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Trump critics complain about how intensely his supporters defend him against even mild and demonstrably valid criticism. This is not merely cultish devotion to Trump. It's about people on the Right waking up to the realities of a binary political system.
This is not to justify the ferocious rejection of all Trump criticism - it's a bad idea for any leader to be supported without question - but rather to understand it. The president's most ardent supporters are not necessarily acting out of irrational devotion.
The Left has long understood the stakes in a binary system better than the Right. They have developed many techniques for whipping their voters into line behind their presidents and presidential candidates. They make very specific promises to voting blocs in their coalition.
Long before Trump, the Left caricatured even mild-mannered GOP candidates as inhuman monsters. The current pitch to wavering Democrat voters is contempt signaling: vote for the Dem, even if you don't like him or her, just to annoy the heartland Republicans you hate.
Voters on the Right have long been told NOT to view presidential elections as binary choices with all of their vital issues on the line. They've been attacked as paranoid extremists for thinking that way. The media tells them every Dem candidate is a reasonable moderate.
A good number of people on the Right denounce or deny the binary nature of elections, too. Some are third-party enthusiasts, others ideological purists. Many are in a symbiotic relationship with the media and political class that treats all Dems as moderates.
The thing about this perpetual camouflage of Democrats as moderates - get ready for Elizabeth Warren to be described that way! - is that it obfuscates the binary nature of elections. It's deliberately designed to make GOP voters consider 3rd-party protest votes or staying home.
Democrat voters march into each presidential election thinking their very lives and souls are on the line unless the Republican loses. Dems tell black voters the return of SLAVERY might be only one election away - "gonna put y'all back in CHAINS!" as Joe Biden put it.
GOP voters are told, eh, it's just an election. Another one is coming in four years. You're paranoid to think your way of life is at stake. Why not send the GOP leadership a message with a 3rd party protest vote? Why not just stay home if you really don't like the GOP candidate?
This mindset is maintained with great effort even if the Republican wins. Dems support their presidents with feral intensity through every scandal and retroactively deny the scandals ever existed. Repubs are told to abandon their president to prove their open-mindedness.
Unlike Dems, Republican voters are told they're greedy, selfish, and fanatical if they consider the fate of their issues when deciding to support their president in times of controversy. Dems ALWAYS defend themselves by claiming they want to fight-fight-fight for their issues.
The most absurd comical extension of this is when Democrats hit by nuclear-bomb scandals try making extreme gun control proposals as a desperation play. They know gun control is the ultimate contempt-signaling issue for Dem voters. "Support me and make those rednecks cry!"
Well, Republican voters have gotten wise to this game. It's one of the reasons Trump has a persistent base of support. Sometime during the Obama era, probably after Mitt Romney was groin-kicked into submission in 2012, GOP voters realized their way of life IS on the line.
Social media magnifies negativity a hundredfold, so the Republican awakening looks pretty rough to a critic who finds himself buried under angry Tweets after offering a reasoned critique of something Trump does. My advice is to develop a thicker skin, fast.
For too long, Democrats have been treated every election like the Super Bowl, while Republicans tend to see them as exhibition games. That has changed forever, in part because Obama brought us so close to so many doomsday scenarios for conservatism.
Trump critics on the Right feel this is a new era of vicious Trump personality cults because the people yelling at them READ THEM. You didn't get this intensity of blowback from Obama supporters because they didn't know who you were and didn't care about your opinion.
Some of the people lashing out at you for criticism Trump are doing so because they're aware of the stakes and they know 2020 will be a binary choice, as 2016 was. They're not interested in your fantasy scenarios about impressing the 2024 electorate with a principled loss today.
They know where that road leads. They've seen it again and again, ever since Reagan left office. They know Dems use every bit of power they obtain to crowbar the electorate and monkey-wrench the next election. No presidential term or election can be a throwaway.
Not everyone who vigorously defends Trump is part of some personality cult. Some of them are just clear-eyed about 2020 being a choice between him and whatever horror show the Dems nominate. And he HAS put points on the board. He isn't just a not-Hillary placeholder. /end
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