Trump and Trumpism

Donald Trump won’t be president for the next four years, but I don’t see him going way. And Trumpism won’t vanish, even if Trump did. A good reason for that is because Trump effectively personified the anger and resentment of a large segment of the population, and they saw him as their voice against a society they believed had ignored them.

Over 70 million people voted for a lying, narcissistic, marginally competent at best, and totally corrupt incumbent president. One exit poll I saw showed that 85% of his supporters voted for him because of his stand on the issues.

They like the fact that he started a trade war with China, despite the fact that it meant the U.S. government had to provide massive subsidies to U.S. farmers. They like his stand on immigration, despite his stealing money from other programs to build an almost useless wall and despite the absolute cruelty with which his immigration policies were carried out. They either like his racist stands or those stands don’t bother his supporters. They want more coal mining jobs, despite the fact that those jobs will eventually lead to the early death of most miners and that the use of coal-fired power plants make it harder for millions of Americans to breathe. They support the existing structure of police forces despite a police culture that too often relies on brutality, especially against minorities. They like efforts to reduce the voting power of minorities. And most of all, they like his brash attacks on the “liberal” and “elite establishment.”

Now… most of his supporters won’t admit to supporting those specific policies, but there’s no secret about what his stands are on any of those issues… and 70 million angry people voted for him. Some will claim that his supporters are only angry because he lost. That’s bullshit. They were angry before this election. That’s why they voted for him in 2016.

They have reasons for their anger. All across the United States, rural communities are suffering, and many are dying. The income, standard of living, and lifespans of white, non-college-educated American men have dropped over the last thirty years. They don’t like it, and they blame the government and “the establishment.” Many of them also blame women, particularly educated and powerful women.

Because of the cost of environmental regulations, many “dirty” industries went off-shore, and those that didn’t either went high-tech and automated or closed up. The men – and they were largely men – who lost jobs blame the environmentalists and federal environmental regulations. To them, clean air and water come second to having a good paying job. Balanced eco-systems just mean greater chance of failure to farmers and cattle ranchers.

I even know a fair number of writers who violently opposed the Democratic ticket. They equate Democrat proposals with authoritarian dictatorship. I also know more than a few educators and business people who feel the same way, and for all of those people, Trump’s abysmal personal characteristics are secondary to their fear of what they see as the excessively prescriptive and over-regulated nanny state.

So…for these reasons, and quite a few others, Trumpism isn’t going away any time soon, and, if the coming Biden administration doesn’t act to defuse at least some of that anger with specific policies and programs, the 2024 election could revert to one like 2016.

11 thoughts on “Trump and Trumpism”

  1. MRE says:

    Mr. Modesitt,

    I agree entirely with your points, but would add that the Republican authors who I occasionally follow online have decided to endorse this fraudulent election narrative. It’s predictably idiotic because it is so transparently self-serving that it purely acts as a barometer of partisanship. Either swallow whatever nonsense (QAnon, Pizzagate, HunterBidenBlahblah and so on) Trump’s twitter feed is vomiting forth or forever consign yourself to being a part of the Democrat .

    Perhaps the most shocking turnaround of this position is that Republicans are talking themselves into throwing out the election results and placing the crown of a king on Donald Trump’s brow—in order to prevent Democrats from “stealing” (though this is asserted online without any legal proof, and indeed the assertion comes with the caveat that legal proof is impossible to have or prove in a court because unseen forces with partisan loyalties move in the shadows) the election and forever re-electing Democrats. Despite Republicans controlling nearly all levers of power at both the national and state level. And even if local election fraud was perpetrated to the degree it altered the election outcome, the lack of even basic evidence (in stark contrast to the widespread agreement on Russian meddling, and the evidence presented by the intelligence community) of such fraud, such that it appears the admin is being laughed out of court, suggests this is a simple ploy to tear the country’s electoral institutions down rather than abide by an unpopular outcome…a feeling Democrat’s know intimately but did not indulge in 2016. Despite Russia meddling Hillary Clinton concede promptly; and that IS the important bit, contrary to what seems to be floating around the sillier parts of the internet.

    This is all the more wild because this assertion seems to be more projection than prediction on the part of Republicans, as if realizing how far beyond the pale their support of Trump has placed them, that they believe that OF COURSE any reasonable opposition would prevent a second reoccurrence of someone so vile, even if it violates democratic norms.

    It willfully ignores the fact that Joe Biden’s age and the entire reason he was chosen as the center left candidate suggests he won’t run for a second term, or if he does, will scrupulously try to adhere to Democratic traditions.

    At the end of the day I agree that the left HAS to find a way to placate the right’s fears. But assuming Trump can even be removed, it will be hard to convince politicians and voters who have just endured the madness of Mr. Trump that THEY are now required to compensate for the anger and fear that led to electing such an irresponsible political figure.

    But I pray they can find a way.

  2. Tom says:

    “I believe there can be no question that these elections were falsified,” Martin Helme (leader of “conservative” nationalist party in Estonia) said on the (EKRE party radio show). “If this works, if Trump is taken down, the US constitution will no longer be in effect.” Mart Helme (Martin’s father and Estonia’s Minister of the Interior) said the “deep state” had helped Biden win and called him a “corrupt dirtbag”, without giving any evidence for his assertions. They are both well versed politicians and well “educated”. Perhaps these remarks were for local consumption but the refrain is certainly Trumpian.

    Assume they actually believe this: do they do so because they see from the outside what 70 million US citizens believe “we have been ignored/left behind”? Or is this misinformation for use as the theoretical basis for “antisystemism” aka anarchy for local/national disunity? From my contacts in various parts of the globe this sort of US Trumpism is to some extent present in just about every country and increasingly on display. Obviously the left-behind political group must be present around the world: so we can do a Bolton and blame the UN, do a Trump and blame prior administrations for being too kind to the rest of the world, do a unionist thing and blame international trade agreements, or do a Greta Thunberg and blame global warming. None of these excuses really work.

    The doomsday people are saying goodbye to democracy not only because of Trumpian nationalism but the soon to follow culture wars or more specifically a return of the religion wars. In other words we the people are unable to master ourselves and find it easier to first blame someone else for our own mistakes/failures and secondly use simple minded beliefs as shields from the reality of our destructive behavior.

    In the US Biden has no real chance of saving our sinking democracy because we still have McConnell in the Senate, the Progressives in the House and only Roberts to encourage following the law by the unbalanced Supreme Court. These factors are ready and willing to counter whatever the Biden and Harris dream team can come up with to rebuild the US and improve the quality of life for all of us.

    Where are the Greys and the Imagers when we need them to bring order and balance to the world?

  3. Postagoras says:

    All those good jobs were lost to global corporations who fled the USA to escape the taxes and regulations of the society that created those good jobs. In the countries where those jobs are now, they’re not good jobs any more.

    The Republicans have found that it’s far easier to drum up resentment against taxes and regulations. The Democrats get much less traction when pointing at those corporations.

    The Republicans can drum up resentment against the “elites”, because it evokes a vision of a smug person looking down at you. When the Democrats try to do the same with the 1%, it fails because many people think that they’re one lucky break away from the 1%. Trump is the living example of that.

    1. One of the reasons those “good jobs” left is because Americans almost always buy on price, provided the quality is somewhere in the same range. People would have screamed if the government had imposed tariffs to raise prices on imported goods to save American jobs [which, in the long run wouldn’t have worked. Just look at Argentina, where they imposed a range of tariffs on imported manufactured goods.]

  4. Bob Deen says:

    What I don’t get (well, among many things) is how Trump so effectively demonized Biden. We know exactly what Biden will do… a continuation of 2008-2016. While those years certainly weren’t perfect, the were actually pretty good for most people… after we dug ourselves out of W’s recession. Do Trumpists simply not remember those years? How could they possibly buy into 1/10 of the vitriol? Yet they all happily parrot back how evil the world will be with Biden in power. What gives?

    1. The Republicans simply lied. They tagged Biden with Democrat proposals that he opposed. He said no new taxes on incomes under $400,000; they claimed he wanted to raise everyone’s taxes. He said that he wanted responsible environmental improvement, but not the New Green Deal; they claimed he was for the New Green Deal. He opposed Medicare for All from the beginning; the Republicans claimed he was for it. The truth no longer matters, particularly to Trump and most Republicans… witness the current claims of election fraud — even in states run and controlled by Republicans.

      1. Bob Deen says:

        Certainly the GOP leadership lied, in spades. But I was referring to the rank and file… do they have no memory of 4 years ago? How were they so easily taken in? I think it’s largely the internet echo chamber, where opinions are reinforced and no counter opinions are ever seen… but it can’t be ONLY that…. can it?

  5. MRE says:

    Two of the things this election cycle has really demonstrated in my opinion is (1) that propaganda and advertisement really work; and (2) providing the permission structure to angry Republicans to pick and choose from the marketplace of lies rather than trust experts or engage in good faith debate has succeeded spectacularly. Trump’s pettiness and vitriol have allowed people who support him to submerge their rhetoric in similar waters, as though contempt were an argument in and of itself. And the strain of victimhood that Trump embraces so desperately has appealed to a particular type of Republican (or perhaps conservative is more appropriate here) that prizes rugged individualism, but ALSO fears with barely controlled terror and rage the ascendancy of the liberal nanny state. The permission to hold the left in utter contempt (and the so-called rugged individualists were most of the way there) and the fear of perceived retribution that might accompany a Democratic led government seems to have solidified Trump’s base of supporters. Like Mr. Modesitt mentioned above, these fears simply don’t seem to match any reality I can see.

    Among Trump’s more intellectual supporters, the permission to ignore academic and expert opinion has allowed fiction and imagination to rule supreme in the worst ways. A number of conservative science fiction and fantasy authors who I follow have actually stoked these fears. President Obama’s ACA is seen as the first step off the cliff of socialism. A position that is almost insupportable to someone who grew up in Canada with public healthcare. The system is not efficient and very well might collapse over time, but it hasn’t led to some uncontrolled shift in left wing policies. If anything, the problems and budgetary issues that plague Canada’s healthcare system have provided the Conservative Party with endless political fodder of the years. Nonetheless, undergraduate level statistics that “prove” voter fraud (I just watched an application of Benford’s law that “proved” fraud without a SINGLE measure or mention of statistical uncertainty; a grave accountant simply compared two histograms of a few hundred observations, noted the ideal distribution didn’t match observed reality, and announced: FRAUD!) and fear laden howls of inevitable, creeping, socialism have announced the continuation of the election’s silly season, permanently alive online.

    Biden is the most middle of the road, milk toast, candidate I can imagine; there is no danger of a socialist uprising sweeping away the rights of Republicans. Angry tweets, sure. Furious opeds and lawsuits against Trump admin that actually broke the law, yes. But I’m guessing pardons, the need to heal the nation, and regular Democratic incompetence will temper these reactions. I think if we can get to a Biden administration, we might be able to ignore politics again.

  6. Tom says:


    To you and all our Veterans: your sacrifice was and is worthwhile.

    Thank you from all your fellow United States citizens and other peoples around the world.

  7. Ronald Maurer says:

    RAH said it in 1966:
    “Easier to get people to hate than to get them to love.”*
    Republicans have been working from that playbook for a long time. Democrats haven’t figured it out.

    *The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

    1. Bob Deen says:

      And I hope they never do. What a horrible world that would be.

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