Trumpism without Trump: a political paradox

 

Trumpism without Trump: a political paradox

Can Trumpism survive without Trump? The former president believes so, , and so do those – like the Republican senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley – now jostling to take on his mantle. Yet it’s unclear what remains of Trumpism, once you have taken the man himself out of the mix. His administration was characterised less by a policy agenda than by “the utter lack of one”. There was no consistency: he “promised voters a thousand different and often mutually contradictory things”. Trump’s success rested on his larger-than-life celebrity persona. He was an object of fascination because he was that rare breed – a “wealthy guy who talked like a working-class guy”. Beyond that, there’s no real legacy. “Trump’s voters can’t be captured by some watered-down imitator or slavish henchman because the only way to win his voters is to be him.”

There is something to this argument, As one observer put it, Trumpism without Trump is like “chocolate chip ice cream without chocolate chips”. But while there was a scattergun quality to his agenda, it did contain a few consistent themes, such as economic protectionism, individual freedom and “a modest foreign policy mindful of the national interest”. These still resonate. Trump’s unique style is not replicable, but his successors can emulate his “spirit of patriotic indignation” and the courage with which he confronted “political correctness, cancel culture and the scorn of progressive censors”.

Trump is unlikely to ever run again, His reputation has taken too much of a battering and he’ll probably be too tied up in prosecutions. But make no mistake: Trumpism “is still just emerging”. History shows that personality-driven movements have “remarkable staying power”,Look at Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi: after decades of scandal, he still has political influence and a loyal base. Look at Juan Perón, whose populist movement continues to be the pre-eminent political force in Argentina more than 40 years after his death, thanks partly to the “narrative of victimisation” generated by his exile. Or at Peru’s Alberto Fujimori, whose children now lead rival factions of his movement. Whether Trumpism follows the path of “Berlusconism, Perónism, Fujimorismo, a combination of the three, or none at all”, it’s likely to shape US politics for a long time to come.

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