In defeating Trump, Clinton will not defeat Trumpism. The ghost of his campaign of fear will linger far longer than his gilded, gluttonous violation of American politics.
Trumpism is a neo-nativist ideology centered on a narrow white-conceptualization of American-ness. It is a movement simultaneously in favor of a strong personality leading the nation, but fervently opposed to an empowered executive. It is, in all but name, yearning to morph in American neo-fascism.
This ideology is the logical conclusion of Watergate and the paranoia which rose from the ashes of the Twin Towers. Out of the deceit came an unshakable distrust of the Executive. Out of the rubble came a reinvigoration of fear—fear of the ‘Other’.
On the Watergate Tapes, we heard the snarling voice of Nixon, conniving and thirsting for omnipotence. In response to the revelations of 1973-4, Gallup reported “trust in the Executive branch of government sank from 73 [percent] in May of 1972 to 40 [percent] in April 1974…”
While Americans have intermittently rallied unwavering support for individual presidents—George H.W. Bush after the First Gulf War or his son after Sept. 11—faith in the institution itself died when Nixon rose from the South Lawn of the White House into obscurity, his cruel-face grinning behind dual ‘victory’ signs in a time of enormous defeat.
Hunter S. Thompson eulogized President Richard Nixon as a man “evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it.” Trump represents the anti-President Presidential Candidate, the result of urges stemming from Watergate.
After the defeat of his successor, President Gerald Ford in 1976, America promoted an ostensibly-simple Bible-loving Georgian to the presidency. He was the Christian-moralist antidote to Nixon’s snake oil.
Carter attempted to steady the ship, but was ultimately cast aside after a second oil crisis and the failure of the 444-day Iranian Hostage Crisis.
In his July 15, 1979 “Crisis in Confidence” speech, President Carter, in his characteristic simplicity with grayed hair and a smooth, nasally Georgian accent to speak directly to the American soul as a priest in a confessional: “The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.”
With the rejection of Carter, the American people began working slowly toward the inevitable birth of Trumpism. In his 1981 inaugural address, President Ronald Reagan argued “…government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
Trump and his devotees have taken this mindset of a limited government as a veil for their nefarious beliefs. They have taken the words of a president who, in responding to an era of grave mistrust in the Executive Branch spoke of limiting the power of his office.
Trumpists obfuscate devoutly-bigoted and nativist policies with a thin-screen of Reagan-era conservatism. These voters champion the building of a laughable wall across the southern border with Mexico, implanting the largest expansion of federal agents in American history to deport an uncertain number of undocumented immigrants and expanding the military (and thus the power of the Executive) to unknown levels.
These voters promote tin-pot despotism while arguing against President Barack Obama as somehow being tyrannical in his use of Executive Orders. For them, it is not the government which governs least; it is the government which governs ‘us’ the least, and that which governs ‘them’—the ‘Other’– the most.
Fear: inspired by a false-belief in a skyrocketing crime rate, an understanding of radical jihadism based upon “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” bigoted hatred of Americans of color and immigrants, and the wholesale acceptance of blatant misogyny. Fear and hatred drives Trumpism. In the wake of Watergate and 9/11, these followers have just enough historical-linkage to legitimize their lunacy.
Trumpists, as distinct from Trump voters, see the devil in Hillary Clinton. Over years, they have come to despise the Executive as the incarnation of elitism, of deception, of privilege, of forced change, of megalomania. And so, fearing the rise of another elite to the Oval Office, they have chosen Donald Trump?
Though President Carter sought to “fix what’s wrong with America” through broad dialogue, Trumpists see America’s problems as being fundamentally external to the identity, culture and existence of white, working and middle-class America.
Whereas Ronald Reagan sought to lessen the inference of the Federal government in the lives of Americans, Trump promises to interfere only in the lives of those who he, and his followers, see as the problem.
The answer to ‘more of the same’ is not the antithesis of the American presidency—it is electing a competent politician who now, more than ever, feels the heat of the American people building at the gate with a choral clamor for change. While it may not be in Clinton’s nature to push for change, the enraged—on both sides—will go a long way toward preserving the integrity of our democracy while ensuring progress is made.
To those reluctant Trump-voters who are casting their ballot, as 55 percent of Republicans are, in opposition of Hillary Clinton, you deserve the greatest share of blame. Trumpism is as much a product of illogical disgust as it is the virulent rage of devout followers.
Though in smug-conceit these reluctant Trump-voters deny the severity of Trump’s violations of human decency and insist his sins are equal to those of Hillary Clinton, it is you who have drunk the Kool-Aid.
You are being fooled. You were scarred by Nixon, and the fruits of a brilliant but deceitful man in the nation’s highest office. In response, you now choose to vote for an equally deceitful, but fundamentally unintelligent, uncontrollable man.
In the hours following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hunter S. Thompson prophesized: “We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.”
With the insurgent rise of Trumpism feeding from the bloody-waters of Watergate and the paranoid-fear of 9/11, we see that enemy is ourselves.