Although Donald Trump has not conceded defeat, pundits and Republican politicians are already debating the man’s legacy as though he were part of the past.
A recurring theme is that of “Trumpism without Trump.” If we’re being honest, this is a bit of an extravagant and presumptuous notion. Without Trump? We are talking about Donald Trump, yes?
As far as I can tell, Trump is not a philosopher. He has never written a treatise or a manifesto. The “America First” platform is valuable, and one certainly hopes that it leaves a mark, but unless I am mistaken, Trump supporters do not love the man chiefly for his ideas.
Perhaps the most well-known advocate of “Trumpism without Trump” is Ann Coulter, known for her doctrinaire criticism of Trump’s putative failures to deliver on the “America First” agenda. But others, who cannot be considered hardcore nationalists, have latched onto the concept as well.
That is not much of a surprise, given the abundance of pseudo-Trumpists in that part of the conservative punditocracy that prizes respectability above all. For these, Trump was useful as a muse for waxing about some generic form of “populism” but not much more than that. They’ll be glad to be rid of him.
But can’t we first recognize what an extraordinary person Trump is, before we discard the man for an abstraction?
There’s a reason that Trump commands a fierce devotion that the losers in his party, people like Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse, could never hope to obtain. He is an historic phenomenon, a singular personality the likes of which we have never seen, and are unlikely to see recur, in our lifetimes.
Trump has done what few men can say of themselves: he altered the course of events in a way that no one saw coming. Totally by surprise, he presented an opportunity to save a nation in decline, an opportunity which, if lost, we acknowledge may never return. That is what has made these four years so momentous, so eventful, and so full of conflict. Trump’s enemies sensed it too, which is why they have worked so desperately to crush him.
Few men could have withstood the extreme pressures that Trump has faced these four years. Millions of Americans have been inspired by his incredible tenacity through it all. America does not produce many great men anymore, but Trump is a great man: he has an unusual degree of courage and willpower, qualities rare in our time in any measure.
The kept Right, whether out of ignorance or cynicism, think that Trump is too strong, too uncouth, too “racist.” But Trump and his supporters understand that the opposition is vicious, evil, and totally without honor, and that future leaders who want to defend America in more than name would have to be willing and able to incur enormous hostility and personal risk. Knockoffs will not suffice.
Who would replace Trump? Mike Pence? He’s likeable enough, but can he stand up to the leftist machine like Trump has done? Someone like Ron DeSantis cuts a Trumpian bearing, but few others inspire much confidence. What are we left with? Tom Cotton? Josh Hawley? These are the men who are going to lead us into the future?
“Trumpism” is a vague thing, and the Republian establishment and the kept Right are eager to jettison Trump and leave us with an ersatz version of his movement. Trump’s primary achievement, says Rubio, is that he made the Republican Party the home of a “multi-racial working class.” But this elides an essential part of Trump’s rise, which was that he acknowledged American whites who had felt put upon and alienated in an increasingly hostile regime. Any “Trumpism” that lacks the courage to push back against the relentless, anti-white sentiment of the Left is counterfeit.
Trump’s movement is a genuine revolution. Like any revolution, it is liable to corruption and change. This has happened with many movements before: the momentum gets lost, and it turns into a husk of its former self. If we’re being unsparingly honest, it is possible that Trump’s movement dies with him. History does not always offer second chances.
But there are other possibilities. There are some who speculate that “Trumpism” could prove to be a prelude to a form of Caesarism. Perhaps Caesar is waiting somewhere backstage, in the shadows. But for now, this figure exists in the imagination. The last four years were improbable enough, weren’t they? What if Trump exits the scene, and Caesar never shows up?
If Trump’s downfall really is a fait accompli, then millions of Americans will take his loss like a deathblow to America. If that is cultism, count me in. We are lucky to have Trump. He is an American hero, the best—the only—real defender we have had in generations. We should say this without shame or reservation, and if things do not go our way, we should not flinch from the difficulties that lie ahead without him.