- Donald Trump finally gave his own definition of what Trumpism really is. He stated, «many people have asked, 'What is Trumpism?' A new term being used more and more. I’m hearing that term more and more. I didn’t come up with it. But what it means is great deals».
- Trump presented his definition in the context of the most important meeting of Republican Conservatives (CPAC). Its attendants, like the vast majority of Republicans, do not make any distinction between the old Abraham Lincoln party of the past and the far-right movement that the GOP is today.
- In this sense, the Trump cult has taken over everything, and this explains why, unlike all the previous examples of defeated Republicans Trumpism continues to inhabit the magical world of his leader’s story.
Donald Trump finally gave his own definition of what Trumpism really is. He stated, «many people have asked, 'What is Trumpism?' A new term being used more and more. I’m hearing that term more and more. I didn’t come up with it. But what it means is great deals».
Among those alleged successes Trump listed the reformulation of the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, his tax cuts and his promotion of economic deregulation. But Trump also linked his neoliberal conceptions (which derive from the Ronald Reagan tradition) with a deep contempt for democratic norms and procedures that is typical of current extreme right-wing populisms such as in the cases of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy and Narendra Modi in India.
Thus, for the defeated leader, Trumpism "means strong borders", the promotion of weapons among civilians and «it means no riots in the streets. It means law enforcement (…) It means support for the forgotten men and women who have been taken advantage of for so many years».
Trump also claimed that because of Trumpism these forgotten people «were doing great. They were doing great before that horrible thing from China came in and hit us, and now they’re starting to do really well again».
In short, he proposed Trumpism was making America great before Covid-19 reached its shores. This cannot be further from reality. Coming from a man who made the democracy of the United States a victim of its militarization of politics in the context of a deep political, social and health crisis, this type of definition can only be presented in the alternative world of the mythical Trumpist story.
Thus, what is peculiar about the Trumpist definition of Trumpism is that it has nothing to do with reality but rather with an alternative representation of it. Much of the definition does not talk so much about what Trumpism is but rather about its leader would like it to be.
Trump presented his definition in the context of the most important meeting of Republican Conservatives (CPAC). Its attendants, like the vast majority of Republicans, do not make any distinction between the old Abraham Lincoln party of the past and the far-right movement that the GOP is today.
In this sense, the Trump cult has taken over everything, and this explains why, unlike all the previous examples of defeated Republicans (who, after making a postmortem analysis of defeat, they subsequently dedicated themselves to opposing concrete measures of the incoming government) Trumpism continues to inhabit the magical world of his leader’s story. In other words, most Republicans continue to insist on the great lie that Trump was the one who won the elections.
This prevents them from credibly opposing the Biden administration with realistic alternative measures. Instead, they support Trump and his utterances about things that do not exist.
For instance, Trump insisted that Biden is anti-science and undemocratic, that he is also against the rule of law and against women.
All these attributes (or rather defects) belong to Trump himself but in attributing them to Biden, he characteristically followed the projective nature of the authoritarian personality studied by the philosopher Theodor Adorno and his collaborators.
All personalist governments that present a cult of the leader, especially in the cases of fascism and populism, eventually feel the need to give themselves a doctrinal framework.
They want to give themselves an idea that defines their movement and makes it seem more serious.
They desire to inscribe themselves in the great history of political ideologies. In short, they want to dress a leader’s momentary leadership in transcendental clothing.
This is necessary because, after all, an ideology based on the opinions of a single person presents limits to its own national and international legitimacy. Above all, this claim to make the living myth part of history has mainly propaganda motivations.
To put it another way, the leaders want to explain the theoretical meaning of their person to precisely complement and give gravitas to a set of tantrums, narcissisms and constant twists and turns.
For most followers, this doctrinal moment is not experienced as a contradiction with the cult of the leader that always defined everything, but rather as the moment when the leader decides that it is time to disguise with the ropes of political theory a set of notions about power, obedience and violence.
In general, the doctrinal occasion is nothing more than that, a photograph highly decorated with concepts, ideas and whims of a given moment. But it is also a telling representation of the ideal world of leaders and followers. In the past this happened, when leaders felt comfortable enough in power to afford to tie themselves to a few phrases.
That definitional moment came to Italian fascism in 1932, when, assisted by the philosopher Giovanni Gentile, Mussolini wrote his “Doctrine” of fascism. As so often influenced by the Duce's thinking, Argentine Peronism, the original form of populism in power, gave itself a doctrine in the Mendoza Philosophy Congress in 1949 with the canonization of the slogan of the "organized community."
Other fascist and populist leaders used books, radio, and later television advertisements to try to provide canonic status to their rather banal anecdotes and thoughts, but in Mussolini, Perón and Trump there is a desire to link personal actions with a transcendental world of achievements and when this is not so much evident in reality, they appeal to fantasy.
In fascism not everything was within the state and in Peronism the community was not as organized or homogenized as Perón would have liked it to be.
In Trump’s case, shortly after his defeat the effects of his government continue to be disastrous and this is why there is a need for a rewriting of his history.
This rewriting of his myth that can only be taken seriously by his followers and believers. Thus, for the delirious defeated leader, Trumpism implies a future option to "save America" from the communist danger that he says is now represented by the Joe Biden government.
Who else could believe this?
For Trump and his Republican followers, insisting on the work of myth seems to be more important than protecting the population from the pandemic and ending the profound inequality he worked so hard to maintain or even increase. This is Trumpism in a nutshell. This is why, as of now Trump only talks to his fans. His countless lies are now a doctrinal definition for the believers.
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