Saturday Thoughts: Trumpism is Being Preserved, Not Trump
That is what is revered by "Team Normal"
Supporters of President Donald Trump rally in Beverly Hills, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020.
Trump, the Man
First of all, it is very honorable that Speaker Rusty Bowers and many like him stood up for this country.
The Bulwark’s Jim Swift pointed out the pressure Bowers was under and he still upheld his oath:
Bowers also described people like the “Three Percenter” who showed up armed outside of his house, verbally threatening his neighbor, all while Bowers’s gravely ill daughter was inside, spending her last days on earth likely worrying about the safety of her family.
Unlike, say, Vice President Mike Pence, who while in office lived in a mansion on a heavily guarded military facility in Northwest Washington, Rusty Bowers doesn’t get government housing with top-notch security and a Secret Service detail. Bowers’s salary as a legislator is just $24,000 a year, a figure that hasn’t changed since 1998, five years after he was first elected to the statehouse.
However, many are talking about how Rusty Bowers said he will still vote for Trump after everything he has been through.
In The Atlantic, David Graham writes about how this shows a deeper problem within the Republican Party infrastructure:
I can hear the objections already: Aren’t you really just asking conservative Republicans to back Joe Biden for president? Isn’t that an absurd and unrealistic ask? It is true that I find Bowers’s claim that what Trump “did the first time, before COVID, was so good for the country” to be badly misguided. Trump was impeached for attempting to blackmail Ukraine to assist him in his campaign. He fired the FBI director for declining to offer personal loyalty. He repeatedly attempted to obstruct justice by interfering with a probe begun after that firing. He couldn’t discern the difference between neo-Nazis and counterprotesters. He coddled and subjugated himself to Vladimir Putin.
These are, however, policy disagreements. They are worth debating, and I wish Bowers (and everyone else) agreed with me that the facts show Trump was in most respects a disastrous president, but that we expect voters will disagree in a democracy.
And that last phrase—in a democracy—is the problem here. Trump tried to subvert America’s system of elections in 2020 and 2021, a wide-ranging and elaborate, if not especially sophisticated, coup attempt. As my colleagues Bart Gellman and Jennifer Senior have reported, Trump and his allies have already begun laying the groundwork for another coup attempt in 2024.
The dissonance here is because of Trumpism, not Trump. By telling a media that conservative America has not taken seriously (for a while now) that he would support Trump, he is also aligning himself with Trumpism.
Bowers may just be doing it for political purposes, as Swift also points out, or he may actually believe in Trumpism and what he believes it was outside of the riot.
Even though Trumpism flirted with political posturing that valorized violence long before January 6th.
Trumpism, the Reactionary Wave
Trumpism is what the Republican Party is trying to cultivate. It is why there are whispers about Ron DeSantis not seeking a Trump endorsement. However, the game is to not alienate Trump, the man, without allowing him to assume major political office again. Therefore, the torch can be successfully passed to a more cunning and bureaucracy-friendly Trumper, who also understands American constitutional government much better.
This is a tightrope that has to be walked, and Bowers is showing us precisely that.
There is really no way of knowing what people say in public and private. However, context clues are given to us in our daily interactions. While visiting Florida’s Eastern Coast, I spoke with a lot of different people about a multitude of things. We talked about surfing, the NBA finals, the Florida heat wave, and one guy really wanted to talk about Trump and why he was a Republican. He was a nice fellow and very generous (we were at a bar). He also runs a small business.
But, when it came to Trump, he felt the former president “spoke his mind.”
He was clear that the media and Democrat-friendly forces were colluding to undermine Trump. The conversation didn’t go much further as it was clear others (and me) didn’t want to hear it.
However, he had a very forgiving tone when it came to Trump’s presidency altogether.
It was hard not to infer that he likely felt January 6th was not as bad as what he believed Trump was put through by insiders and/or establishment forces.
But, let’s be clear.
Trump the Man was grifting his supporters (as the Jan 6. Committee has shown) and he broke our chain of peaceful power transfers while disrespecting the nation again weeks later by not showing up at the inauguration. For many, the dark motives undergirding Trumpism do not matter in an America that is facing divisions through wealth, education, access, and healthcare.
Trumpism took advantage of the frustrations people felt about a society marketed to be one way and operates in a completely different way. It was different for everyone. Some people found Trump appealing as a pseudo-populist, and some people found him appealing in a more tribal sense.
Others just wanted him to be a wrecking ball.
Going Trump Mode
Trumpism successfully acknowledged a larger trend that is critiquing neoliberal and neoconservative doctrine.
It took long-term right-wing grievances within our politics and dressed them up into a malicious message that appeals to voters previously unactivated or quiet. But, the form those messages took revealed dark truths about segments of our country and of ourselves.
It reveals how far political practitioners were willing to go for one’s ambition, especially in the Republican Party.
It revealed an angry population that is still reeling from or failing to understand historical atrocities of the past.
It revealed a society that has grown less meritocratic in people’s access to health, information, and education.
It also revealed a nation that is forced to reckon with the potential loss of an American century.
The fissures created through Trump’s presidency and the political movement it fostered are too great for any politician to deny. It would just be political malpractice.
Rusty Bowers must go Trump mode in a state like Arizona where the 2020 election was amateurishly audited (and machines tampered with) by a group hired by partisans within the state government.
Bowers may or may not believe his answer ultimately won’t matter and/or that Trump may not get to be the 2024 nominee.
But, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bowers knew that Trumpism was here to stay with or without Trump. Part of adhering to Trumpism is hating the other side and never compromising.
This doesn’t bode well for our democracy and it does more to gaslight the public around the true depths of dysfunction within today’s Republican systems. The next attempt will be much shrewder, much better organized, and will take much more advantage of closer election results.
The modern playbook against American democracy has been released, even if its current rendition is crude and designed by a failed game show host turned one-term president.
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