Trump cannot possibly be reelected. RIGHT? COVID-19, the U.S. Economy, Russian Bounties on the Heads of U.S. Soldiers Military, a Racial Rights Awakening, and his General incompetence are reflected in all kinds of polls that make it clear- Most American’s cannot stand the man.
BUT….H.L. Mencken, the legendary cultural and political essayist, is often quoted (not quite exactly but close) as having written: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” The crowd that failed to elect Hillary Clinton and, as a result, elected Donald Trump, could mess it up again.
Despite all the polls currently favoring the Democrats. If the economy really begins to recover and the first wave of Covid-19 subsides (without a second wave striking), Donald Trump’s reelection prospects could improve greatly. The Republican Party and Trump 2020 Campaign have huge war chests ready to fund ads galore, massive targeted outreach, and widespread voter suppression.
And if all that isn’t enough, the president could try to borrow a tactic from the dictators he so admires and cancel the election outright out of concern over the coronavirus, racial war, economic meltdown or some fabricated emergency.
Ok….let’s imagine that the election happens following the trends currently in place and the president loses unambiguously. A majority of Americans will sigh with relief. He is OUT, OUT, OUT. Still, don’t count on Trump — and more importantly, Trumpism — evaporating like a nightmare at daybreak. The election is in November leaving him, his minions, his cult-like following, and very powerful supporters 75 plus days to work all kinds of mischief.
Whose in his corner if it comes down to that?
- To begin with, there’s the president’s legendary base of support, the one-third of Americans who’d continue to back him even if he were to shoot someone right out in the open on NYC’s 5th Avenue. They are likely to resist, perhaps even as an armed resistance, standing in opposition to what they might well see as a coup d’état.
- The president will still have much of the GOP’s party apparatus behind him, having transformed the Republicans into little more than a personality cult, whose members have sold their independence to ride his coattails into power. They are desperately going to want to hold onto that power.
- Trump enjoys Executive Branch institutional support as well, having replaced so many expert careerists with Trump loyalists prepared to unquestioningly do his bidding. He’s personally fired his perceived government enemies, chief among them six inspectors general. The government has been purged of the professionals by Trump Loyalist Minions like former personal assistant John McEntee, former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, and presidential aide Stephen Miller. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell has done the heavy lifting in the Senate, filling the judicial system with Trump flunkies: two Supreme Court judges, more than 50 Court of the Appeals judges, and 140 District Court judges so far.
- The president has secured a reliable cash flow, bringing the uber-wealthy class of conservative donors onto his team, a total of 80, including Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, Texas banker Andy Beal, World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder Linda McMahon, Silicon Valley guru Peter Thiel, and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. From their point of view Trump is the golden goose whose executive orders, legislation and agents have made each and every one very much wealthier and protected them from efforts to rein them in or hold them accountable.
- And then there’s the bulk of conservative civil society — ranging from think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and evangelicals like Franklin Graham to the anti-abortion lobby and the International Union of Police Associations and the right-wing media (print, broadcast and online) — that now operates in his corner.
- On the fringes roam the truly dangerous: white supremacists, live-free-or-die militiamen, and QAnon conspiracy theorists among others.
- These forces are unified by a disdain for the underlying tenets at the heart of the American Republic (despite proclaiming an unquenchable love for the American Experiment). These forces are radical and quite willing to undertake the seizure of power.
Are all these people and institutions true believers in the person of Donald Trump? Probably not. Sporting more of a performative style than a coherent ideology, he is as Lenin often (mis)quoted as saying, a “useful idiot.” – a reference to those who serve the REAL powers with knowing it. When he’s no longer useful — that is, no longer in power — he’ll only be an idiot and the opportunists will move on.
While Trump may be expendable, Trumpism (as it is conveniently named though having to do with Trump anchored thinking) is not. A virulent political underground it lies at the intersections of racial, class and sexual anxiety, hatred of government and the expert/professional class, fear of the loss of “essential rights” like that of bearing arms, any arms, and opposition to urbanism and cosmopolitan internationalism — is not so easily rooted out. Drawing heavily on American traditions of Know-Nothing-ism, America-First-ism, and Goldwater Republicanism, Nixonian Southern Strategy, Trumpism will survive the 2020 election.
If their candidate loses in November, Trumpists will dig in their heels just as their predecessors did after Barack Obama’s 2008 victory. Only a month after Obama’s inauguration, the Tea Party was already up and running and seemingly everywhere. Such resistance will aim to accelerate what Trump started — disuniting the country and destroying the democratic experiment — unless, that is, the United States was to undergo a purposeful, thorough de-Trumpification. And that is not an easy thing to do….think of Reconstruction post Civil War (and the emergence of the KKK and segregation)…..This, in addition to all of the other priorities of the next administration, the next Congress, the next Judiciary, and all that must be done at the state level has to be a priority or we will see another Flag Bearer for Trumpism (and what is really worrisome, this one might actually be kind of smart and even a bit more subtle making her/him even more dangerous). We need a change of heart and mind at our core or the nightmare will return.