One of the most widespread stories about their motivation is that they're "afraid of Trump" or are "worried about being primaried." Both ideas are wrong.
These people are not taking Trump's side because they're afraid. They're not motivated by what they might lose. Instead, they're looking to what they might gain in the future.
They're doing it because Trump has launched an authoritarian fascist movement, with the help and encouragement of a few American and foreign billionaires, and they're competing with each other to be the next leader or a major player in the senior levels of that movement.
The big mistake so many political observers make is assuming that Trumpism is all about Trump. It's not. It's all about a 21st century American version of authoritarian fascism.
There's always been a strain of authoritarian fascism in American politics, just like in every time of political crisis around the world. Here in the United States it reached a peak in the deep South in 1860, leading to secession and Civil War, and was defeated by Abraham Lincoln.
It came back in a big way in the 1930s with the America First movement, who's most prominent spokesperson was Charles Lindbergh. In Congress over 100 members of that movement, almost all Republicans, gave speeches praising Adolf Hitler or offering legislation or resolutions to prevent President Roosevelt from challenging Germany.
The nation's #1 best-selling author at the time, Nero Wolfe creator Rex Stout, compiled their speeches into a book titled The Illustrious Dunderheads. That movement largely vanished after World War II when a new generation of Americans discovered the horrors of authoritarian fascism.
And now, here it is again.
Arnold Toynbee, it is said, argued that every 80 years or so America repeats its greatest political mistakes, and must learn that lesson through mass death because 80 years is the rough span of human life.
"When the last man who remembers the horrors of the last great war dies," he's often quoted as saying, "the next great war becomes inevitable."
Similarly, when the last Americans who fought fascism die out, the next authoritarian fascist movement is certain to emerge, leading us to the next war.
In the 1770s, Americans fought and died in the Revolutionary War against British oligarchs and their colonialism policy, that generation's version of authoritarian fascism.
Eighty years later, as that generation died out in the 1850s, the new authoritarian fascism of the Confederate South rose up and declared another war in America. Over 600,000 Americans died to defeat fascism that time.
Eighty years after the Civil War, Americans again defeated fascism, both overseas and here at home, losing almost a half-million American lives but winning World War II and reaffirming the values of American democracy.
In both cases, politicians and newspapers who'd spotted the rise of authoritarian fascism in the old South and in the America First movement tried to warn the country about the dangers of rising fascism. In both cases they failed and war broke out.
And now, roughly 80 years after World War II, here we are again.
The question this time is whether, in an era of mass media and the internet, that infrastructure will be used to strengthen and spread today's new fascism, or will succeed in awakening and alerting the American people. It isn't about Republican versus Democrat; it's about authoritarian fascism versus democracy in our republic.
The stakes are much bigger than the political futures of a dozen senators or even the Republican Party. If authoritarian fascism isn't defeated now, it will certainly tear America apart, will accelerate the growth of fascism around the world, and thus may well provoke World War III.
First published at Medium.com.