Adam Kinzinger says that politics have become so tribal that some conservatives now “equate Donald Trump with the person of Jesus Christ,” making any criticism of the former president an attack on their religion.
Speaking to MSNBC‘s Alex Wagner Tuesday evening, the Illinois Republican representative noted how his rejection of former President Trump has led to him being ostracized by his party. Kinzinger made the remarks the same evening Republican Representative Liz Cheney lost a primary battle after prolonged intense criticism of Trump, calling him a threat to the Constitution.
Wagner asked Kinzinger why so many Republicans were so enthralled with Trump that they voted against Cheney, “who otherwise is everything you could want from a conservative Republican.” The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, the Wyoming Republican voted along with the former president 93 percent of the time.
“We’re such a tribalistic people that they fear being kicked out of their tribe,” responded Kinzinger. “And so you accept anything because now Republicanism or conservatism or Trumpism becomes your identity.”
Kinzinger said that many pastors are “failing their congregation(s) by pushing Trumpism” at the pulpit and refusing to talk about how corrosive tribalism has become in politics.
“If you even come out against this amazing man, Donald Trump, [who] is obviously quite flawed, you are coming out against Jesus, against their Christian values,” said Kinzinger. “And when you go after their religion, that violates the depths of who they are.”
The six-term Illinois Republican previously described Trump as a threat to democracy for repeatedly claiming the 2020 presidential election was “rigged” or “stolen,” a claim that has been repeatedly debunked by courts, independent state reviews and members of Trump’s own administration.
Kinzinger, who isn’t running for reelection, said last week that Trump had prevailed in maintaining his hold over the party, which he described as “creepy.”
He told Wagner Tuesday, “I’ve been kicked out of my tribe, and that’s OK.”
Harriet Hageman, who had been endorsed by Trump, prevailed over Cheney in Tuesday night’s Republican primary in Wyoming in what was seen as another test of the former president’s hold over the party.
Cheney became one of the most vocal Republican critics of Trump, voting last year with a handful of Republicans to impeach the former president following the January 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol. Since then, she served along with Kinzinger as the sole Republicans on a House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol and possible links to Trump’s efforts to block certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Newsweek has reached out to Trump for comment.
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