, 01.15.2021 09:02 AM

My latest: Trumpism is here to stay

Forget impeachment. Forget the 25th Amendment. Forget all that.

They’re too late, and they don’t matter.

For sure: Donald Trump, the Mango Mussolini, will slink out of town like the carnival huckster that he is. He’s not going to the inauguration, and everyone there will be relieved by that — like when you hear your angry drunk uncle won’t be coming to wreck your wedding.

There’s a week left, give or take, and there’s not enough time — or votes — to impeach and convict. There’s not any chance he’ll be declared unfit under the 25th Amendment, either.

So he’ll be gone, sure.

But Trump is like a bad stain in a good rug: you can’t get the stain out. However much civil society tries to eliminate the stench of his “presidency,” we will fail.

Because Trumpism is here to stay.

Trump and Trumpism — populist, racist, sexist, dishonest — was born in the ashes of the 2008-2009 global economic collapse. Back then, it called itself the Tea Party. It was one of two populist movements that were birthed that year.

The other was Occupy: the group of kids, mostly, who took over city parks, and didn’t have a leader or a bank account or an ad campaign.

The Tea Party and Occupy shared some views: they hated the Davos people who had been running things. They hated the bailouts to bankers and CEOs. They hated the established order.

They differed, however, in this way: Occupy atomized, and fell between the blades of grass in the city parks, never to be seen again. The Tea Party kept going.

It took over the Republican Party, squeezing out horrified New England GOP veterans.

The reality TV star, Donald J. Trump — looking down from his gilded perch on Fifth Avenue — had previously been a Democrat. But he saw the Tea Party putsch, and he saw opportunity. It needed a leader and he would be it.

He had never run for anything before, really. Not seriously. And the grifters in his circle didn’t know how to run a presidential campaign.

But Trump had two things none of his future Republican rivals would have: his “fake news” refrain and his mastery of social media.

Trump wasn’t bright, but he was smart enough to know — like Justin Trudeau, ironically — that traditional media was in trouble. Voters were gravitating in droves to Twitter and Facebook and the like.

That’s where the ratings are, and Trump understands ratings better than most. He shortly became the biggest presence on social media in the world. He would come to not just dominate the agenda: he owned it.

He’d drop a little silver ball on Twitter, and we in the media would chase it. Every. Single. Time.

But when negative stories would start to surface in traditional media, it was inevitable the president-to-be had a solution. It was all “fake news,” he’d say.

Over and over he’d say that, like an incantation, and it would do its magic. “Fake news” was a way to cast doubt on every news story Trump didn’t like.

Mueller probe? Fake news. Russian hacking? Fake news. Lining pockets? Fake news.

It worked, just like the Twitter strategy did. And it inevitably led to 100,000 deranged mouth-breathers storming Capitol Hill, leaving bodies and destruction in their wake.

Impeachment or not, 25th Amendment or not, Trump will soon be gone. And for those who say we’ll never see his like again?

We will, we will.

The beast that Trump aroused is awake, and it is slouching towards Bethlehem, once again.

— Kinsella worked for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign

19 Comments

  1. Lorne says:

    I am not a political genius, but imo all the impeachment attempt will do is serve as a rally cry to Trump’s supporters. It will point out all that they are against.

    The swamp is not yet drained.

    • Peter says:

      And what measures to drain the swamp would you like to see?

      • david says:

        The amount of swamp is controlled by whoever controls the money aka public purse.
        Republicans are dedicated to filling it till it overflows.
        Democrats are too cowardly to pull the plug.
        It is their ways.

  2. faithless elector says:

    I think you are giving Trump way to much credit. Trumpism didn’t start in this millennium. It started during reconstruction with embittered civil war veterans who didn’t follow the advice of Robert E. Lee to cool it and move on.

    Also – I don’t buy that he knew anything about traditional media being in trouble. He was attacked by traditional media and his natural inclination was to fight back. There was no strategy or planning involved. Normally this would have been ignored. But it conveniently happened at a time when new technology suddenly enabled an even playing field between nonsense and truth.

    In short he’s a product of the times. Not an author of the times.

    If Trumpism was here to stay, it would be staying. But its not. It’s been defeated.

    Its followers require victories and Trump provides them with nothing but losses, punishment and humiliation.

    We can go back to caring even less about his supporters interests. If they want to just keep on piling up loss after loss, rejoicing in their own poverty (economic and intellectual) they can do that but they will achieve nothing but feeding the entertainment / amusement needs of the establishment.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      FE,

      This is pretty much my view as well. Remember that Trump is 45 and even at your highest water mark, you don’t win elections easily with a 45% ceiling. You need the goodwill of moderates and more crucially independents. The Trump brand is now, at its best, tarnished. So Trump, or a Trump-lite, à la Ivanka, won’t easily win the next general.

      And then there’s all those besotted Trump Republicans. They’re with Trump until they’re not. And that happens the minute that it becomes far more difficult for them to get re-elected. If, or when that happens, they develop collective Trump amnesia in a Manhattan Minute.

      • david says:

        Elections? What makes you think there will be any more elections or fair ones. As long as Cruz and Hawley and the Qanon Qpids are in congress nothing will change and I don’t see a single democrat with the gravitas to kick ass.

        also,

        Occupy was a nice try but it didn’t change a thing
        the fat cats on Wall Street laughed as they jerked their strings.
        What were they waiting for, the wolf was at the door
        waging war.

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:

          david,

          Well, the Democrats are now in the majority in both chambers so I don’t see impediments to the extent that you suggest. So far, most Americans have shown themselves to be small-d democrats as we approach Biden’s swearing-in. Let the rule of law stand and move forward. This is a lot less fractious to unity than the Civil war was but yes, theoretically, things could ramp down quickly but I remain optimistic that in the final analysis, most Americans will think of themselves as Americans first, last and always, especially when push comes to shove like just happened on Capitol Hill. Trump’s approval rating now is 35%, a drop of ten points with independents deserting him AND his movement in droves. Thank God for that.

  3. WestGuy says:

    Gotta disagree with you a bit on the timelines. I think it actually started earlier than 2008. I’d go back to the first GW Bush term in 2000. That’s when you started to see differing coverage based on the media outlet. Fox generally depicted him positively while the others were more negative. This is the first time I can remember where the coverage of a president was so different. And at that point, the internet allowed for a wave of media “response” websites. For example, here in Canada you’d have a story on the CBC and then you’d have a handful of websites respond to the story, either correcting info they thought was wrong or adding info conveniently missing from the original story. (Unfortunately, the CBC made this a very easy thing to do). This undermined the perceived credibility of the media and trust in the media started to fall and made it much easier to push the narrative of a biased and untruthful “mainstream media”. As people became increasingly skeptical of the credibility of the media (especially those outlets where they didn’t agree with the organizational bias) it wasn’t too much of a leap from that to “fake news”. By the time the Tea Party had shown up, that groundwork had already been laid.

    • The Doctor says:

      I think a broader canvas is to go all the way back to William F. Buckley and his work God and Man at Yale. It’s a seminal work of conservative contrarianism. That contrarian strain of conservatism has always seen the conservative viewpoint as effectively contra the herd. The herd is seen as liberal because the establishment (especially media, academia) is liberal (at least predominantly).

      Buckley was quite legitimately trying to shake up orthodoxy, whatever you think of his views on specific issues. Nothing wrong with that.

      The problem is that people wanted to go further than that. You started to get the plethora of right-wing think tanks, and then along came Roger Ailes, Lee Atwater and their ilk. Fox News represented a significant step. Again, nothing wrong in principle with a right-wing news network, but Ailes was a very slippery and manipulative man, and ethically many floors below Buckley. Buckley was at least intellectually honest. Ailes would shit all over intellectual honesty.

      Next step came the internet, then social media, and I think we all know how that story goes.

      Newt Gingrich also played a big role in this.

      • david says:

        Then Dominion Voting Machines should sue Fox and their ilk (insert Dr Evil pinky in corner of mouth) for ONE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS and not just the ten they are likely to ask for.

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:

          david,

          Tobacco companies for years were able to count on appellate-level judges to reduce or eliminate damage awards. Not anymore.

          My idea goes something like this: sue all those politicians personally for libel who allegedly defamed Dominion. Get ’em in the pocketbook. That’s how their rhetoric will finally change for good. Money talks and more importantly, big money losses hurt. Get ’em right where they live: in admiration of the “mighty” dollar.

          • The Doctor says:

            I agree, I think it would be awesome if Dominion sued every Republican politician and every right-wing media shithead (e.g., Hannity, Alex Jones, El Rushbo)who’s pushing this mendacious shit.

  4. Steve T says:

    Excellent article, and I agree that the Trump-ist mindset and approach is going to be around a long time. It was far too successful to just let it go.

    I will also say that some of Trump’s approach was learned from the left. Broad-based accusations that rest on shaky facts. Wide-ranging generalizations that sweep up entire races or genders. Unfounded accusations that are lobbed to shut down a meaningful conversation. Fomenting violent dissent and then disclaiming ownership of it. All well-worn strategies of the left.

    Those things also made a lot of people decide they were tired of being good, and debating in an honest manner. They adopted to tactics of the left, and used them for their own. If the left keeps it up, we should expect the far right to continue as well.

  5. Chris Scott says:

    I’m afraid that Trumpism is here to stay. Unfortunately.

    My concern is that now that the vulnerabilities of the US democracy have been exposed, for the entire world to see, will a smarter, more disciplined leader (with better lawyers) be more successful at over turning an election in the future? Has the roadmap now been established? (Hopefully I’m just being hysterical from being locked up)

    Also, I wonder what the GOP does about Trumpism? Perhaps it needs to break into two parties similar to what the PC’s and Reformers did here 30 years ago. In order for any democracy to work it needs at least two functioning parties, that are both committed to the concept of democracy itself. Without this, we’re all doomed.

    Cheers,
    Chris Scott

  6. Richard Besserer says:

    There has always been a tendency in American politics that found the idea that all human beings were created equal abhorrent, conceived, no doubt, by a Satanic conspiracy (be that conspiracy Catholic, Masonic or Jewish). They will always prefer to destroy the Republic rather than let it fall into the hands of people who take the American idea seriously.

    Trump is just the latest demagogue to offer to help destroy the Republic and replace it with something more to the liking of pig-ignorant paranoids and would-be tyrants. His kind have been around since before the Constitution was drafted (they were opposed to a federal government they could not completely control).

    • The Doctor says:

      I’ve always thought the ending scene of the movie Easy Rider pretty much says it all. There is tremendous good in America but also tremendous ugliness.

  7. Shane says:

    I think there is a way to dismantle Trumpism. I remember many years ago seeing Michael Moore’s Roger and Me shortly after it was released. The pain and disillusionment of the working class in middle America was palpable. Traditionally the Democrats were the party of the blue collar working class, and Hillary Clinton made the pivot of the party away from working class middle America complete with her “deplorables” comment. The Democrats weren’t even talking about job losses, declining living conditions and other problems in the “rust belt” and elsewhere. Trumpism exists in my opinion because he was able to understand what a powerful force this disillusionment of middle America was, tap into it, redirect it, and channel it. Biden needs to become the president for all Americans and reconnect the Democrats to the working class in the “flyover” states. If he can reconnect with middle America, listen to the people, and act for them in meaningful ways that they believe will improve their lives, the fuel for Trumpism’s fire IMO will be gone.

    • The Doctor says:

      I’d like to think you’re right. The question is, however, whether US voters are actually moved all that much by economic matters, as compared to culture war or “values” matters. There are a lot of smart people out there who think that right-wing voters in particular in the US are far more willing to march to the polls over culture war and “values” issues like abortion, gun rights, same-sex marriage, trans rights and just plain hatred of liberal elites. None of those things has anything to do with jobs or the economy.

      • Shane says:

        That to me was how Trump was so effective. He took what were basically economic issues and turned them into cultural ones, furthering existing cultural divides within the US. The reason you are suffering is China, it’s immigrants stealing your jobs. Build the wall!! It’s the coastal Liberals who don’t care and aren’t listening. It’s globalism. America First! To bring the US back together I think Biden needs to bring the working middle-class people who voted for Trump back into the tent of the Democratic party and direct policy in a way that gives them some hope by addressing the economic issues that are at the heart of the decline and decay in many of the areas they live in. If Biden can do that, I think there’s a chance he can reduce Trumpism to a fringe element.

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