm eventually hoping to get in the Trump library," Zegan said. "It is literally priceless."
"The coat and tie is the fact that he's a professional, he's a businessman," Zegan said. "The red tie symbolizes he's a Republican. The red white and blue is that he's a patriot. The fact that he's wearing thongs and shorts is that he's at the age where he should be retired. He should be at the beach right now."
The golden Trump, which ironically was made in Mexico, is strongly evocative of any number of Bible stories. There was the golden calf that the Israelites made in Exodus 32, the tendency of the Israelites to set up idols of Baal in the high places, and most ominously, the image of the Antichrist that John predicted in his Revelation would be the focus of compulsory worship in the last days.
The context of the golden Trump at CPAC is that members of a party, which many already believe has become a personality cult, have cast a golden statue of its leader that strongly resembles an idol. On Twitter, Scott Lincicome won the internet for the day by referring to the statue as “DeploraBaal.”
Now, I’m pretty sure that the intent of Zegan, Look Ahead America, the organization at whose booth the statue resided, and CPAC was not to induce people to bow down to a golden effigy of Donald Trump. I’m also positive that no other Republican leader would be the subject of such devotion.
Mitt Romney and John McCain would definitely be averse to being the subject of a golden effigy, being the humble and unassuming men that they are (or were, in the case of McCain). I pretty sure that neither of the Bushes or Reagan would have been comfortable being the subject of such adoration either, even though they accomplished much more than Trump.
I’ll acknowledge that Abraham Lincoln was posthumously awarded the Lincoln Memorial and a spot on Mount Rushmore alongside Teddy Roosevelt, but we also have to admit that Lincoln and Roosevelt had much more success as presidents than Trump. Lincoln preserved the Union and Roosevelt at least won two terms, although in one of history’s ironies he split the GOP after leaving office in 1909 as Trump is splitting the party today. Roosevelt broke with conservative Republicans to form a pro-labor “New Nationalism” movement and ended up handing the House to Democrats for the first time in 20 years.
Even including Lincoln and Roosevelt, I can’t imagine any other Republican being the subject of a golden statue. I’ll extend that statement to Democrats as well. Even Barack Obama, who gave his 2008 convention speech from a stage that was created to resemble a Greek temple and was the subject of his own devout following, would most likely be uncomfortable with such veneration.
The golden Trump seems to be unique in American politics. Even though we’ve occasionally embraced politicians as celebrities, the veneration and… well, worship of Donald Trump is something I’ve never seen in this country before. Even leaving aside the golden idol, the prevalence of Trump flags around red states is unprecedented, especially four months after his election loss. Aside from a few Obama flags, I don’t recall ever seeing any politician’s name emblazoned on flags.
Republicans may not think that they are part of a personality cult centered on Donald Trump but parading around golden idols of the former president is going to make it tough to convince the rest of the country. That’s especially true since I haven’t heard a single Republican complain about the unseemly statue. Instead, Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio line up to affirm Trump’s continuing role in the party, despite provoking his base to attack to attack the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the election.
Everything else aside, the purpose of a political party is to persuade people to vote for its candidates. Republicans may be enamored with Donald Trump and amused by the golden statue, but to the rest of the country, it affirms the GOP’s descent into an irrational cult of personality. If the Republican Party wants to have a future, it needs to change its current image as a party that exists to praise a failed and unpopular former president.
Republicans need to junk not only the Trump idol but the Trump idolatry.
Update: A picture is now going around that shows someone worshipping the golden Trump. I’m not sure it’s genuine, but the comments do give many other examples of messianic postings about Donald Trump.
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The irony of the statute was a point well made David. That said, the bigger issue isn't the idol itself, but the fact the new republican has reached the zenith of it's own moral decay and rot. If it seems harsh to say that, sorry, but when human beings have no capacity for honesty or accountability, there is nothing left to build your party on or around.
Lies have become their beacon of hope. Pretending Brian Sicknick wasn't murdered at the attack on the Capital January 6 is shameless; nearly 150 other officers were injured. Acting as if the assault wasn't real is their only out. Continuing the fabrication the election was "stolen" is apparently better than admitting you/trump were/are losers.
trump has spent his entire life as a con man. Is it any surprise the charade continues? What is frightening is seemingly smart people have fallen prey to his bullshit and are willing to sell their soul to support him. Christians' indeed.
When I saw that statue, I admit hoping that Moses came down from heaven, grabbed the golden image of Trump, and threw it into the fire. Just as the Old Testament prophet did with the golden calf the Israelites were worshipping when he came down from Sinai. Heavenly wishes aside, I don't know what is going to shake these folks on the right from their cultish worship of Trump. I don't want the Democrats to win at all, as they are collectively speaking too far to the left to my comfort. Yet, the cult of personality surrounding Trump cannot continue in the GOP, if the latter is to be the political vehicle for the rebuilding and revitalization of the conservative movement. Trump's abysmal behavior during his presidency and the continued defense of it even to today, is sapping the GOP and the conservative movement of the necessary political capital to fight against the mostly left of center policies that are being advocated by Biden and the Democrats. And not just political capital is being wasted, but intellectual credibility as well.
David, you also bring up some good historical tidbits regarding the 1912 presidential election. The consequential effects of that election cannot be ignored, especially given the talk floated around of Trump possibly forming a new party. Teddy Roosevelt managed to get 88 electoral votes, leaving President Taft with only 8(Utah and Vermont being the only states he carried). But this allowed Woodrow Wilson to win 435 electoral votes, but winning less than 42 percent of the popular vote. If you combine the popular vote totals for Roosevelt and Taft, it would've topped 50 percent. But more importantly, 18 states were decided by less than 7 percentage points. And Wilson won 14 of those states. Had the GOP not split during this election, Taft would've likely won re-election, and Woodrow Wilson would've been relegated to having a more obscure place in history. And as us conservatives know all too well, the Wilson presidency was a sorry one. That man was virulently racist, even by the standards of the early 20th century. Wilson's contempt for the Constitution's separation of powers is well known. I remember hearing Jonah Goldberg once saying that Wilson was probably the closest thing the US had to a fascist President.
One of the Ten Commandments states "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image". Republicans, Trumpists, and others on the political right would do themselves, and the country a huge favor if they would start adhering to that commandment.