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The election’s over, Joe Biden won decisively, and Republican politicians are starting to accept the inevitable. We’re not two halves of a broken country. This is when we always heal and unify, although this time it’s harder than usual.
Chances for a peaceful, productive future depend on the many-faceted ideology of Trumpism.
This ideology existed before Trump put his stamp on it. Trumpists and others share a widespread dissatisfaction with the political system, political parties, and the power of corporations. Automation and industrial decline threaten jobs. Economic inequality has grown for 40 years. Many feel that whichever party is in charge, nothing improves for working people.
Some saw Donald Trump as a different kind of leader, not corrupted by association with politics–someone who actually cares about the average American. Others who share the general dissatisfaction advocate remedies such as a $15 minimum wage and new jobs in renewable energy and infrastructure; they see Donald Trump as a dangerous con man.
Does common ground exist?
It appears a main driver of Trumpism is white supremacy, a theory invented to support European and American colonialism, slaveholding, and Jim Crow. It is a psychological prop for the insecure by providing them with others to look down on. Discrimination is embedded in social institutions (“systemic”). Add in old resentments about the Civil War and 10 years of Reconstruction, so that some 150 years later, many in Dixie could not bear the election of Obama, nor can they now abide the election of Kamala Harris as vice president.
Please, let’s finally end the Civil War.
Trumpism denies that systemic racism exists, describing racial justice protests as “riots” although the vast majority have been peaceful. A related factor is ethnocentrism: hostility toward cultures and religions other than one’s own, such as Muslims, Asians, and immigrants from Mexico and Central America. This white nationalism is incompatible with our nation’s founding ideals.
Blind faith in political leaders is usually found only in authoritarian regimes, but at the center of Trumpism is a personality cult. Many of Trump’s followers see him as a fighter, admiring his aggressive energy and his disdain for traditional norms and common civilities. He projects machismo: exaggerated masculine traits and silverback dominance. Some followers even want to believe that Trump was chosen by God.
This kind of hero worship is not healthy for a democracy. Hopefully, it will fade away when Trump leaves the limelight.
Trump supporters who are more fact-oriented point to an economy doing well before the pandemic, although they sometimes exaggerate the effects of Trump’s policies. There was more job growth in Obama’s last three years than during Trump’s first three years. Today, all sides want economic recovery. Can they agree on a hefty covid-19 relief package?
One of Trumpism’s most striking features is its disruptive, irrational, and rowdy atmosphere. Some followers are entertained by Trump’s unpredictability and gratuitous insults. They feel liberated from both society’s conventions and the rules of evidence and logic. Absurd conspiracy theories and denial of facts in plain sight abound. Rule-breaking resembles childish rebellion more than rugged individualism. “Wear a mask? You can’t make me!”
Eventually, more-adult attitudes should prevail.
Followers of Trumpism are super-patriotic, and many have proved themselves ready to fight and die for this country. Yet they are often not very knowledgeable about representative government, its history and norms. Many don’t really like government.
An important component of Trumpism is resentment of educated people, along with distrust of both science and universities. Trumpists would much sooner follow Fox News opinionators than climate scientists or public health experts.
Yet when people discard humanity’s accumulated knowledge, it becomes an even more dangerous world out there. Here’s an idea: What if we had free tuition through junior college level? And easy access to adult education courses teaching media literacy and critical thinking?
The contentious issue of abortion may become even more so now with enough Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade. This action would certainly not heal any of our divisions.
Trumpism includes many other dislikes: cities of any size, both coasts, ill-defined “elites,” Hollywood, Iran, the UN, and any kind of gun regulation. Trumpists strongly oppose socialism, which they identify with Venezuela.
One-party governments are inevitably authoritarian. What if Trumpism solidifies as a minority political party that tries to maintain one-party rule through voter suppression, gerrymandering, bad faith, and obstructionist legislators and officials?
Widespread belief in “the end justifies the means” is incompatible with democracy. It would be impossible to unify the country in this case.
Coralie Koonce is a writer living in Fayetteville. Her latest book is “Twelve Dispositions: A Field Guide to Humans.”