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.
The riots and attack on the US government at the United States Capitol building are proving one thing: America really does need to be concerned about the rise of fascism in this nation.
All summer long during protests against the murder of Black citizens by police were conducted by Black Lives Matter and other social conscience groups. Some of those protests were marked by looting that harmed businesses. That was enough for Trump and his supporters to claim the two responses to police brutality were automatically related.
We can turn to the nation of Spain for perspective on the relationship between protests for social justice and independence. I happened to be in Barcelona on a vacation in 2019 during the weekend when originally peaceful protests turned ugly. The issue in Spain was a call for “self-determination” by citizens of the Catalaonian region. They sought independence from the central government in Spain over issues of taxation. Catalan residents sought to secede from Spain. Right-wing defendants of Spain’s traditional national structure and constitution sought to crack down on the protests.
That’s when things turned sour in Barcelona. As reported on Reuters.com, “Barcelona town hall said 400 garbage containers were set ablaze on Wednesday and estimated that the city had suffered damage totaling more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) in two days. Some city residents condemned the rioting. “This doesn’t represent the majority of Catalans, whichever side they are on, be they pro-constitution or pro-independence,” said Joan, a 50-year-old small-business owner.
The political issues in Spain differ from those in America, yet the cycles of protest and governmental crackdowns and pursuant violence on the part of “protestors” is quite similar to patterns in the United States.
As Reuters reported, “Young people draped in Catalan flags congregated peacefully, tossing balls and skipping rope. Later the mood turned ugly, with protesters setting fire to cafe chairs on the fashionable Rambla de Catalunya street at the heart of the tourist district.
Earlier in the day, thousands of students took to the streets, some hurling eggs at police holding riot shields. Marches from around the region are due to converge on Barcelona on Friday and unions have called a general strike for the day.
“It’s not about who is a separatist and who is not – it’s about human rights,” said Aila, a student who declined to give her family name.”
Black Lives Matter and Antifa
That sounds so familiar. Here in America, hundreds of thousands of protestors also sought to stand up for human rights. Their cause was calling attention to the series of Black people shot or suffocated by police. The incident with George Floyd in which an officer put a knee on the man’s neck until he died went viral and served to illuminate the cause of minorities around the world.
But Trump and his supporters appeared unmoved by the calls for change, and protests escalated as a result. Property damage was rampant, and a loosely organized group calling itself Antifa rose to national prominence as Trump sought to place blame for the violence on an enemy he target for derision by his supporters. That meant Trump lumped everyone together in one supposedly “evil” group that he blamed for property damage. But the people seeking social justice weren’t willing to live with that accusation. They persisted in peaceful protests. I witnessed the “rebound effect” of peaceful protestors while visiting Madison, Wisconsin this summer following weeks of unrest. The boarded up businesses were decorated with messages of love and reminders of why the protests were initiated in the first place. That may have been no comfort to businesses affected by the lockdowns, but that effect was not solely the result of protests. There was the scourge of Coronavirus that Trump refused to address. That incalcitrance toward any authority other than his own was the cause of more suffering in the United States than any protest, Antifa or not, could muster. That’s the reality Trump sought to avoid.
The problem with the Trump tactic is that was successful with his supporters and his Republican allies eager to shift blame away from the President by siding with him in the depiction of all protestors as the “common enemy.” That means the original cause of the social justice protestors––justice for Black citizens and change in brutal police tactics––was effectively left behind. That is exactly how Trump likes it. His entire tactic in politics is to distract from the bad things he’s done and/or approved by redirecting blame toward anyone he depicts as the “common enemy.” In that regard, he has quite familiar company in history.
The concept of propaganda
Consider this excerpt from the Nuremberg 1934 rally, in which Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels outlines the premise and purpose of propaganda:
“The concept of propaganda has undergone a fundamental transformation, particularly as the result of political practice in Germany. Throughout the world today, people are beginning to see that a modern state, whether democratic or authoritarian, cannot withstand the subterranean forces of anarchy and chaos without propaganda. It is not only a matter of doing the right thing; the people must understand that the right thing is the right thing. Propaganda includes everything that helps the people to realize this.”
He goes on to state, “Propaganda is a means to an end. Its purpose is to lead the people to an understanding that will allow it to willingly and without internal resistance devote itself to the tasks and goals of a superior leadership. If propaganda is to succeed, it must know what it wants. It must keep a clear and firm goal in mind, and seek the appropriate means and methods to reach that goal. Propaganda as such is neither good nor evil. Its moral value is determined by the goals it seeks.”
In the case of Donald Trump, that “purpose” in mind is keeping power at all costs. That aligns with his central goal of self-interest. His policies fulfill promises to others that can help him keep power. But his actions aside from that are all about winning and protecting access to power.
That explains his lies to cover up the threat of the pandemic in its early stages. His central goal in presenting information about the Coronavirus was to protect his image going into the 2020 election. To do that, he sought to downplay the seriousness of the virus and how many people it could possible kill. His interest was in protecting the economy upon which he believed his re-election depended. Yet his selfishness backfired as the virus raged through the American population, threatening to overwhelm hospitals as thousands died from Covid-19. The economy reeled. He raged against the lockdowns proclaimed by state governors as necessary to curb the spread of the disease.
That was Trump’s version of a “protest.” Yet it was his original inaction and refusal to engage the federal government in meaningful distribution of PPE and support for state efforts to conduct testing and reduce infection rates that led to the United States becoming the nation whose citizens were banned from traveling to countries around the world. Trump cynically and ignorantly blamed “testing” as the reason why the infection rates were so high. “If we didn’t do so much testing, there wouldn’t be so many infections,” seemed to be his reasoning.
The confusing mix of disease and outrage
So the summer months were a confusing mix of disease and outrage as American citizens endured the uncontrolled spread of Coronavirus even as Trump refused to wear a mask in public and an entire ‘protest’ movement of Anti-Maskers sprung up within his movement. They claimed that wearing masks infringed on their personal freedoms. Men like noted conservative and former presidential candidate Herman Cain refused to wear a mask in public. He contracted Covid-19 and died as a result.
That incident describes the twisted reasoning and dangers of Trumpism.
In the same way, it was Trump sending out federal troops in a fascist show of strength in Portland and other cities that led to increased resistance and more radicalized response in cities across the country. The Trump administration resorted to posting unidentified, heavily armed guards in Washington, D.C. in one of the most fascist demonstrations of governmental secrecy in American history. No one knew who those guards reported to, or what their purpose was other than to serve as a threat that the right to protest at all was under threat.
Then Trump marched across the street in the company of military personnel while flash-bangs and other deterrence methods were aimed at peaceful protestors gathered around a church in Washington. Trump held up a Bible (upside down, it appears) in clear demonstration of the religio-fascist relationship he maintains with zealously bigoted evangelicals calling for outright theocracy in American government.
Trump supporters long to point toward his “policies” as signs of his success the last four years. But even the supposed lists of accomplishments now circulating in defensive memes are rife with contradictions. His supposed Mideast accords are little more than disguised acts of Zionism and anti-Palestinian intrigue. Trump’s forceful collapse of the Iran nuclear control deal is enabling the re-establishment of that nation’s programs. HIs tax cuts did nothing for the middle class while enriching the wealthiest Americans, and his inaction on Coronavirus crushed millions of jobs while Republican Senators and Congressman fought significant relief bills to help everyday Americans. If one were to draft a program to make American lives worse rather than better, there is none better than the lack of platform resolved by the Republican Party and the sycophantic support they’ve granted their Fascist in Chief. The GOP, as I’ve previously written, simply got pimped.
This arc toward fascist takeover of American society was not lost on Trump supporters whose beliefs about American justice were formed and fomented by propaganda spouted by Trump well before the 2020 election even took place. Upon losing, Trump declared the results “fraudulent” and proceeded to carry out 60 fraudulent lawsuits that were in turn rejected by courts on the basis of no evidence to support them.
None of that stopped Trump or his fascist henchman Rudy Giuliani from continuing their attack on democratic processes. Right up to the certification of the Electoral College votes, Trump and Rudy G collared Republican Congressman, Senators, state governors and even election officials. They issued dictates and threats. When all this continued to fail, Trump called his supporters into action in Washington. He directed them to march on the Capitol in hopes that the disruption would delay or cancel the counting of Electoral College votes altogether.
The riotous mob did invade and seek to destroy the Capitol building and its occupants. They came armed with ties in hopes of kidnapping the Vice President or the Speaker of the House. Anyone they regarded as “treasonous” was a potential target. Even those tasked with defending the safety of the Capitol building were subject to fascist fury. A Capitol guard was slaughtered by “protestors” using a fire extinguisher to pound the life out of him.
It’s his own fault, not ours
All of this is inescapably the fault of “President” Donald Trump, whose impeachment for attempts to corrupt the 2020 election were both justified and accurate. So was the Article of Impeachment about obstruction of justice, an action that Trump has taken multiple times and in multiple ways during his administration, all while crying out that he is the victim of a “witch hunt.”
But the witch hunt that sprung into life on January 6 was one driven by those who support Trump, and no one else. It bears echoes of the witch hunt conducted by Michigan Trump supporters who first stormed that state’s Capitol building, then conspired to kidnap the state governor.
The witch hunt also burst into murderous flames in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a young kid inflamed by propagandistic rhetoric about the actions of Antifa, and not the cause of their concerns, shot several people to death in what his supporters immediately claimed as an act of “self-defense.”
It won’t be long before Trump makes the same claim for himself, that his supporters were acting in on his behalf, as an act of “self-defense” against the supposedly fraudulent results of the election. That is the Big Lie upon which all of Trumpism now depends. It is one Trump originated even before the 2016 election took place. It is a lie he will likely repeat until his is in his grave. He simply can’t accept the reality that Antifa exists in direct relationship to his fascist persona and the actions it has begotten.
That is the ultimate irony in all of this. Trump supporters refuse to understand that Donald Trump brought this upon America, and upon himself.