Poster Children

Posters distributed around the New York University campus of people kidnapped by Hamas on the October 7 raid of Israel are vandalized and covered with pro Palestinian graffiti, October 25, 2023. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Recently my colleague Chris Stirewalt tried to explain why House Republicans would double down on Donald Trump’s coup attempt by choosing Mike Johnson, a top henchman in the effort, as their new speaker.

It’s inscrutable as a matter of political logic, he recognized, but perfectly legible psychologically. Blame the “strange alchemy of ego by which shame without atonement turns into pride” for Johnson’s ascension, Stirewalt wrote.

That’s elegant phrasing for a phenomenon Dispatch readers have become familiar with. On The Remnant, Jonah Goldberg regularly references a point made by Yuval Levin about why the right’s insincere, opportunistic Trump apologists tend to devolve into true believers. Insincerity is a heavy psychological burden to carry every day, Levin argued, especially when that insincerity serves a dishonorable cause.

If MAGA pretenders can’t or won’t unburden themselves by atoning, they’ll do it by converting their shame into pride.

Watching scenes like this play out lately, I wonder how many might be explained by that same strange alchemy:

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