Many years ago, I was driving through the Mississippi Delta right after a storm front that dropped several inches of rain over a large area. Flood waters had risen along both sides of US 49. I came upon one farm where the cattle had been forced onto the few raised areas, far too small to be called hills. As the water continued to rise, the cows were forced closer and closer together as the dry land shrank. There were tightly-packed groups scattered across the fields.
I thought about those cows this week after hearing about Bob Woodward’s new book, and reading the anonymous op/ed in the New York Times. Like the cows, Trump’s supporters are being forced into a smaller and smaller island of thought. They can simply choose the route of disbelief, placing their faith in the idea that the media lies, that the Democrats are obstructing, that there are conspiracies to keep Trump from succeeding. But now the claims of Trump’s unfitness for the job, his erratic behavior, his inherent temperamental incompatibility with the requirements of the Presidency, are coming from within his own administration. His supporters are steadfast, taking comfort in their shared belief. But the waters keep rising, and they have to exist in an ever-shrinking intellectual space. They’ve had to discard the idea that personal morality matters, that sexual transgressions are wrong, that truth is important, that mocking the disabled is wrong, that deficits are bad, that relations with traditional allies mean something. The road behind Trump’s supporters is littered with the discarded truths that they once proclaimed so intensely. Now they have to choose again: are these stories all made up, or have some of those close to Trump suddenly become conspirators against him? Because past experience says that the one thing they won’t do is decide that he actually is unfit to be President.