Today, TomDispatch regular John Feffer, weekly columnist at Foreign Policy in Focus, considers a crucial question should all truly go well on November 3, 2020: If Donald Trump loses the presidency, how can this country be de-Trumpified, or can it?
For now, we continue to live in Trump's "deep state" (of insanity and inanity). If, these days, you aren't in the United States, you're probably wondering how the wealthiest, most powerful nation on the planet could let the Covid-19 pandemic run quite so wild, or how its president could actually promote a disease super-spreader of a rally to be filled with MAGAmaniacs, some of whom camped out in groups for days around the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and then sat shoulder to shoulder with unmasked others shouting and cheering their hero. (Fortunately, teenage TikTok users and K-Pop fans, through an online ruse, helped keep that arena more than half empty!)
Meanwhile, back in March, already in the pandemic season, Trump's acting director of the Office of Management and Budget reemphasized to Congress the administration's commitment to cutting budgets for health services (even as the Pentagon's continues to rise), "including a 15 percent cut of $1.2 billion to the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and a $35 million decrease to the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund's annual contribution." Talk about the deep state of doo-doo that's America today! To give Donald Trump credit, however, you simply couldn't make this stuff up. So, in June 2020, think of yourself as officially in the "deep state" of Donald Trump and consider Feffer's thoughts about how we might begin to make our way out of that swamp, assuming things don't go very, very wrong in November. Tom
What Will It Take to Defeat Trumpism?
Learning Lessons from the End of the Confederacy, Nazi Germany, and Saddam's Iraq
By John Feffer
Let's assume that Donald Trump loses the election in November.
Yes, that's a mighty big assumption, despite all the polls currently favoring the Democrats. If the economy 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 has a huge war chest ready to fund ads galore, massive targeted outreach, and widespread voter suppression. And if all that isn't enough, the president could borrow a tactic from the dictators he so admires and cancel the election outright out of concern over the coronavirus or some fabricated emergency.
Playing up fears of Trump's reelection is a useful get-out-the-vote strategy, but for the sake of argument, let's imagine that the election happens and the president loses unambiguously. A majority of Americans will sigh with relief. Still, don't count on Trump -- and more important, Trumpism -- evaporating like a nightmare at daybreak.
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 on New York City's Fifth Avenue (or, through criminal negligence, effectively murder more than 100,000 people by ignoring a pandemic for 70 days). Such Trumpists aren't going to suddenly emigrate en masse to New Zealand, as some liberals threatened to do after the last presidential election.
For the time being, the president still has an entire party apparatus behind him, having transformed the Republicans into little more than a personality cult, banishing dissenters like former Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker to the political hinterlands, and silencing the handful of so-called moderates that remain.
Trump enjoys institutional support as well, having replaced so many putative deep-staters with civil servants prepared to unquestioningly do his bidding. He's personally fired his perceived government enemies, chief among them six inspectors general. Minions like former body man John McEntee, former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, and presidential aide Stephen Miller have all purged experts, replacing them in the government bureaucracy with loyalists. 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 Appeals judges, and 140 District Court judges so far.
Ever the money man, the president has secured a reliable cash flow, bringing the uber-wealthy class of conservative donors onto his team, a total of 80 billionaires, including Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, Texas banker Andy Beal, World Wrestling Entertainment cofounder Linda McMahon, Silicon Valley guru Peter Thiel, and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Thanks to his violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, Trump has also funneled taxpayer money into his own business: millions spent on rooms at the Trump Organization's hotels and golf clubs. Even before factoring in his money -- Trump personally spent $66 million of his own dollars on the 2016 election -- his campaign fund already has more than one-third of a billion dollars.
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 -- that now operates in his corner. Despite the entertainment world's general loathing of the president, he's even lined up a celebrity or two like rapper Kanye West and actress Roseanne Barr along with a handful of D-listers like actor Jon Voight and Barack Obama's half-brother Malik. On the fringes roam the true "bad hombres": white supremacists, live-free-or-die militiamen, and QAnon conspiracy theorists.
Taken together, these component parts of Trumpism form that most dangerous of creatures, a political chimera with the head of an establishment machine and the body of a radical social movement. This creature has its hands on the levers of power, its boots on the ground, and its eyes on the prize of four more years.
Are all these people and institutions true believers in Donald Trump? Probably not. Sporting more of a performative style than a coherent ideology, he is, to misquote Lenin, a "useful idiot." 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 -- which lies at the intersections of racial and sexual anxiety, hatred of government and the expert class, and opposition to cosmopolitan internationalism -- is not so easily rooted out. Drawing heavily on American traditions of Know-Nothing-ism, America-First-ism, and Goldwater Republicanism, Trump's essential worldview will survive the 2020 election.
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