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Earlier this month, the Colorado Republican Party became only the second state party in the nation to endorse Donald Trump in his campaign to be president again.
The move, though not surprising, bucked years of tradition and violated the principle of neutrality, which is why some Republicans vigorously opposed it. But an overwhelming majority of the party’s central committee voted in favor of the endorsement, which jibed with the state party’s general arc toward total devotion to a single man.
The vote completed the party’s transformation into a personality cult.
The state GOP’s own bylaws say it can’t take sides in a Republican primary contest. The party’s job is to support Republican candidates, not any particular Republican candidate, unless that candidate is unopposed.
But the 400-plus members of the state central committee voted to endorse Trump on Jan. 14, a day before the first-in-the-nation presidential nominating process in Iowa, when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was still in the running. Top rival Nikki Haley is still in the race, and Colorado’s presidential primary isn’t until March 5. Dick Wadhams, former chair of the state GOP, said that to his knowledge, it was the first time the state party had ever violated its primary election neutrality in its history, according to The Denver Post.
In explaining the endorsement, party chair and uber-MAGA operative Dave Williams trafficked in hero-worship rhetoric. Trump “has sacrificed tremendously for Colorado and America,” Williams said about a man who led a violent insurrection and faces 91 felony charges in four separate prosecutions. “The Colorado Republican Party is more than happy to stand with President Trump because he risked it all to stand for this country.”
That’s cult talk. And the party, with the endorsement, ratified its cult status.
When party members elected Williams as its leader, they knew what they were getting. An A-list election denier, he tried unsuccessfully to run under the name Dave “Let’s Go Brandon” Williams in his failed bid for Colorado’s 5th Congressional District seat. As chair, Williams has performed with single-minded determination to morph the Colorado Republican Party into an appendage of the Trump menace.
Trump’s scowling mug shot from his arrest in Georgia is the main feature of the state GOP’s homepage. Williams has pushed party rule changes that would favor MAGA candidates. The party under his leadership amended a bylaw so that the party itself can attack a Republican primary candidate who chooses not to submit to the far-right-favoring assembly process.
The party inserted itself as a so-called intervener in a Colorado lawsuit from plaintiffs who argue Trump is disqualified from office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, and Williams gushes about the attention this has earned him from the man to whom he prostrates himself.
“Trump personally called after my Fox & Friends interview,” Williams wrote to supporters earlier this month. “President Trump complimented me on all the good press interviews defending him … We both expressed to each other how the fight is far from over.”
Recall that Trump talked a lot about the need to “fight” in the moments before the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The reconstitution of the state party into a MAGA field unit might be an extreme case, but it’s in step with the right’s national descent to Trump boot-licking. That Trump, after his primary win in New Hampshire this week, has all but locked up the GOP nomination doesn’t validate the early Colorado endorsement so much as expose it as a symptom of widespread cultish behavior.
In 2020, national Republican Party officials dispensed with writing a party platform and instead crafted a resolution that essentially declared that Trump himself was the platform. The depths of blind devotion to Trump since then have only grown, and now he wields a Jim Jones-like command over his followers.
The characterization of Trumpism as a cult isn’t just a casual way for good-faith Americans to describe the inexplicable lunacy they see on the right. It’s a category endorsed by many experts and academics.
“I see Trump as a cult leader,” noted New York University professor and fascism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat told NPR’s “Here & Now.” “So (his supporters) are cult followers, personality cult followers.”
The rule of law was long a point of pride for Americans, and the principle that no individual is above the law is one of the qualities that drew oppressed people from around the world to the United States.
Trump cultism turns the principle on its head — there seems to be no crime Trump could commit for which his followers would hold him responsible. In the perverse logic of worship, in fact, supplicants like Williams treat each Trump indictment as occasion to redouble devotion to him.
“Everyone on the committee agrees it is extremely unfair how President Trump has been treated by his radical Democrat rivals and opponents,” the Colorado Republican Party said in a press release after the endorsement vote. “Joe Biden’s corrupt Department of Justice has weaponized the justice system against him to engage in clear election interference.”
There is no longer room in the Colorado Republican Party for members who want to pursue conservative policies but favor non-MAGA leaders. The GOP cult’s sole mission now is to pursue one policy, and it’s called Donald Trump.
Editor’s note: This opinion piece first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: email@example.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.