When I was a child, my Papaw would watch Fox News while running on the treadmill every morning. It was the 90s, and I didn’t know what politics was, let alone how it affected my life. I would pick up messages about taxes, immigration, and gay marriage without taking a moment to decide whether or not I agreed, and I think that’s a good thing— I was in elementary school, after all.
My Papaw is no longer living, may God rest his soul. But if he were, I am certain he would be ashamed of what has become of the Grand Old Party. Papaw was a hardworking business man with stories for days of growing up on a Louisiana farm with dozens of cousins. He always spoke to me and my cousin about hard work, individual responsibility, and the value of a dollar.
My papaw fostered within me a sense of accomplishment and pride in any work I was doing. When I grew up and became a voter, these values, to me, reflected the heart of the GOP.
So what changed?
If you pressed me for an answer to that question, I’d have to say it was Donald Trump.
At some point in the last eight years I started to realize that my family members were deviating from the conservatism that raised us. With each new story of a disgusting joke, sexual assault allegation, or racist soundbite I would watch for a shift — Would they take their Trump flag down? Might they stop sharing Trump’s outlandish messages on social media? Could they be trusted to talk about social issues without parroting his deceitful talking points?
For some – too many – of them, the answers were no, no, and no. And that is the heartbreaking place we find ourselves in 2024.
Donald Trump has amassed a following of millions who believe everything he tells them, will do anything he asks, and even cause harm and distress to their own families for the sake of his mission.
There is no word for that besides “cult,” and that’s exactly what it is.
Donald Trump is going to be the Presidential nominee for the Republican Party. His influence will only grow, and the impact on our families will continue to be traumatic. Here in Arkansas, it’s especially difficult to confront the loss.
Trump’s face is on billboards across the state and the gospel of his elusive plan to make America great is preached in many of our churches. “Do you believe the 2020 election was stolen?” is a litmus test when political conversations arise. Answer a definitive, “no,” and you might lose another friend, or miss your chance to make a new one.
I know I am not alone in the complex grief of losing a loved one to the cult of Trump. There are thousands of us in states like Arkansas. We aren’t trying to change anyone’s mind— we just want our people back.