Saturday, December 03, 2022

Chauncey Devega on the Ongoing Danger of the Trump Cult

. . . and the Wider Specter of American Fascism

Chauncey Devega has penned a timely and insightful piece for Salon in which he documents how even as many GOP voters “would prefer a friendlier face for fascism,” they are “still held hostage by the Trump cult.” Following is an excerpt.


Public opinion research shows that a large number of Americans – for various reasons, not all of them entirely noble or about saving “democracy” – are tired of the extremism, turmoil and chaos of Trumpism and the larger Republican fascist movement. In the recent midterm elections, millions of Americans voted to slow or stop the Republican Party’s “red tide” and in doing so won a brief reprieve in the struggle against authoritarian rule.

On a fundamental level, the midterms also represented a direct pushback against Donald Trump as most major candidates he personally endorsed, along with other banner-carriers for the Big Lie about the 2020 election, were rebuffed at the polls. Even Republican voters and previous Trump voters appear to be tiring of him.

Many such voters still support Trumpism and neofascism for various reasons – including racial grievance-mongering, political thuggery, moral panics over “culture war” issues and other anti-democratic behavior – but would prefer those things in a “friendlier” and less “toxic” package. Let’s not delude ourselves: Many if not most Trump and Republican and other right-wing voters want to end multiracial pluralistic democracy in America, but want to do it in a more “respectable” or “professional” fashion.

Republican elites and gatekeepers have clearly grown tired of what they now see as Donald Trump’s limitations in advancing their authoritarian agenda. In essence, the Trump movement was a successful proof of concept about how to undermine American democracy in the 21st century by breaking longstanding norms and institutions – up to and including the attempted coup that culminated on January 6, 2021. As president, Trump also had enormous instrumental value for the “conservative” movement’s reactionary-revolutionary agenda, largely because he appointed three right-wing Supreme Court justices and reshaped the federal judiciary.

The mainstream media and its professional centrists are also growing tired of Trump and his movement and appear eager to anoint a new Republican leader who is more “mainstream” and “traditional,” supposedly heralding a return to “normal politics” and an end to the existential threat to American democracy. Such a conclusion is premature and based more on hope than evidence. Indeed, it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of political reality and the true danger of American neofascism.

Here is the basic problem: By and large, the American people and the political class are tired of Donald Trump. But he is not tired of the spotlight or ready to leave the public stage.

That is unmistakably a dangerous situation. Trump is likely a sociopath, if not a psychopath. He is a cult leader who possesses tremendous allure and dark magnetism, and who still commands a following in the many tens of millions. He continues to threaten violence and chaos if he is indicted and prosecuted for his many obvious crimes, which include violating the Espionage Act and the coup attempt of January 2021. Recently Trump has embraced the most extreme figures in the white supremacist movement, which includes avowed neo-Nazis and other antisemitic hate-mongers.

Several weeks ago, Trump finally announced that he will run for president again in 2024. Trump has suggested that if he returns to the White House he will seek revenge against his designated enemies – which would include putting journalists and by implication other people who criticize him in prison. Trump has also said he will pardon his followers who attacked the Capitol on January 6.

Trump’s followers and cultists would welcome such a tyrannical reign, of course. They never want the story to end. For them, the chaotic, destructive and antisocial energy of Trumpism is experienced as a powerful force of liberation, an opportunity for revenge against “political correctness” and “the elites” they believe have oppressed and marginalized them.

Donald Trump has multiple pathways to remaining in control of the Republican Party and continuing to menace the American people. At this point, he remains the leading Republican candidate for 2024. He has a firm base of support among older and more conservative voters, one that is far stronger and deeper than any of his rivals command. He has amassed a huge war chest for his 2024 campaign and associated super PACs.

If Republican voters and right-leaning independents are offered the choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden (or literally any other Democrat), nearly all of them will overcome whatever reluctance they feel and choose Trump. They will do this knowing that a second Trump term will bring renewed chaos and destruction. If Trump is somehow not the Republican Party’s nominee in 2024, he will do everything in his power to destroy it.

Mainstream media, professional politics watchers and “respectable” conservatives have repeatedly assured us that the Republican Party and its voters are on the verge of abandoning Trump and returning to some semblance of political normalcy. It never happens. Ultimately, Trump understands the party and its voters – and the underlying cultural and societal sicknesses and troubles that spawned his neofascist movement – far better than conservative or media elites do. Until and unless the Republican leadership solve that riddle, they will remain in the thrall of Donald Trump and his followers no matter how much they wish they could escape.

To read Chauncey Devega’s op-ed in its entirety, click here.

David Kurtz: Quote of the Day
– January 3, 2023

Related Off-site Links:
Is Our Democracy Safe? – Jeffrey Masters (The New Yorker Radio Hour, December 2, 2022).
Why Trump Is Still the 2024 GOP Frontrunner – For Now – Ben Jacobs (Vox, December 2, 2022).
Sleep No More: How Do We Escape Donald Trump's Fascist Dream Machine? – Chauncey Devega (Salon, November 18, 2022).
Fear of Fascism – Tom Nichols (The Atlantic, August 30, 2022).
What Trump and Orbán Want: It’s Fascism – It’s Not a Metaphor Or a Joke – Chauncey Devega (Salon, August 12, 2022).
Three Conversations With Donald Trump – Maggie Haberman (The Atlantic, September 25, 2022).
Donald Trump and His Two Forms of Fascism – David Corn (Mother Jones, September 12, 2022).
Trump Just Told Us His Master Plan: If He Gets In Next Time, He Won’t Be Dislodged By Any Means – David Frum (The Atlantic, July 27, 2022).

UPDATES: Trump Calls For the Termination of the Constitution in Truth Social Post – Kristen Holmes (CNN Politics, December 4, 2022).
Trump Calls For a “Termination of All Rules . . . Even the Constitution” to Install Him as Dictator – Mark Sumner (The Daily Kos, December 3, 2022).
Rep. Bill Pascrell: GOP Silence on Trump’s Call to Axe Constitution Reveals “Full Embrace of Fascism” – Kenny Stancil (Common Dreams, December 4, 2022).
Terminating the Constitution – Charles Sykes (Bulwark, December 5, 2022).
So the Former US President and Current GOP Candidate for the Presidency Calls for a Coup and the End of US Democracy – And? – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, December 5, 2022).
When the Danger Is Plain to See – Steven Beschloss (America, America, December 5, 2022).
Trump’s Worst Day Yet? Herschel Loses and His Company’s Guilty of Tax Fraud – Heather Digby Parton (Salon, December 7, 2022).
“This Likely Spells the End”: Experts Say Trump Organization Verdict “Increases the Odds” of Trump Indictment – Igor Derysh (Salon, December 7, 2022).
Trump’s Criminal Nightmare Officially Begins – Greg Walters (VICE, December 7, 2022).
“You Don’t Get to Lead a Government You Tried to Destroy”: House Democrats Move to Block Trump 2024 Run – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams, December 16, 2022).
“Time to Prosecute”: January 6 Panel Unanimously Refers Trump to Department of Justice for Criminal Charges – Brett Wilkins (Common Dreams, December 19, 2022).
January 6 Committee Issues Four Criminal Referrals for TrumpNPR News (December 19, 2022).
5 Takeaways From the Final January 6 Committee Hearing – Domenico Montanaro (NPR News, December 20, 2022).
The Senate Passes Election Reform Designed to Head Off Another January 6 – Miles Parks (NPR News, December 22, 2022).
The Big News Is Not the DOJ Referrals But the Overwhelming Evidence of Trump’s Crimes – Robert Reich (Common Dreams, December 22, 2022).
“This Is a Racial Backlash”: Stanford Prof. Hakeem Jefferson on Role of White Supremacy in Capitol AttackDemocracy Now! (December 23, 2022).
Final January 6 Report Urges Congress to Consider Barring Trump From Ever Holding Office Again – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams, December 23, 2022).
Trump’s Second Term Would Look Like This – Jonathan Rauch (The Atlantic, August 29, 2022).
“Brazen” Fraud: David Cay Johnston on How Trump’s Tax Returns Show He Fleeced U.S. and Enriched HimselfDemocracy Now! (January 3, 2022).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
An Essential Read Ahead of the Midterms
Progressive Perspectives on the U.S. Midterm Election Results
Ruth Ben-Ghiat on the Return of Fascism in Italy
Historian Nancy MacLean: The Threat to American Democracy Is at “Red-Alert”
Jelani Cobb: Quote of the Day – September 4, 2022
“Come for the Racism, Stay for the Autocracy”
William D. Lindsey: Quote of the Day – August 12, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson: It’s Up to Us to Prove That Democracy Is Still a Viable Form of Government
“How Can One Overreact to a Mortal Threat to American Democracy?”
A Deeper Perspective on What’s Really Attacking Democracy
“The Coup Attempt on Jan. 6th Was a Warning for What’s to Come If We Don’t Act”
“My Biggest Worry Is for My Country”
Republicans Pose an “Existential Threat” to American Democracy
The Big Switch
The Republican Party in a Nutshell
Republicans Don’t Care About American Democracy
“The Republican Party Has Now Made It Official: They Are a Cult”
Heather Cox Richardson on Combating the Republican Party’s “Rigging of the System”
David Remnick: Quote of the Day – February 13, 2021
Dan Rather on America’s “Moment of Reckoning”
Michael Harriot: Quote of the Day – January 6, 2021
Insurrection at the United States Capitol
“We Have an Emergency On Our Hands”: Marianne Williamson On the “Freefall” of American Democracy
Fascism Is Upon Us

Image: Former President Donald Trump speaks during an event at his Mar-a-Lago home on November 15, 2022, in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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