A HANDS-ON LOOK AT HOW WE GOT FROM THERE (2016) TO HERE (2021) UNDER THE RULE OF EX-PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
However we define Trumpism, there is no denying its existence in the United States of America. Its effects were on full display during the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol. The question we now face is whether Trumpism should be primarily defined as a political or personal condition.
The tactics used to promote Trumpism began with the political slogan Make America Great Again. Those four words symbolized the Trump campaign’s claim that the nation was in desperate need of recovery.
The MAGA slogan worked wonders with those already convinced that Donald Trump represented something “great” about America. His purported wealth and worldwide brand delivered a pre-packaged sense of competency and vision.
Yet that is not what Donald Trump ultimately wound up selling. Instead, he saw an opportunity in convincing people that the nation had abandoned them. That gave millions of already disgruntled people the idea that they had something genuine to complain about. Whether they knew the true sources of their purported misery, or whether they were justified in their self-proclaimed victimhood did not matter. Trump tapped into their anger. That was all that mattered.
To his retinue of pledged supporters, Trump added the support of the evangelical Christian community by choosing a dogmatically zealous Mike Pence as his running mate. The implicit promise in that action was banning abortion and installing some form of Christian theocracy on the nation.
Safely delivered from political criticism by his religious associations, Trump engaged with far-less-admirable brands of populists. Specifically, he offered approval to avowed racist groups as “good people” and chortled with glee as militia groups and violence-prone police threatened to bust heads as a means to maintain order.
All the while, he continued the drumbeat against illegal immigration and repeated his warlike call to ‘build the wall.” That brand of xenophobia resonated with Americans convinced that brown people were freeloaders and stealing their piece of the American pie. Others welcomed Trump’s dog-whistle racism as justification for their own terminal prejudices. Meanwhile, the wealthiest MAGA supporters happily embraced Trump’s “I’ve Got Mine” mentality because it promised a return to tax policies favoring their economic status.
As illustrated in the Trumpism Spectrum, it is easy to trace the initial migration from slogans to tribalism, and from religious legalism to populism. All these tactics were designed to cement a coalition of committed collaborators in the Make America Great Again cabal. Anyone that criticized that cabal was accused of Trump Derangement Syndrome, a supposed mental condition that caused people to act irrationally in response to the ex-President. But that invented term was itself a form of gaslighting, an attempt to make sane people feel crazy about their grip on reality.
Adding to the mix was the rising influence of conspiracy theorists including QAnon, a willfully ignorant and semi-mysterious source of insane accusations and outright lies invented by some Internet gnome lurking on the outskirts of humanity. While Trump griped and whined about the supposed lies contained in the campaign-driven Steele Dossier, he did nothing to counteract rumors that Democrats were involved in human sex trafficking or the daily piles of Right-Wing garbage pumped out by the political right, including but not limited to Fox News.
As Trump’s presidency proceeded, he relied on an increasingly aggressive mix of propaganda to cover up his many illegal activities and political graft in defiance of the emoluments clause and bans on pursuing campaign aid from foreign governments. He was impeached twice for his corruption, but excused by Republican henchman in both the Senate and the House. A few freely admitted that he’d cheated and even broken the law on several counts. But they are power-driven hypocrites and political whores of the worst kind. They are loyal to their party and traitors to our nation.
The only place that Trump’s lies and cheating seemed to catch up with him was during the Covid pandemic when it became obvious that he was both incapable and unconcerned about protecting Americans from a deadly disease. Rather that amend his ways, Trump’s authoritarian instincts drove him to evolve from a man in a perpetual state of denial of his real performance to a man recognizing his failures. Those he feared more than anything else, and in an effort to protect himself from legal and financial jeopardy, he began to plot ways to steal the election in 2020.
This was nothing new, as even before the 2016 election Trump refused to commit his approval for results if he lost. He merely expanded on this tactic in 2020, denying in advance that he could possibly lose. When he did, he launched the Big Lie that the election was “stolen” from him. This lie was invented to foment unrest among his deplorable cabal of truth-denying bigots and zealots. It also appealed to the selfishly wealthy along with the fearful politicians that stood by him through two legitimate impeachments for corruption.
But the sickest loyalty of all is the continued support for Trump even after the acts of sedition conducted by Trump supporters at his direction. The violent, multi-front riots brutalized police officers and left people dead as a result of the insurrection. In the end, Trump invented a brand of fascism that entirely suited him, as he stood watching it all transpire on television even while his violent mob sought to capture and kill the Vice President of the United States. Trump didn’t care. Like his fast-food mentality dictates, he was “having it his way.”
That’s how we got from There to Here over the last six or so years. Looking back at the progression as illustrated on the Trumpism Spectrum graphic, it is pretty clear that it will be too hard to go back through time and fix things. Instead, we need to race forward in the near term to prevent it from happening all over again in 2022 and 2024. Trumpism is a toxic brand of hate-driven politics that was used to beat the nation over the head with an American flag. Despite his ugly pleas, we owe Donald Trump nothing in the way of compassion or compensation. He has done nothing to earn either privilege nor does he deserve it. He is no longer an American in any sense of the word. He is nothing but a greedy traitor, a perpetual con man and an abusive sociopath with nothing to offer the United States of America but an end to the great experiment that launched a democracy worthy of admiration by the whole world.
But under another four years of Trump, that great experiment would cease to exist.