Donald Trump’s politics became an –ism when he and his disciples converted what Trump does into a distinctive doctrine or cause. In 2016, The Hill argued that Trumpism has four ingredients: celebrity; nativism that reaches back to the mid-19th century know-nothing agitation of the short-lived American party; anti-establishment outsider politics; and finally, right-wing populism spiced with antiintellectualism and conspiracy fantasies. In 2018, the BBC thought that Trumpism was found in the clever use of brilliant sound bites, boasting and braggadocio. Two years later, The Atlantic thought that Trumpism exists in the “dreampolitik” realm of feelings. It also said we need political psychiatrists to understand Trumpism.
Yet, Trumpism has more to do with politics than psychiatry. Trumpism is much more dangerous and much more long-term than what The Hill, the BBC and The Atlantic suggested. Trumpism did not fall out of the sky in 2016, only to vanish in 2020. And, the phenomenon of Trumpism is not unique to the USA. Yet, American exceptionalism — having had no feudalism — might have protected the USA for a long time from the growing phenomenon of Trumpism and its look-a-like imitations found in many countries.
First and foremost, Trumpism is a political as well as cultural spectacle. It is also a revolt against much of what today’s societies represent since the Enlightenment. Trumpism is profoundly anti-liberal. Virtually the entire body of the ideological system of Trumpism is intended as an alternative to liberalism, democracy and visions of humanism seen to be in the final stages of existence.
Yet, Donald Trump is not Nazism. Trumpism is less anti-Semitic. It is not fighting against Jews. It is not based on race, albeit it is racist. In short, racism is not a necessary condition for the existence of Trumpism. Yet, racism was a necessary condition for Germany’s Nazis. Between 2016 and 2020, Trump had no boycott against Jewish businesses, no law that Jews can’t have pets, etc., no SS rounding up people, no concentration camps and no death camps. Donald
Trump is not a Nazi, nor is he a Neo-Nazi even though he called US Neo-Nazis very fine people. Instead, Trumpism is a rejection of the prevailing political culture of democracy, political liberalism, Marxism, positivism, rationality, humanity and science. Trumpism has also created a comprehensive alternative to the democratic system found in authoritarianism, manhood and masculinity, hero-worship, the cult of the leader, QAnon’s conspiracy fantasies, and birthers, which now includes Kamala Harris and adjacent conspiracy fantasies.
Trumpism is a rebellion against modern values and contemporary morality, against rationalism, optimism and humanism. It is set to destroy the existing political order and annihilate its moral, theoretical and political foundations. Yet, Trumpism takes place within the framework of capitalism.
Trumpism is not anti-capitalist. It is not socialist, it is not communist, and it is not anarchist in its economic ideology. Trumpism supports neoliberalism, economic freedom and the freemarket ideology.
Trumpism is also not anti-technology. Instead, it benefits from the modern age reaping the benefits of technical achievements, such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. Yet, it rejects modern value such as universalism, liberalism, social progress, environmental rights, equality, etc. Trumpism sees liberal democracy and socialism as evil and needs to be destroyed. Donald Trump exists in the “friendvs.-foe” dichotomy as outlined by German superfascist ideologue Carl Schmitt. Yet, while claiming to Make America Great Again (MAGA), Trumpism rejects the American Revolution and the Constitution’s values. It discards human rights, natural rights and the institutional structure of liberal democracy. It is a sustained attack on the rational foundations of our society.
At the same time, Trumpism lacks any intellectual baggage that allows it to travel alone. There is no comprehensive theory in Trumpism and not much of a political philosophy either. Simultaneously, Trumpism harks back to social Darwinism (shithole countries), biological determinism (Mexican rapists) and tribal nationalism — America first! The latter pushes the ideology of an organic unit of the nation. It features emotions, spectacle, triumphalism and violent antirationalism. This is mixed with a cult of deep and mysterious forces presented as the authentic fabric of human existence. This demands an eternal fight against intellectuals and rationalism.
Trumpism features instinct, intuitive and irrational sentiments, emotions and enthusiasm. Trumpism is not elitist. It lives from mass mobilization and relies on irrationalism as an excellent means of mass mobilisation. It believes that to ensure the greatness of the nation, one has to turn to the people and exalt their primitive forces, vigour, and vitality that emanate from the people uncontaminated by rationality. Trumpism believes that the mass is the only true nation, and its sole aim of politics is to ensure the nation’s power. It believes in the circularity of the notion that nationalism means by definition “nation” in politics.
Therefore it cannot fail to be national in the domain of economics as the two things — nationalism and the economy – are interconnected. As a consequence of nation-economy thinking, Trumpism demands a strong defense of the free enterprise system. Simultaneously, any intervention of the state in the economy has to be strictly limited. Unlike German Nazism and Italian fascism, Trumpism does not produce an interventionist state. Instead, it follows the ideology of neoliberalism. Trumpism is also convinced that trade wars are the natural state of relations between nations in all historical periods. Therefore, it is necessary to foster discipline, authority, duty, sacrifice, and heroic values. These are conditions necessary for the survival of the country and the sake of national greatness. As a consequence, factors like diversity have to be eliminated. Values such as the rights of people, internationalism, pacifism and even democracy will weaken the nation.
If need be, Trumpism’s values like loyalty have to be violently enforced without mercy or compromise. The objective is to create a cult of violence to deter the enemies of Trumpism. For Trumpism, these are all instruments useful in its fight against scientism and to attack reason. Trumpism does this without hesitation. Instead, Trumpism means to summon the resounding force of the unconscious and intuition and mobilise sources of energy to form the nation’s greatness.
To achieve this, Trumpism relies on myths. For Trumpism, myths are a system of images. Myths are aimed at producing a continuous state of tension and the means to mobilize people for the destruction of liberal democracy and its intellectual norms and moral values. The nation is to be enlisted in the struggle against democracy and widespread decadence. The 6th January 2021 incident has shown as much. Storming Capitol Hill displayed Trumpism’s fierce hate for democracy and its humanistic heritage. It issued its wish to obstruct democracy and finally destroy its institutional mechanisms. It is Trumpism’s heroic fight against democratic decadence.
Trumpism is a messenger of national unity. Yet, Trumpism’s tricky task is to eradicate the hated liberal democratic regime and its despicable moral and intellectual norms without destroying the structures of the capitalist economy. Trumpism’s new society is to be dominated by a powerful avant-garde that is guiding the masses forward.
For that, Trumpism needs myths, sentiments, images and symbols capable of hurling the mass into action. One does not need reasoning. What Trumpism seeks is a cultural as well as a political revolt. Militarism, patriotism, destructive gestures, triumphalism, etc., are part of Trumpism’s repertoire. It seeks to engineer beautiful ideas worth dying for while simultaneously assaulting 3 academics of every kind, women, moralism and feminism. When Donald Trump talks about this, he receives the enthusiastic cheers of an adoring crowd. He gets even more cheers when talking about his hate of the prevailing culture and the desire to replace it with a totally new alternative culminating in the cult of political authoritarianism.
For Trumpism, much of this is proof of the mobilising capacity of nationalism. It also shows the significance of unityof-command, authority, leadership, moral mobilisation, the propagandistic conditioning of the masses. With Trumpism, propaganda becomes a potent instrument of raw political power. The events of 6th January 2021 also showed the ease with which democratic liberties can be suspended, and a quasi-dictatorship can almost be made acceptable to large sections of the American people.
On 19th January 2021, a whopping 42% approved of Donald Trump. For many, the wish to obey their non-conformist, unscrupulous and above all charismatic leader — a critical ingredient of Trumpism — is almost as strong as their belief that democracy is merely a delusion. Trumpism may not have discovered that nationalism is a source of strength and hope, but it is a heavy user. Yet, it has discovered that anyone acting against Trumpism is a dishonest man, a traitor and an enemy of the people. Set against these traitors is Trumpism’s conviction that seeks to persuade people, rightfully so it believes, that the democratic idea is in retreat, that Donald Trump is the master of the hour and that all change must come through force. In a Nietzsche-like obsession,
Trumpism means a total revaluation. Trumpism is the Uberleader’s resentment against the weak. Trumpism carries elements of social Darwinism and primitive Nietzscheanism mixed with mass appeal. Trumpism is committed to the idea that science can never activate the masses toward the relinquishing of democracy. The mass can also not be activated by appealing to reason.
Consequently, Trumpism and his gang are the party of the stomach, the emotion, the whipped up crowd ready to fulfil the orders of its masters and ready to storm the parliament. For Trumpism, class simply does not exist — only Le Bon’s mass and perhaps some of the have-nots and those who have. In any case, Trumpism rejects obsessive complexity as any Trump speech will tell us. This rejection of complexity, of course, extends to what Trumpism would call those “retarded” people who believe in the sovereign power of science.
Donald Trump response to the Coronavirus pandemic has shown this for months during 2020. For Trumpism, knowledge obtained through concepts is ill-adapted to explain the social forces that govern life. Worse, Trumpism believes that scientific theories developed by scholars ought to be treated as myths. Myths are the true underpinning of Trumpism. Trumpism uses myths to stir up the masses. As a consequence of the ability to do just that, myths are regarded by Trumpism as a means of influencing the present. These myths can also transcend the historical framework that confines us. By this, Donald Trump means liberalism, democracy, etc.
Instead, Donald Trump is set to act against an entirely artificial system placed in front of the present. Trumpism will fight to make artificial words like liberalism and democracy disappear. This is done in the spirit of an insistence that instincts govern all circumstances of life. Rejecting science in favour of instincts is the true apprenticeship for the looming reconstruction and the ultimate preparation of the individual for the coming battle. This is Trumpism’s ideology of action devoted to the destruction of anything that exists. It will liberate the individual from the vain and false science and the hallucination that everything can be ascribed to mathematical law. It shows people the illusion of so-called scientific solutions and the faked rationality fashioned in universities. Myth will lead people to prepare themselves for the looming battle to destroy those falsehoods.
Henceforth, myths must become a motivational force – the instrument of violence to harden life for the coming combat against utilitarianism, morality, individualism, materialism, egoism, democracy and liberalism. Only the noblest and purest sentiments are needed for the blood that will have to be shed during the impending fight that will be fought with ferocity and brutality. Some of this has been shown on the 6th of January’s storming of the Capitol Hill. The battle was calling forth the honour that developed so naturally to raise the supporters of Trumpism above our frivolous society. Trumpism believes that one must liberate oneself from positivism and the banal and complacent optimism of our material existence.
Trumpism is a warrior morality set against intellectual morality. 4 Yet, as much as the storming of Capitol Hill signifies the readiness to eliminate democracy. Trumpism will succeed not through a coup d’état but by overcoming the present political system. The much long for the collapse of liberal democracy will be due to the deficiency of its institutions. These will be replaced through the willpower of the leader and his followers and the lack of confidence in the old regime’s capacity to resist Trumpism. Yet, the strategists of Trumpism are also aware of the administrative state’s virtually unlimited capacity to intervene.
Consequently, Trumpism will not attack the state head-on, but it will dissolve its democratic institutions to take over the state. Once in the full power of the state’s institutions, Trumpism will use the entire apparatus of the state to put in practice its vision of the politicalideological ideals of Trumpism. Trumpism is also convinced that a civilisation based on myths is always superior to a rationalistic and materialistic civilization. Unless this new civilization comes, human nature will slide towards decadence and into catastrophe. Individuals have to resist passion and temptation to preserve and develop a sense of duty, honour and loyalty to the leader.
Trumpism detests the corruption of character just as it detests democratic reformism and the atomistic concept of individualism. In a more profound understanding, Trumpism means that the entire humanistic tradition must be called into question. Its raison d’être is pure antirationalism, and not only because rationalism has contaminated our symbols, but rationalism has also corrupted human nature. One should not forget that the playbook of Trumpism is not Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf but the writings of right-wing extremists demagogues like Oswald Spengler, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Paul de Lagarde, Julius Langbehn, and Ernst Jünger. Like them, Trumpism sees democracy as one of the most significant social dangers. Therefore, it must destroy all democratic institutions mercilessly because they artificially sustain the weak.
The goal of Trumpism is to create an organic and harmonious society under decisive leadership. Trumpism believes in the messianic virtues of the movement. Donald Trump has already gained a reputation of being a determined leader who has turned himself into the nation’s spokesman. The ideologues of Trumpism also believe there is a need for strong hierarchies.
Trumpism affirmed the principles of tradition, hierarchy, authority and individuals ready to sacrifice themselves for a historical idea. In opposition to reason and abstract individualism, Trumpism will overwhelm the spiritless and spineless men of Enlightenment, the positivists and the democrats. Anyone must overcome oneself to become a hero in the battle of human nature against artificial democracy, which is, in any case, the mania of a stupid cult of voting. Against this, idealistic enthusiasm will rise for battle and bring victory in the spirit of sacrifice.
Trumpism finds itself in the cult of activism. This activism and the political ideology of Trumpism has two goals. Firstly, to annihilate the much-hated institutions of democracy, liberalism, humanism, Enlightenment, science and rationalism. The second goal of Trumpism is to establish an authoritarian system based on charismatic leadership adored by LeBon’s masses, strict hierarchies, myths, and the belief in the nation’s glorious future. Above all, the ideology of Trumpism is nothing but a guide to action directed towards the total destruction of democracy.
This article was publlished on 1 April 2021 at the site BuzzFlash.
Photo: Donald Trump at a campaign rally (source: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America)
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