Trump Schism: The Future of Trumpism in America

Jay Aleksandr George is a third year student at Kings College London, he is also the North America editor for IR Today. 

After an excruciatingly long and anxiety-inducing election week, Joe Biden was finally declared the winner of the 2020 United States presidential election. Unfortunately for his supporters, however, it doesn’t appear that Trump intends to leave office as gracefully as lame ducks before him. Protests erupted across the country following election night as claims of voter fraud and illegal voting practices ran rampant—and, more importantly—undisputed by the Trump Campaign. In fact, many allegations about duplicitous ballot-counting have been made by Donald Trump, himself [1]. But this practice of instilling mistrust of democratic systems in his supporters is merely symptomatic of an ideology far more alarming. Even without Trump in office, it would seem that Trumpismis here to stay.  

Trumpism: Fact or Fake News?

Some argue that Trumpism is not a real ideology because it is not clearly backed by political or economic theory (e.g. Reaganism and Thatcherism were rooted firmly in Friedman’s economic theory of monetarism with a foreign policy dominated by Cold War attitudes) [2], but—though Trump’s opinion on everything from immigration to fellow world leaders seems to change on the daily—the core of his platform is surprisingly concrete insofar as his base is concerned. NYU sociology professor and expert on movement politics Jeff Goodwin identifies five key components of Trumpism: neoliberal capitalism, social conservatism, economic nationalism, nativism, and white nationalism [3]. Another important component not identified by Goodwin is Trump, himself. Veteran Republican strategist Steve Schmidt describes the ideology as a cult of personality “70 million-plus people in [America] were susceptible to” [4]. While there are typically right-wing components attached to the ideology, at the end of the day, much of the fervour surrounding Trumpism comes from the appreciation of Trump’s personality. His supporters characterise him as someone who doesn’t mince words, understands how to be successful, and puts their interests first. Trump represents and voices the grievances of right-wing, white voters dubbed the ‘silent majority’ in the 2016 election who are terrified of the progressive change ushered in by the Obama Administration and further advocated for by politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders. Trump’s base has stood by him through controversy after controversy and believes strongly that Donald Trump will seek to further each of Goodwin’s five components. Despite Trump’s apparent flippancy, he’s doing something correct and coherent enough to garner such strong support from his base. 

Can Trumpism Outlast the Trump Administration?

Despite the ideology’s dependency on Donald Trump, in short: signs point to the affirmative. Trump isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. In fact, sources close to Trump have reported that he has plans to run for president again in 2024 [5]. And if that’s what Trump wants, then it is what he will get, according to his former campaign manager Brad Parscale [6]. During his 2020 bid for re-election, the Trump campaign expanded Trump’s—and thus the Republican Party’s—base of supporters by millions of voters. Since the start of the 2020 cycle, the Republican Party signed up 2.5 million volunteers who carried out 29.4 million door knocks and made 128.9 million phone calls for President Trump’s re-election campaign [7]. Given this great showing of support for the president during the 2020 election, it is clear that Trump has built enough support up within the Republican Party to retain a prominent position in the organization even after he leaves office. Trump has even formed a new leadership PAC with the goal of keeping hold of the swing he has in the Republican National Convention [8]. 

Outside of the realm of strictly politics, Trump has expressed interest in several ventures to keep himself in the limelight for the next four years until the next US presidential election. Such endeavours include writing a memoir about his time as president, continuing to hold rallies for his supporters, and even starting his own media company [9]. 

Regardless of what Trump plans to occupy his time with come January’s inauguration, it remains evident from the election that America remains an incredibly divided country. Over the past decade, Democrats have moved further to the left and Republicans further to the right—especially under the Trump Administration. Leaving office won’t delete Donald Trump’s nearly 90 million Twitter followers, and it won’t render him poor and destitute. Of course, Trump will have less practical political power without occupying the highest office in the land, but his political capital is perhaps higher than ever. As long as Donald Trump has a platform, Trumpism will remain.









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