MINOT, N.D. — Disgraced President Donald Trump summoned a horde of violent rioters to Washington, D.C., with lies about a stolen election.
During and after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, Trump refused to lead, reportedly ignoring pleas for National Guard assistance (Vice President Mike Pence's office has confirmed that he, not the president, ultimately made that call) and issuing only a half-hearted denunciation of the violence.
Yet to criticize Trump for these things is to get yourself called a communist, a RINO (Republican-in-name-only, for those of you not familiar with the pejorative), and worse by his followers.
I have been called all of these things in the days since the riot occurred, and it's evidence of what the conservative movement has become for millions and millions of right-leaning Americans.
It's about loyalty to Trump, not loyalty to principle.
Recently I interviewed Sen. Kevin Cramer, historically a staunch Trump supporter though he voted against overturning the election last week and has been sharp in his criticism of the riot, and we discussed some examples of the outgoing president's accomplishments.
He came up with judicial appointments, up to and including the Supreme Court (OK, fair enough) and a smattering of policy wins that mostly came by way of executive orders. The sort of thing destined to be overturned by the Biden administration in short order once taking office.
Are those modest, largely ephemeral achievements worth what the Trump movement has cost us?
In 1980, Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter to become president, winning 44 out of 50 states. He ran on, and then subsequently implemented, a platform of conservative ideas that reshaped our government and how we talk about our government for a generation.
Then he won election to a second term in a devastating landslide, winning 49 out of 50 states representing 525 Electoral College votes. His opponent, Walter Mondale, won 13 votes, having taken just his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.
Reagan advanced a conservative agenda and built a long-lasting movement around it while uniting the country.
Today we're told, by Trump's die-hard supporters, that to be a Republican and a conservative (and not a RINO and a communist), you must support Trump.
A man who has assembled behind him a rabidly loyal legion of belligerently ignorant zealots, many of whom, as we saw last week, are more than happy to use violence to try and get their way.
A man who has turned conservatism into a personal loyalty test instead of a movement driven by ideas.
Trump had help in these endeavors from many high-profile Republicans, and the result is a nation divided more than it has been at any other time in our lives.
Was it worth it?
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.