November 17, 2020

We Defeated Trump, We Didn’t Defeat Trumpism

We Defeated Trump, We Didn’t Defeat Trumpism

With Trump’s loss of his re-election bid all but signed and delivered, a lot of talk has been made of what was won, and what was lost in this election. Unfortunately, many liberals have seen Trump as the disease and not the symptom when it came to one of the largest white nationalist uprisings and our governments assentation towards fascism.

Trump was defeated on Nov 3, but not Trumpism. The decades of neo-liberal policies and governance was, in fact, restored back to its original form, albeit with many more Trump loyal politicians left in positions of power. Trump lost, but his party made gains all throughout the country, even stealing seats in the Democratic controlled House, weakening their position there. While Democrats made some gains in the Senate, they need to win both run-off elections in Georgia to have control of the Senate, by one.

The election of Biden does not signal an end to Trumpism, it signals the next chapter. That is because Trump didn’t happen in a vacuum. The right has been building towards this moment for decades, and Democrats where happy to help them get there. It was the strategy of the Democrats in the 1992 election to run Bill Clinton because of his staunch support for law and order and for the death penalty. They realized the GOP was moving further right after Ronald Reagan and believed that to unseat then president George H.W. Bush, they needed to meet the conservatives much further to the right-of-center than before.

This isn’t meant to be a history lesson, but it’s important we understand this is the same strategy used by the DNC and Joe Biden’s campaign. They rebuked the democratic socialist campaign of Bernie Sanders and Biden later ran on the talking point that he “defeated socialism” when he won the party nomination over Sanders. Biden leaned hard into moderate conservative voters working to secure their endorsement and support, rather than looking to the growing left-of-center voter base that backed Sanders and had the support of popular congresswomen such as Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In the end, this strategy seems to have failed. Voter turnout among Republican voters was increased, as was the support for President Trump. The moderate conservative didn’t turn out for Biden. Instead, Biden won because many on the left showed up because they had the understanding this election was not about Biden, it was about stopping Trump. The strategy, however, lacked a vision for stopping what Trump represented, and what he’s leaving behind.

Writing in Time Magazine, Molly Ball wrote that “Even if Joe Biden wins, he will govern in Trump’s America,” a hard point to argue against when you realize that nearly 71 million Americans voted for Trump. We shouldn’t expect them to go anywhere. Worse, they are angry because they also believe this election was stolen from them and will be seeking revenge, and they won’t be willing to wait four years to try and take it back.

For those liberals who thought Biden’s election would mean an end to white nationalist marches in our streets will be sadly mistaken. We should be preparing for more, especially an increase around the inauguration of Biden. But apart from these white militias, they will be organizing to mount local campaigns in two-years to enter more far-right politicians into congress and local elections. All of this meant to create gridlock in Biden’s presidency, similar to what the Tea Party did throughout Obama’s eight years in office.

Yet, while the Tea Party was strongly rooted in racism and xenophobia, what we are witnessing today throws that into overdrive and brings in new elements of violence, conspiracy theories, and desperate desire to install a far more authoritarian regime than Tea Partiers had even envisioned all those years ago.

Democrats don’t seem up to the task of learning from their past mistakes or battling Trumpism at its root. Instead, they married to the idea that they can build an anti-Trumpist coalition by aligning with conservatives and appealing their “better angels,” to quote Biden in his victory speech.

We all know how this plays out. Republicans who work with Biden, or at this point even concede to the fact he is the president-elect will be primaried in 2 years and most out of office. Those who know this will be the case will be hostile to a Biden presidency, hoping to hold on to their seats.

As Ball wrote in Time, some elections “mark a breakthrough—the emergence of a new American majority after years of conflict and gridlock.” She cited FDR in 1932, and even Reagan’s win in 1980, which as mentioned above has led us to today. Sadly, this election is not one of those moments, but it’s still possible that Trump’s 2016 win was. If Biden cannot shift the country away from Trumpism, and it seems unlikely he can or even honestly wants to, then we will see a resurgence in Trumpist campaigns in two years, and then a White House challenge in four. All the while, still battling Trump loyalists in the streets who still believe they are in a Civil War that Trump called upon them to fight.


Image credit: Gage Skidmore