To defeat Trumpism, we must learn from the Left
The only way to defeat Trumpism is for it to cannabalise itself.
The size of the democratic deficit in US electoral politics is huge. The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, amongst other more nefarious things, means that of the nine sitting Justices, six were appointed by Republican presidents, despite the party losing the popular vote six out of the last seven elections.
There are structural reasons why this happens. An electoral college that biases rural, less populous area will be difficult and time consuming to change, although there are efforts being made to redress this. But also, there are political reasons for this, which are much quicker and less complicated to correct, while being just as important as anything structural.
If, for example, a portion of Bernie Sanders supporters decided to vote Democrat instead of for Donald Trump, then Hillary Clinton would have been President. The ability, though, of the Democrats writ-large and the Left more specifically to cannabalise itself is as remarkable as it is damaging.
Take this tweet accusing AOC — yes, the AOC — of selling out on her socialist credentials by doing a fashion shoot with Vanity Fair. Just imagine. The Left has a talented, determined, politically capable candidate who can communicate as well in the halls of Congress as she can on her Twitch account; someone who explicitly calls herself a democratic socialist. But, that means nothing because she has failed on one purity test that you can’t wear nice clothes if you’re a socialist.
On a more substantive level, it’s similar picture. Support of a candidate is sometimes conditional on them endorsing Medicare For All, nothing less. Or a Green New Deal, nothing less. Or a $15 minimum wage, nothing less. Compromise is a dirty word, but losing isn’t.
Conversely, the GOP has been remarkably good at rallying around Trump, even in the most unexpected circumstances. Ted Cruz, for example, former primary rival of Donald Trump who had his entire family dragged through the mud, including having his wife called “ugly”, is now, of course, a Trump supporter. I have written before about how the so-called fiscal conservatives within the Republican party add to Benjamin Franklin’s idiom of certainties. Three things in life are in fact certain: death, taxes (hold Donald Trump), and Republicans ignoring debt growth while their own party is in power. The point is, they don’t let that get in the way of support for their candidate.
For Republicans, this is simply pragmatic politics. It’s how they win elections. For others, abandoning principles is unacceptable. Principles are politics, whether you win or lose. Democrats shouldn’t stoop to the moral well that Republicans occupy, but their unflinching ability to impose purity tests on their own should be something they want to teach the GOP.
If (when) Trump loses, some argue his party will attempt to whitewash any of the support it once gave the former President. I, however, could see it going the other way. Because let's remember, even if Trump does lose, over 60 million people will likely vote for him; a significant portion of those voters will struggle to fathom the idea that Trumpism has been defeated after living in their own bubble for nearly half a decade. Whether it’s one of the President’s sons, or his daughter, or another one of his surrogates, I simply cannot see the fight for Trumpism ending when its founder leaves office. Unless, they learn from the Left.
Trumpism brings an absolutism that the party that is more often seen amongst Democrats. Take the lashing he gave to Ben Sasse, Republican Senator for Nebraska. Sasse is hardly in the mould of Romney, Collins, or Murkowski, yet he failed the purity test, and so is cast aside.
In other words, adherence to the Gospel According to Donald has become, not only more important than one’s own views, but more important than power itself; the raison d’etre of the Republican Party.
In pockets of the country, this is already happening. The Georgia Senate special election is an excellent example of Trumpian cannabalisation. Both Kelly Loeffler — sitting Senator — and Doug Collins — sitting Congressman — are seeking the Republican nomination in January’s likely run-off election.
Kelly Loeffler, once a young moderate from Atlanta is now a “Trump loyalist”, while Collins is trying to out-extreme her. In the meantime, Georgia is a battleground state, and the Democrat candidate, Raphael Warnock, polls near 50% anyway yet neither Loeffler nor Collins are able to use their own potential strengths through fear of failing Trump’s purity test.
However, one cannot talk about loyalty to Trump without talking about Lindsey Graham. The Leviathan of Trumpian purity.
This time it’s weird. In reality, Graham has been the quintessential Trump loyalist, exposing himself as a shameful hypocrite in the process and (hopefully) losing his seat as a result.
But Lou Dobbs, one of Trump’s mouthpieces at Fox News, didn’t seem to value Graham’s loyalty when he took to air and said “I don’t know why anyone… would ever vote for Lindsey Graham”.
The reason? Because Graham hasn’t “got to the bottom of Obamagate… the pressing issue of our day”. I don’t feel an ounce of sympathy for Graham, but it is quite extraordinary that he was expected to spend tax payer’s dollars on a fake, completely made up, ‘scandal’. He may as well have been asked to disprove the concept of gravity.
It is an enticing insight into the future of Trumpism that it can collapse in on itself, not on substantive policy issues, but on — quite literally — fake news.
The potential Trumpism has to cannabilise itself it clearly there. Lou Dobbs’ turn on Lindsey Graham is one example, as if the Republican dog-fight in Georgia. This won’t be enough to overcome the structural advantages the GOP has in electoral politics — the Democrats will have to work on that once they’re in power. But, by self-imposing political damage and reneging on their hitherto unshakable commitment to power, not one particular person, the Republican party can learn from the Left’s ability to collapse in on itself.