In his recent opinion piece titled “What’s the Matter With Republicans?,” Peter Wehner considers the psychological reasons why Republicans continue to vociferously defend a man and president like Donald Trump (emphasis mine):
As a conservative-leaning clinical psychologist I know explained to me, when new experiences don’t fit into an existing schema — Mr. Trump becoming the leader of the party that insisted on the necessity of good character in the Oval Office when Bill Clinton was president, for example — cognitive accommodation occurs.
When the accommodation involves compromising one’s sense of integrity, the tensions are reduced when others join in the effort. This creates a powerful sense of cohesion, harmony and group think. The greater the compromise, the more fierce the justification for it — and the greater the need to denounce those who call them out for their compromise. “In response,” this person said to me, “an ‘us versus them’ mentality emerges, sometimes quite viciously.”
Month after month, with one outrageous, norm-shattering comment or action giving way to another, Republicans who in the past could never have envisioned being Trump acolytes, have been ground down. Accommodation has kicked in, which is a psychological relief to many of them. For those who view Mr. Trump as a model politician who voices their grievances and fights with a viciousness they have long hoped for from Republicans, the accommodation is not just a relief but a source of delight.
As the psychologist I spoke to put it to me, many Republicans “are nearly unrecognizable versions of themselves pre-Trump. At this stage it’s less about defending Trump; they are defending their own defense of Trump.”
There are many things that frustrate me concerning the ongoing Republican support of Trump, and their blatant and feckless kowtowing to Trump’s ego, deceit, and cruelty is at the top of the list. Maybe they do disagree and dislike him in private, but if asked to stand up to him publicly in the light of day, when and where it really matters, they fold. Cowardly, self-serving opportunists, the lot of them. They’re scared of getting on Trump’s bad side and they’re scared of losing whatever power they’re clinging to, so they say and do whatever they have to in order to justify their cowardice.
I have no great love of the Democrats, who have their own issues, but Wehner’s right when he calls the Republican Party “morally disfigured.” They’ve sold their souls to Trump, and as a result, “they will pay a fearsome price generationally, demographically and, above all, morally.”