by Bob Buzzanco
Mitch McConnell and Democratic Weakness produced Trump’s successes…….
Donald Trump, it seems, still reigns over the GOP and a good portion of the country. Senators and representatives visit him to kiss his ring, the RNC is inviting him to speak at its upcoming conference, he and his supporters are unrepentant and still claiming victimhood. He won’t go away. The Monster, it seems, lives….
But Trump’s continued status is a continuation of his four years as president, built more on rhetoric, bluster, anger, and spectacle than the way he acted….because, in reality, Trump was far more limited in power than his supporters and, more importantly, his opponents ever recognized. If you want to compare him with evil historical figures, Charlie Manson and Jim Jones are much more appropriate than Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler.
In the wake of the violent attack on the Capitol by Donald Trump-incited mobs on the day of Electoral College certification, January 6th, Americans became more than ever angry, frightened, and panicked by the president’s behavior. Trump’s obviously detestable and cruel, and he’s had a significant number of accomplices and enablers in his cabinet, in the GOP-controlled senate, in the media, not to mention the 74 million voters who chose him in November.
But lost in 4 years of insane rhetoric, threats, bluster, bullying and tweets was a crucial reality: Trump never had real power, effective power. A lot of Americans, who never approved of him and didn’t vote for him, turned him into a Mega-Monster, a villain with great control and power over everyone’s life. So many people lived 4 years in a constant state of fear and anxiety, and that paralyzed so many of them from taking action—mobilizing (with the inspirational exception of the summer of 2020 rebellions), organizing, or in other ways directly resisting Trump and the GOP. But, as horrific and harmful as he was, he wasn’t some colossus, some evil genius playing 3D chess, a dictator dominating the country, a fascist……
Trump was never very popular. Despite his bluffs and bluster and constant liberal/left hysteria about how evil he was, Donald Trump was the least popular president in Gallup polling history (See Gallup and Monmouth polling averages below). He averaged a record-low 41% approval rating, never rose over 50%, the only president ever polled to not break that barrier, and finished his term at 34%. A Pew Poll taken after the Capitol riot showed him at 28% approval. A more recent Monmouth poll showed that about one-fourth of Americans do not believe the election was fair and accurate, but 56% approve of impeachment, and only 15% of respondents, and just 36% of Republicans, say Trump did nothing wrong regarding the events of January 6th. Only 5% of people polled called the rioters “patriots,” while 79% called them “criminals” or “fools.” No need to belabor it, but the point is that Trump is the least popular and supported president in modern polling history as he left office.
Trump never had broad popular backing. He was despised by other GOP candidates in 2016—such as Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul—yet won the nomination and saw his rivals make a Faustian bargain to kowtow to him, but he even lost the popular vote in 2016, saw his party thrashed in the 2018 midterms, and, though he increased his own vote total in 2020, still lost by 7 million votes. If you look further, polling shows that the positions he promoted on gun violence, abortion rights, health care, LGBTQ rights, and virtually every other major issue, he never held a majority. Culturally, he was daily eviscerated by the media and was the object of constant derision by comedians and satirists.
Yet, somehow, that lack of support and respect was not exploited by the opposition party to great effect. Yes, they won the 2018 midterms and Biden won and the Democrats managed a 50-50 senate split (and set up a Harris v. Manchin feud for the ages), yet they never put Trump away as they could have. As future analysts and scholars evaluate the way Schumer and Pelosi responded to Trump, they may, and should, be very harsh…….
Trump had no ideology, no program. Trump was/is detestable, but it’s also safe to say that the overheated and often-unhinged alarmism about Trump was overheated, often-unhinged, and alarmist (Just look at just about anything Paul Street wrote in Counterpunch). So much of that response to Trump was based on not just the awful things he’s done, but, probably more so, on his delivery, his vulgarity, his threats and bluster, his fear-mongering, his Twitter account. He’s a real peril to society for sure, but he’s also been more “normal” than the media and liberals and intellectuals ever realized, and there have been limits on his power, and there would have been ever more if the political opposition was not the “Washington Generals of Politics” (copyright, me).
Trump never had any ideology, no plan for organizing the state, no overarching vision of some program to change America, unlike most presidents. Nixon began to chip away at the liberal consensus with a move away from public institutions, a process rapidly, and rabidly, accelerated by Reagan, and finished off by the DLC, Clinton, and Obama. They remade the state and American society—deregulating and then just unleashing the banking and corporate communities, destroying social programs, increasing material, educational, and civic inequality—and laid the groundwork for the government to do much less for ordinary people and create much more wealth for a tiny fraction at the top.
Trump’s legacy, in terms of policy, will be tax cuts and deregulation—which have been part of the neo-Liberal playbook for a half century. Carter deregulated key industries, Reagan and Bush and Obama slashed taxes, Clinton “reformed” welfare and the carceral state, Obama was “the only thing between you and the pitchforks,” he assured Wall Street bankers. So Trump, which more crudely and crassly favoring the rich, fit within a clear tradition. No, Trump’s real legacy wasn’t programmatic–it was unleashing people into the streets with Swastika and Confederate flags and legitimating them, encouraging violent right-wing groups to attack Blacks and Anarchists, openly promoting misogyny and homophobia, and when everything came to an end in the election of November 2020, trying to burn everything down on his way out of D.C.
Trump’s successes can be directly linked to two factors—the ruling class’s willingness to adapt and exploit him, and an enfeebled and craven political opposition. First, power in America is wielded by men and women in tailor-made suits in boardrooms, who in turn work with and often control the political class and the agents of the state, like the military and police, which enforce their oligarchic interests. Those people, mostly, never respected or trusted Trump and never believed he should be president. But he was. So they used him to get richer and then ditched him. Lloyd Blankfein, former CEO of Gold Sachs, didn’t hedge words, making it clear that “for Wall Street, it was lower taxes, less regulation. He was delivering what ‘we’ wanted. We put a clothespin on our nose. We weren’t ignorant of the kind of risks we were taking. We repressed them.”
Whatever political victories Trump gained, and he did get some big wins, were the result of factors that he didn’t control or even guide, as Blankfein explained. Trump’s core value that wealthy people should be wealthier and that the state should make that easier to happen coincided with Wall Street, and so trillion-dollar tax cuts, deregulation, and far-right Federalist Society judges were the outcome.
But there was a second huge reason for Trump’s successes…..the Democrats. The GOP had been running roughshod over the Democratic Party for decades already before 2016—Willie Horton ads, the Contract
on with America, impeaching Clinton, stealing the 2000 election, Birtherism and racist attacks on Obama, stealing a Supreme Court seat, and constant gerrymandering, voter suppression, and dirty tricks throughout. Amid this very open and public display of the most hardcore political hardball, the Democrats became more fearful and moved further to the Right, embracing their genuine commitment to DLC corportatist values, but also morally craven and afraid to pick a fight with the Republicans for fear of scaring off the vital center, which it had already lost anyway.
Trump was a huge beneficiary of Democratic incompetence, weakness, and cowardice. He won in 2016 because Hillary Clinton ran the most dismal campaign imaginable. Yet the Democrats chased Russian and Ukrainian chimeras instead of mounting a political alternative based on real conditions, economic, social, racial, gender-based, medical. They engaged in performative resistance like clapping and tearing up speeches and wearing Kente cloth far too often, and failed to assert strong positions on issues like health insurance, abortion, gun violence, COVID, elections, racial issues, police violence and others even though majorities, usually clear majorities supported their positions. They were obsessed with the spectacles of his words and behavior and tweets more than what he was actually doing. In any future examination of the horrors of Trump, Democratic complicity via its performative resistance, and its weakness and political ineptitude has to be a major point of analysis.
Trump was more “normal” than Liberals will ever realize. Twitter and horrific rhetoric aren’t actions and policies. Trump’s behavior and his Executive Orders were often cruel and harmful, but done in the face of feeble resistance from the Democrats and consistent with conservative American politics. The idea that Trump was “something we’ve never seen” or it was wrong to normalize him because he was such a great departure from American political history was and will always be wrong and counterproductive to a historical/political analysis. Trump was a continuation, not a great leap forward, of horrific policies targeting America’s poor and non-white and marginalized for decades.
Barry Goldwater ran a campaign not at all dissimilar to Trump’s and even promised to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Richard Nixon based his candidacy on “law and order” and used the same images of Black protestors, antiwar demonstrators, and hippies that we’ve seen in the Trump years. Reagan may not have been overtly racist like Trump, but his ideology surely had that effect, and his tax cuts shifted wealth upward as much as Trump’s did; plus, he was far more interventionist in Central America, with more bloody consequences, than Trump was anywhere else.
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, liberal saints, ramped up the incarceration of the poor, especially Blacks, took care of Wall Street at the exclusion of workers in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Gary, Youngstown and similar places, deported immigrants en masse, “triangulated” with the Republicans and compromised on issues that had broad support among Democratic constituencies but had GOP opposition, while allowing Mitch McConnell and others to control the political agenda in the Congress. Oh, and they used traditional constituencies like unions and African Americans as foils to show they were “new Democrats.” And we’re aware of the horrors of the Bush-Cheney years—two ugly and bloody and costly wars, repression at home, torture chambers, and a huge economic crash. So keep the horrors of Trump in perspective.
Though the rhetoric and overt cruelty and open invitation to the worst racist and sexist creatures in America was different to be sure—Trump was “a different kind of cat”—his actions fell within the established spectrum of presidential behavior. It can’t be stressed enough, his rhetoric and tweets enabled him to create fear and the Liberals played right into it, giving him the political oxygen to maintain the false image that he dominated America. He didn’t. Trump’s usually-unhinged social media postings were a political aphrodisiac to liberals and much of the Left—working them into a frenzy over what he said and often being distracted from what his administration and GOP-controlled senate did.
Like any president or other powerful official, in the state or in the world of privately-controlled Capitalism, there were limits on Trump and he should have been opposed and resisted in much more aggressive ways, rather than feared and left unfettered to do continued damage. It’s important to understand and think about those limits, because Trumpism isn’t gone and won’t be disappearing soon. The Left needs to be clearheaded and strong, not always weak and reactive and defensive and accommodating.
Trump’s power never came from control of the state, his constant talk of “dominating” notwithstanding. Power in the Trump administration was was wielded by Mitch McConnell in the congress, Bill Barr in the legal world, and his various propagandists in the media, especially his Fox News myrmidons. These people had no sincere respect or affinity for Trump, but gained huge money and power from him. Like Frankie Pentangeli said to Michael Corleone, “your father did business with Hyman Roth . . . “but he never trusted Hyman Roth.” Surely, no one in Trump’s circle trusted him but saw countless ways to get what they needed out of him.
While Trump never understood how political power was wielded in America, the way the ruling class operated or the intricacies of politics (McConnell, Kohn, Mnuchin, Barr, and his GOP enablers handled that for him) he did know how to incite the MAGA-Mob, and that became the basis of his political movement—anger, hatred, conspiracy, grievance, violence.
In a sense, anomalously, the president, the ranking official in America, led an extrajudicial regime while his lieutenants kept the state functioning. The COVID crisis offered the best demonstration of this. A global pandemic that was killing thousands of American daily by April, an economic crash due to the need to shut down public places because the Coronavirus spread so easily, and calls, pleas, and demands from all segments of political society—including the media and the Democrats—for him to take federal action, executive action to produce or distribute PPE, to establish and enforce rules on public behavior and even simply movement, to establish an effective testing program, to simply tell people to wear masks all could have led to a massive expansion of Trump’s power, a huge extension of the state into so many aspects of political and personal life.
And he did ….. nothing. He took the most radical approach imaginable—simply do nothing to provide tests, deny the severity of the crisis, argue with medical experts publicly, reject medical advice, casually watch immense numbers of people get ill and die. It was as if Trump wanted to run away from power, not seize it.
Trump’s relative lack of power was boldly visible throughout the election of 2020. During the rebellions of last summer, as he tweeted furiously about “thugs” and promising “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” the street protests grew bigger and mainstream American institutions like corporations began flying “Black Lives Matter” banners, creating ads featuring their commitments to racial diversity, and creating scholarships and other funds for minority communities—was this a campaign to commodify and coopt their protest? Absolutely.
But it ran 180 degrees away from Trump’s insistence on “domination” and “strength” and violence. The corporate ruling class took matters into its own hands. While the scenes of Trump’s thugs in unmarked cars and unidentified uniforms were terrifying, again, they’re not that far outside typical American repression, and the levels of violence were actually much smaller than historical uprisings of that sort. In the 1960s, the rebellions in Detroit, Watts, Newark and elsewhere all saw over 40 deaths each, and the Rodney King uprising over 60. In other words, LBJ used the repressive powers of the state far more violently than Donald Trump. And throughout those rebellions, the media and even elected officials, rather than fearing Trump, were most effective when they mocked him, tweeting at him to stay out of their cities problems and deriding him as “bunker boy.” Even symbolic resistance threw Trump off.
Trump had the most contentious relationship with the military of any modern president. Crucially, Trump’s insistence on violence in the summer of 2020 led to a very public and extraordinary rupture with the military. The military’s main goal is not to go to war or attack people in the streets—it’s to get ever-increasing military budgets and new weapons from its industrial partners, whom they can work for after their retirements (hence the “Military-Industrial” Complex). When Trump pushed to deploy active-duty military in the streets, and used JCS Chair Mark Milley in a photo op at St. John’s, the blowback was immediate and enormous.
Various military chiefs of staff issues statements affirming their dedication to obeying the constitution and to racial diversity, and Milley himself publicly apologized days later, which is unprecedented in military affairs–for more on this see here. Shortly thereafter, the story broke that Trump referred to soldiers who’d died during D-Day as “suckers” and “losers.” His already weak-standing and lack of respect in the military sunk ever further. Strongmen, especially those who want to engineer a “coup,” don’t alienate the one group essential for a forced takeover of the state (a state Trump never showed any real interest in controlling anyway), the military.
And, most extraordinarily, General Mark Milley and all the chiefs collectively put out a statement after the events of January 6th denouncing the Capitol riot and making it clear that they recognized Biden as the incoming Commander-in-Chief (for more on this check out my interview with Andrew Bacevich, the esteemed retired Colonel and Professor, and expert on civil-military relations).
“His” judges and politicians rejected his electoral challenges. Trump’s increasingly deranged conspiracies about an election he clearly, and decisively, lost would eventually, maybe inevitably, lead to a violent mob he incited attacking the Capitol. But by that time, a nihilistic grouping of alt-Right militias and tinfoil hat crackpots was all he had left, and you don’t stage a “coup” with people like that. Trump by January 6th was left with such a ragged and dismal, albeit violent, crew for a last-ditch and doomed effort to somehow upend the election results in large part because GOP politicians and judges had rebuked him throughout the entire time he tried to overturn the vote.
Trump lost 60 court challenges in various states, and in almost every instance a GOP-appointed judge, often Trump’s own picks, rejected his efforts to throw out votes. Even more, the Supreme Court, with 3 Trump justices on it, refused to even hear any of his challenges, and in the end, when even Mike Pence finally broke with Trump on the issue of electoral certification, he was advised by well-known Federalist Society lawyers on the letter he penned explaining how he had no legal role to play in changing Electoral votes. In response to Pence’s decision to uphold the law, Trump’s threat was “I don’t want to be your friend.”
Just as importantly, a good many GOP politicians stood up to Trump, especially the right-wing Governor and Secretary of State of Georgia, Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger, who take a back seat to no one when it comes to stealing elections. While Trump was putting intense pressure on Republican officials in states that he lost by closer margins—especially Georgia and Pennsylvania, and Michigan—which he lost by a much more significant amount–GOP officials “humored” him (words some of them used) by having multiple recounts and acting like they were seriously engaging his ideas, but in the end accepted Biden’s victory (of course, there were, and remain, many GOP state legislators who didn’t, but they were fated to fail).
Closer to home for Trump, Christopher Krebs, the Director of Cybersecurity in DHS, rejected the president’s claims of election fraud, and was promptly fired. White Shoe legal firms fled from him and he was stuck with the “elite strike force” of Giulinai, Sydney Powell, and Lin Wood. But most importantly, Trump’s consigliere and clean-up man, the person who turned the Department of Justice into Trump’s personal strip mall law firm, Bill Barr even had to concede that there was no evidence of election fraud. Following Barr’s resignation, Trump continued to press the DOJ to invalidate the election and even got to the Supreme Court to get it to overturn the results. He was met with the threat of mass resignation.
If a president has real power—let alone if he’s an authoritarian or, egads, a “fascist,” he’d be able to easily manipulate or coerce judges, justices, elected officials from his own political group, or government administrators to do his dirty work for him. In fact, they wouldn’t need to be told….The repeated rejection of Trump’s claims in the courts and statehouses and even the White House, it really shouldn’t need to be said, offers stark evidence of his lack of political control and in fact his stark unpopularity if not hatred by so many of his own people.
But no group showed how limited Trump’s power was like the financial and economic oligarchy…he was left with “lumpen” oligarchs. I’ve written and spoken about this at length, so I’ll be brief here (for more detailed explanations of Trump’s lack of support from the ruling class, see “Is Trump a Fascist? Will There Be a Coup?”; “Hysteria About Fascism and Coups Hurts the Left”; “This Is Not a Coup”; and Green and Red Podcast episodes “Ruling Class 101 and the Coup That Wasn’t”; and “The Capitol Hill Riots and the Ruling Class”).
While Trump had the support to the bitter end of people like Mike Lindell, “the My Pillow guy,” Dick Uihlein, a billionaire GOP fatcat who runs a business supplies corporation and has donated $4.3 million to Republicans in the past two election cycles, the longtime reactionary Club for Growth, the heiress to Publix grocery chain, who paid for the Trump rally that preceded the riot, dark money groups, a shell company, American Made Media Consultants—allegedly run by Jared Kushner and listing Lara Trump as president, Mike Pences’ nephew as VP, and the Trump campaign’s CFO as its treasurer and secretary—which took half of the $1.2 billion raised for the campaign and shielded it from the public, and dying extractive industries like coal and steel, traditional big-money donors either stayed away from him or openly opposed him as the election approached. Even Fox News was no longer loyal enough for Trump, and One America News and Newsmax rushed into the void. He was left with what I call the lumpen oligarchs. No one is going to mistake the CEO of My Pillow for a Wall Street mover and shaker.
As the election drew near, Jamie Dimon, The Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce, and several Tech CEOs warned Trump about any attempt to steal the election. After the election was called officially for Biden and Trump continued his bizarre claims that he had actually won in a landslide and had it stolen, several corporations not only smacked him down, but announced they would not contribute to GOP senators and representatives who were going along with Trump and voting to challenge Electoral College certification.
And, after the violence of January 6th, the National Association of Manufacturers, the uber-reactionary GOP business group, and the Wall Street Journal, the bible of the ruling class, warned the GOP about the riots in the Capitol, urged the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, and urged Trump to resign.
Since January 6th, the ruling class, the oligarchs, the elites, the “pillars of power,” or whatever you may call them, have been distancing themselves from Trump and the GOP. Despite that, Republican representatives continue to pay homage to the ex-president, perhaps because they want his blessing in their own future campaigns, perhaps because they want the support of his famed “base,” perhaps because he has incriminating dossiers on them that show ever more horrific behavior than what we’ve witnessed publicly, or maybe they just have the same bigotries and ignorance he does.
That continued loyalty, however, should not be taken as a sign of strength or power. In reality, the GOP has been badly wounded. As the well-known establishment pundit Charlie Cook, of the Charlie Cook Political Report has explained, “An impressive amount of unreleased survey research—both quantitative polls and qualitative focus groups—since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol suggests that between 25 and 30 percent of Trump voters now have very mixed feelings about having backed him. They are less likely to believe that the election was stolen, and they were alarmed by the attack in Washington. They care more about the coronavirus pandemic and the direction of the economy.”
And not only is that mythical MAGA-army backtracking, albeit slowly, the FBI and Homeland Security have now designated the violent right-wing groups that Trump incited as the greatest domestic threat and begun intensified campaigns to take them out, choices that were forbidden in the Trump years, and a reversal that occurred so quickly that it’s indicative of Trump’s failure to establish institutional power, no matter how many unqualified lackeys he put into government posts. Whatever structure Trump had in place, and the point to emphasize is that he really didn’t, has started to crumble quickly, surely not the sign of a strong regime and clearly not close to the unhinged Street/WSWS shrieks of “fascism” that had become so prevalent in Leftist discourse.
Coda: The Meaning of Donald J. Trump, Paper Tiger
No one has loomed above American politics, in fact American life, like Donald J. Trump has since 2016. So much of this was a product of the proliferation of social media, giving us the surreal spectacle of government by Twitter. But, probably even more than the positive myths of FDR, JFK, and Reagan, the mythical persona of Trump–all-powerful, monstrous, dictatorial, fascist even–dominated American life, emboldening his supporters (always a minority of the country) and terrifying and paralyzing his critics and opponents (whom always held majority views).
I don’t want to get too carried away with comparing the U.S. today to the People’s Republic of China at mid-century, but Mao’s great insight and advice came to me often the past four years
Now U.S. imperialism is quite powerful, but in reality it isn’t. It is very weak politically because it is divorced from the masses of the people and is disliked by everybody and by the American people too. In appearance it is very powerful but in reality it is nothing to be afraid of, it is a paper tiger. Outwardly a tiger, it is made of paper, unable to withstand the wind and the rain. I believe the United States is nothing but a paper tiger.
Donald J. Trump is the ultimate paper tiger, should have been evaluated that way for the past four years, and must be analyzed in that context going forward. If not, we will continue to cower and remain inactive in fear of someone whose power derived personally from a vitriolic Tweeter feed, from cruelty and villainy, but mostly from the guidance of Mitch McConnell and Bill Barr and, just as much, if not more, from the political cowardice and ineptitude of Pelosi’s and Schumer’s Democratic Party.
To be clear, nothing here is intended to downplay or shrug off the horrors of the past four years. Trump incited division among Americans more publicly than anything we’ve seen in living memory, he accelerated the destruction of the environment at a frightening pace, his tax and tariffs plans hurt working people and made billionaires even wealthier, he legitimated right-wing violence in the streets, and, most damningly, he ignored, made worse actually, a highly infectious virus that has now caused nearly a half-million deaths, but which could have been pretty well contained at least by simply wearing a mask–yet he turned that into an issue about “tyranny” so instead of a community-based approach to a pandemic, we got violent protests about mask-wearing. He owns all of this.
But there were always limits, usually pretty notable limits, to Trump Power. He had no majority support and now, because of his erratic, probably psychopathic, ways, he’s facing myriad legal problems and, for the time being, has caused the GOP to be blacklisted by the oligarchy itself–including Charles Schwab, Nike, Walt Disney, Facebook, Microsoft and Google, Wal-Mart, Northrop Grumman, Comcast, Verizon, Amazon, BP, AT&T, JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Marriott, Blue Cross Blue Shield, AirBnb, Dow, BlackRock, and the Vatican of Capitalism even, Goldman Sachs. Even Bill Belichick turned down the Presidential Medal of Freedom! It would have been inconceivable to see a roster of the ruling class like that one aligned against the GOP, yet somehow Trump did it.
Obviously, these banks and corporations are not coming over to the side of the people and once “stability” returns they’ll be more bipartisan in making their billions rain down on political candidates, but the fact that they’ve taken such extraordinary measures because of Trump is prima facie evidence of the limits, and ultimately, absence of his power. Same with his repudiation from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other military officials, and various retired and influential generals. When you not only don’t have the loyal obeisance of the military and economic elite, but they actively detest you, you’re not only not close to being a fascist, but you don’t have much useful power either.
He may still have Lindsey Graham, Kevin McCarthy, Cruz and Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jordan and Gaetz, and the others in that GOP rogue’s gallery, but history will leave them in the dust. While they were able to steamroll the gelded Democrats, they stand no chance against Wall Street and the military. The GOP was able to rule by class alliances with corporations that made trillions off Trump in 2017 and by intimidation, until it wasn’t…..And now the oligarchy has an old friend back in office, and they’ll get no such crisis from Joe Biden. Indeed, Biden put out a flood of Executive Orders in his first week in office to undo much of the worst of Trump, an indication of the unpopularity and weakness of his predecessor, who governed not by creating an institutional structure, but by issuing orders that have now been easily overturned. That won’t reverse the damage Trump has done, but does provide clarity, and hopefully a blueprint for resistance, on how he did it.
And that needs to be stressed constantly too. Weak and feckless Democrats made Trump’s life exponentially easier. When challenged, as with the spontaneous airport demonstrations when he announced the Muslim Ban, during the 2018 elections, frequently throughout the rebellions he incited in the aftermath of the Floyd and Taylor murders, and during his election debacle, he was forced to back down, even in the end by his own people like Pence and Barr. Leftist hysteria about Trump created four years of anxiety and fear and paralyzed far too many people from getting out and engaging in real resistance–organizing, mobilizing, activism, direct action, and street politics of various kinds.
In the aftermath of the elections, Democrats blamed their poor down-ballot showing on street protests and “snappy slogans” like “Defund the Police” (which is a policy and a program, not a slogan) and barely talked about the continuing crisis of police attacking and killing people–mostly poor, many on the left, mostly non-white–and facing no consequences for it. The Democrats were never any type of real “resistance” to Trump, and it’s likely they’ll continue their timid and frightened ways going forward, even as a majority party.
Indeed, since the rise of Trump, the Democratic Party exerted more effort and vitriol in going after, and blaming, Bernie Sanders, the Green Party, RUSSIA! of course, people in the streets, and demonstrators who threw bricks through corporate windows than they ever did in creating an effective, not just performative, opposition to Trump.
So, as Trump awaits an impeachment trial that won’t end in conviction, but, if played right, will further delegitimate and destabilize both the GOP and Trump’s legacy, what are we left with? An ex-president who can’t get a credible lawyer to represent him, with only 15 percent of Americans thinking he did nothing wrong on 1/6, almost 60% wanting him convicted, the lowest approval ratings in presidential polling history, never having won the popular vote in an election, Wall Street and the military hating him, yet GOP reps continue to kiss Trump’s ass while the the Dems continue to fear him. They’ve created a super-Monster out of someone with limited power and less popularity, and that’s even waning by the day.
American politics is like a years-long episode of “The Twilight Zone,” and we’re not out of it yet. But understanding that the past 4 years haven’t been some kind of analogue to Nazi Germany or the American Civil War is important to start. Trump was cruel, racist, ignorant, and violent, like a lot of other American presidents. He just tended to do it on Twitter and with more menace. The response to him should never have been, and can’t be now, to fear him and treat him like a huge bogeyman who’s trying to steal the country for his own use and control all our lives. It’s to understand that this is how power operates, and he wasn’t really good at it, and the future may bring something much worse (President Cotton?), and we need to be prepared for that.
All of the ideas discussed above have had extensive media coverage. Here are just a few sources for more information……..