Fealty to Donald Trump requires debasing yourself. Ever since Chris Christie went from presidential frontrunner to Trump errand boy, we’ve watched a string of otherwise self-respecting Republicans embarrass themselves to stay in Trumps good graces. It’s not enough just to pledge loyalty. Trump requires his sycophants to shed dignity. 

Last week, we saw it with Senator Thom Tillis. Tillis wrote an op-ed that explained how his vote against Trump’s emergency declaration was an expression of his strong conservatives values and respect for the constitution. Trump’s minions made sure that Tillis shamed himself and voted for the emergency.  

Now, Trump is going after the legacy of John McCain. He’s doing it partly out of insecurity, fearing McCain’s legacy will outshine his own. But he’s also using it as loyalty test, particularly for Lindsey Graham. He’s daring Republicans to come to the late Senator’s defense. So far, few people have spoken up. Graham, in particular, has remained subdued, refusing to criticize the president’s relentless denunciations of McCain.

These are tactics of an authoritarian who wants unquestioning loyalty to him rather than principles or ideas. Like Stalin erasing heroes of the revolution from Soviet history, Trump is turning his minions against one of the GOP’s most courageous leaders. And like Judas Iscariot who sold out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, Republicans like Tillis and Graham will sell out their heroes to avoid a primary.  Trump is creating a cult of personality that thrills his most loyal supporters.

Republicans who might not approve of Trump’s heavy handed loyalty demands still remain obediently quiet. Others, from the populist wing of party, cheer his disparaging words, calling McCain a RINO and mocking his service. Loyalty to Trump is now the highest virtue of the Republican Party. Once he destroys the legacy of McCain, how long will it take for him to go after Reagan?

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