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Aaron-Donald, Or, Cult Without a Leader (with Tony Michaels)
Trump and Rodgers have more in common than meets the eye.
If you’re an NFL fan, a watcher of Hard Knocks or of the nightly news, a user of social media, or someone who takes casual notice of the headlines on the New York tabloid newspapers—heck, even if you’re one of those people who refers to football as “sportsball” on Twitter because you think that’s clever—you know who Aaron Rodgers is and what happened to him this week. The four-time MVP left Green Bay, where he starred for 18 seasons, to play for the New York Jets, a cursed franchise. This was the dominant storyline of the new NFL season. The words “highly anticipated” don’t do it justice. And then, in the first quarter of the first game of the season, just four plays into his Jets career, Rodgers ruptured his Achilles. He’s done for the year—and, because he’s almost 40, he may be done for good.
What does this have to do with Donald Trump and the Republican Party? Well, Trump and Aaron Rodgers have more in common than meets the eye. First, Trump is listed at 6’ 3” and 215, Rodgers at 6’ 2” and 225, which means that they are around the same size.They both make a lot of money because their rabid fanbases pay to see them in action. They both worked with Woody Johnson. They are both big believers in Ivermectin. They both ran the Green Bay sweep. They are both popular with people who listen to the Joe Rogan podcast. And they both won the biggest prize—the White House and the Super Bowl, respectively—only once.
But the greatest similarity is this: both men filled a glaring need for their respective organizations. The New York Jets are a really really good football team. Their defense is elite. Their skill position players are amazing. But their quarterback last year, Zach Wilson, was awful. Like, cover-your-eyes, soul-destroyingly bad. So they brought in Rodgers, a four-time NFL MVP, to upgrade the position.
It’s the same thing with Trump and the GOP. For the last three or four decades, the Republicans gradually turned what was a functional, legitimate political party—the Party of Lincoln, as they like to say, and of Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower—into a cult. The seeds were planted years ago by the likes of Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, and Roger Ailes. We just didn’t realize it because, until Trump came along, the Republican cult had no viable leader. So, like Aaron Rodgers, Trump filled a gaping hole.
“MAGA isn’t the original cult,” Tony Michaels, host of The Tony Michaels Podcast and my guest on today’s PREVAIL podcast, explains. “The Republican Party is a cult. Now, what has happened throughout the years and the transformation that it has made is, it’s always been looking for its cult leader. They used Ronald Reagan a long time as a placeholder for the cult leader. They loved everything that Ronald Reagan didn’t do and hated everything that he did do, but they said the opposite.
“But Ronald Reagan was really the placeholder for them until Donald Trump came along. And the reason why Donald Trump made such an easy cult leader for the Republican Party is because he’s such a fraud. It’s funny, but that truly is why. And the reason why is because Donald Trump is the dog that the tail wags. Constantly. Like, he has never, never ever, had a grounding principle probably in his entire life. And that allows him to let the tail wag him as hard and as fast and as furious as it possibly can. I mean, we see him say wild and crazy things all the time. He doesn’t believe any of that shit. . . . And that’s why he made such a great cult leader for the Republicans.”
There are unintended consequences to this sort of thing. Handing over the car keys to a demagogue, a corrupt fraud, a loose cannon, makes it harder for the Old Guard Republicans—and the plutocratic donors who pull their strings—to maintain control. There’s a reason Mitt Romney isn’t running for re-election.
“Now, what the Republicans didn’t count on,” Michaels continues, “was that [Trump] would seize power inside the Republican cult and call it MAGA, and it would become—instead of American fascism, it would become Trumpism, under his banner. They really underestimated how [good] he was at stealing other people’s ideas and other people’s work. I mean, that’s what he’s been doing his entire life—he puts his name on everyone else’s work and calls it his own. And that’s what he did with the Republican cult: he took over the cult, he became the cult leader, and he put his name on it, and took theirs away. And he took their work.”
After just four plays in the green and white, Rodgers ruptured his Achilles. He was carted off the field. By some miracle, the Jets won without him.
After four indictments, Trump ruptured the GOP. Can the Republican Party win without him? We most likely won’t find out anytime soon. There’s no cart coming to remove him from the field. None of the Zach Wilsons on the Republican bench will be given the opportunity to lead the team to victory. Cult leaders, like kings and popes and SCOTUS justices, are there for life. Fortunately, we still have the right to vote against them.
Greg Olear talks to Tony Michaels, host of The Tony Michaels Podcast, about the Left’s need for talk radio-style programming, the importance of narratives, media fecklessness, how the Republican Party is a cult in search of a leader, and how WE will be Trump’s ultimate jury. Plus: a new golf experience for moms and kids.
Listen to his podcast:
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They are not, of course. This is a joke.