Trumphantism: Donald J. Trump & The Post-Trump World
By: E. Kyle Richey
Earth to America: Crashing til Landed
Marred by 2020 the world braces for impact in 2021. Humanity has witnessed a paradigm shift, yet the dust still settles as outcomes and consequences remain to be decided. Donald J. Trump, United States 45th President has lost an election which determined the cascading trajectory of the United States of America. Now is the time to understand what we are leaving behind as American’s and the world enter the fragmented universe of 2021.
The irony of collapse is eventually a replacement appears. No power, however impressive, lasts forever per the testimonies of time by empires that long lay in ruin. Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome lay in ruin while continuing to influence the present; they may be in ruin yet their voices speak an eternality of what is to come, “an end and new beginnings,” they whisper.
Transitions from beginning to end are never definite in degree, but shared similarities showcase potential possibilities for historians and political thinkers alike to study and consider.
In 1992 a profound and controversial book was published, The End of History and the Last Man (1992) by Political and Social theorist Francis Fukuyama. Immediately in his introduction Fukuyama premised that liberal democracies are the pinnacle of a free and open society, an end of history, while acknowledging stable nations such as the United States or France would continue to have issues due to an “incomplete implementation of the twin principles of liberty and equality (p. xi).”1 Within the end of history and fasts-forward to 2018 with the publication of Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, both works acknowledge a demand for universal recognition (an idea from the philosopher Hegel) or dignity according Fukuyama, a place where all are seen heard, and known. Yet the ideal turns toward the ideological as demands of recognition include no forms of discrimination or disrespect felt by oppressed groups giving rise to a new totalitarianism, a “soft totalitarianism”2 whose overarching hand comes largely from corporations whose cooperation with governments make them complicit actors of the state. This is Modernity’s present conflict and a test concerning history’s end due to its irreality and polarizing affect of identity politics:
Being a citizen of a liberal democracy does not mean, moreover, that people will actually be treated with equal respect either by their government or by other citizens. They are judged on the basis of their skin, their gender, their national origin, their looks, their ethnicity, or their sexual orientation. Each person and each group experiences disrespect in different ways, and each seeks its own dignity. Identity politics thus engenders its own dynamic, by which societies divide themselves into smaller and smaller groups by virtue of their particular “lived experience” of victimization (p. 164).3
Specific to the United States of America, a serious conflict is taking place concerning its future in the world as it continues to dim in the night sky. Our nebulae is fading while false promises of return continue from Trump to Biden. The election of 2020 further marks a crisis of culture and legitimacy. Black Lives Matter, ANTIFA, and additional Marxist movements in the areas of culture and political life are merely one revolt competing against another. Attempts in the final weeks of the Trump Presidency to override the Capitol was an extension of a radical right of QAnon conspirators and Alt-right fascism determined to prevent what they believe was an election stolen and an America quickly fading in front of their eyes. As Anne Applebaum from The Atlantic observed, extremists are emboldening one another.4 Events in America today are reminiscent of Germany as Marxist’s caused anarchy in the streets and out of frustration far-right extremist groups -began to take the streets ending in bloodshed and a revolution that brought about Adolf Hitler into power.
Would it be hard to believe that both sides of the the quarrel in America today carry legitimacy and illegitimacy? A conundrum for sure but a postmodern reality as conflicting interpretations5 swirl us into further disaster. Internally outcomes mean a warring between a weak versus strong state, however, a much larger powers hover over the once great nation. China, Corporatism, and Globalism each carry a new weight on the shoulders of Uncle Sam.
Socialist Technocrats riding of the back of Capitalism are aiming for a Great Reset in the midst of C-19.6 Spiraling out of control, disillusioned by their grander, they believe they can land a plane already in flames with President Biden and Vice-President Harris at the throttle. In order to comprehend the erosion and decay; to predict the outcomes that are likely to arise in 2021; and to understand the pinnacle of modernity—late modernity, a perpetual state7 of totalitarian incantations8—we must first review President Trump and the American ethos of 2016 that built up to this point. Mob Rule, Mob Rules did not develop overnight but it is rooted in the unsettled nature of mankind whose fears, wants, needs, and desires collide in a world of duality with the Self at the center of an unraveling universe that is the End of History & the Last Man.
America’s Second Postmodern President
Donald J. Trump was an enigma and an archetype representative of the reverberating tensions in the modern world. America’s 45th President was not in the mundane category as he set a new standard for future leadership in the political landscape—an all gloves off approach. His own outrageous behavior polarized the most moderate into unmarked territories while enflaming political baselines. To call the man evil ignores the good he committed himself to doing while President, yet to call the man good evaporates his offensive oddities that perturbed Conservatives and non-Conservatives, Christians and non-Christians alike. The now former President was our first purely postmodern President; a genius capable of fragmenting and uniting in ways not thought possible in modern America.9 He successfully made the ecological landscape appear upside-down and right-side up, greatly due to the fact that American society at present is itself fragmented and united, engaged and disengaged, troubled and relived.
As I engaged on the EKR Report, it is important to reiterate here:
It is my belief that America’s 45th President Donald J. Trump was a complete postmodern President; a manifestation of late modernity’s yearnings for a hero and a villain. Trump just so happened to represent the radical right, the alt-right, but it is questionable if President Trump was indeed a man of the right or a man who took advantage of their woes. Previously I have mentioned that I believed Trump to be the first postmodern president, but I stand corrected as Barack Obama was the first (another topic to be sure). However, in reaction to thematics of Obama, Donald Trump entered center stage to fill a void in the political right, a strong arm who could MAGA his way though Washington. QAnon and the Alt-right are blatant examples of the modern malaise that is postmodernism.
Continuing that thought-line I presented Donald J. Trump as a Postmodern Nebuchadnezzar:
Manifestation being the keyword President Trump embodies the essential postmodern stigma. He is the result of an ecological convergence within late modernity—a billionaire titan hungry for an abundance of power and wealth in order to make a legacy and the presidency was the perfect construct at a point of political strife…
President Trumps election and win in 2016 was understandably a response to the status quo, a push against the vanguard found in the Democratic and Republican parties that elected George W. Bush and Barrack Obama, respectfully, and a reactionary response from the public to the potential presidency of Hillary Rodham Clinton. People have grown weary of globalism, capitalism, socialism, war, and even peace. Citizens are worn.
And the election of Joe Biden is a reaction to Trump and Trumphantism, however, is also a response to the ills that minorities and progressives argue are repressing them. They too are enraged by hate speech, discrimination, low wages, and an expensive bloated healthcare system.
Combined a catalyst has been formed of good versus evil; light versus darkness. The postmodern stage has been set and the audience is watching:
In his book, Simulacra and Simulation, the postmodern thinker Baudrillard argues that within the United States a switch took place between the image relationship of art forms and reality; the image now has ontological priority over the real. Signs and Symbols have become the reality rather than the actual world itself thus resulting in life itself becoming “film-like” as he puts it:
It is not the least of America’s charms that even outside the movie theaters the whole county is cinematic. The desert you pass through is like the set of a Western, the city a screen of signs and formulas.”
A simulacrum is a representation of something or someone. Donald Trump, I am arguing, is a simulacrum due to the sociopolitical economic environment of the United States. He is a superficial force Americans had to contend with as either good or evil; right or wrong. Trump was not one but both. A master of media, Trump knew exactly how to market himself as savior and king as much as antichrist and tyrant. Christian professor and author of the book, Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth In A Distracted Age, Alan Noble describes our media saturated society—what I see as a postmodern product of late modernity the emerged from secularism, technology, and science— Nobles writes that the:
[C]onstant engagement with media also invites us to unreflectively adopt ethical and political positions, creating a hodgepodge worldview. From a film on the treatment of animals in amusement parks we develop a fleeting concern for animal rights. A documentary on modern farming practices makes us see shopping local and organic a moral issue.
Are the events we are witnessing real? Who is telling the truth? What will become of the human estate? Former President Trump offered America one way forward and it was a way that now nearly half of America sought to maintain rather than surrender. So much so that a cabal raided the Capital. While another half, a half fearful of Trump and “his” America, elected Joseph Robinette Biden Jr to repose from a sudden decay in their vision of democracy.
Disturbingly there is a serious disconnect between needs and wants for the average American citizen versus the conflicting natures found in Washington. Following that logic, the innumerable hands influencing decisions in the American political system has designed a wide range of conflicts in terms of visions and, as I have termed it, a collision of ideas that relate to the competing visions of the nation and the world for that matter.10
If the controversial terminology Deep State11 means anything it is that there are far too many actors involved in the decision making of the U.S. Government beyond its traditional capacity of the three branches of government and their inability of functional overwatch. Additionally, Deep State as I define is a clear cooperation, not conspiratorial, between the State (i.e. the Federal, State, and local governments including its many agencies) and private entities (i.e. Corporate entities such as Media conglomerates, Banks, and Private Military Companies); a layering of networks that has become the security state entwined with a global economy called neoliberalism. Modernity procured a “Too Big To Fail” attitude because our interconnected global economy is dependent upon its own continual success. Security and prosperity are its goals. Civilization is not post-modernity, its in the thicket of modernity. Postmodernism— philosophically and ideologically—acts a reflective state that mirrors modernity’s crisis. This is the present Market State12 out of which Trump triumphed, at least, momentarily.
Never A One Man Show
Trump became President in the midst of a rise of authoritarian figures, nationalism, and Brexit.13 But he also stood as a bulwark against socialism, critical race theories, and leftist radicalism. Yet he adopted agendas that aligned with alt-right motives.14 A man who was bitter and vial towards those he disliked and quick to dispose all those who showed a lack of Trump style loyalty. Paradoxically, Trump was willing to stand against our greatest enemies in the world including China and rail against the greatest evils such as abortion; the paradox would also have bizarre relations with our greatest enemies—Russia and North Korea—that themselves left many perplexed.
Mob Rule and Mob rules goes both ways. Once a society or group accepts a particular culture to the extent of an unwavering obedience that is when the mere obedient citizen morphs into the crazed devotee.15 In such a state of mind the individual joins a collective consciousness that bestows an ideological framework with its authoritative structures, a tyrannical voice speaks over the disillusioned. Granted that both authority and legitimacy are each necessary means to gaining such societal clout. Without that respect the people protest, rebel, and eventually turn into revolutionaries. Todays status quo can be tomorrows tyranny as the vanguard can be heroes and mob alike. No modern government is unaware of the populist pull.
With the populist shift in the recent decade as seen in the election of President Trump a void continues to grow in the desire of American political stability. As previously written in part 2 of this series:
Donald Trump was not Russia’s (forever) President Vladimir Putin nor North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, however, the current President fit well within mob tactics. Portrayed as a hero who was set on “draining the swamp” it was clear that the Washington outsider brought in his own muck.
Biden is the pendulum swing further to the left. Hardly a stabilizing force considering the policies the President and the democratic party have adopted.
Life’s A Riot
Movements and the groups who fight for their beliefs can quickly be perceived as either just or unjust depending on which side a person stands. The avant-garde of the new or the progressive versus the conservative institutions or the reactionary, these are only a set of varying “stances” a person can be part of. However, where do hate groups, real hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, Nation of Islam, or Neo-Volkisch stand in the spectrum of differences between progressives and conservatives? They may share similar accepted norms and mores of general society, but their responses are dehumanizing, threatening, and often violent. Truthfully, they have no justification in relation to either the avant-garde or the establishment considering that these movements of hate are beyond even the fridge of accepted beliefs and are considered fraudulent in their cause. Yet liberalized governments tend to protect even the most hateful. Such a decision hardly premises legitimacy but it begs the question, How do liberal democracies successfully funnel extremist groups within their countries? That question relates to the United State most recent socioeconomic and political trajectories of riots and movements via Black Lives Matter and the Alt-Right. And it is a central topic as the 46th President Biden intend to tackle “white supremacy” after President 45 attempted to address the radical socialist left. It is therefore essential to understand Black Lives Matters, ANTIFA, and the Alt-Right; to see them as archetypical trajectories of what lays ahead in the radicalism that has overtaken the American Dream that is no more.
Next Time: Mob Rule, Mob Rules: Part 3, Section 2 Trumphantism: The Alt-Right, Black Lives Matters, ANTIFA, and the Fate of American Liberty
1 Dreher, Rod. (2020). Live Not By Lies: A Manual For Christian Dissidents. New York, NY: Sentinel
2 Fukuyama, Francis. (1992). The End of History and the Last Man. New York, NY: The Free Press
3 —. (2018). Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
4 Applebaum, Anne. (2020 October 30). The Answer to Extremism Isn’t More Extremism. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/left-and-right-are-radicalizing-each-other/616914/
5 As a point of reference I am using Jean Baudrillard’s usage as he explained this loss of the real in how we interpret events around us. In his example, he used Watergate. This is directly quoted from Simulations (1983) Translated by Phil Beitchman, Paul Foss and Paul Patton, “All hypotheses are possible, although this one is superfluous: the work of the Right is done very well, and spontaneously, by the Left on its own. Besides, it would be naive to see an embittered good conscience at work here. For the Right itself also spontaneously does the work of the Left. All the hypotheses of manipulation are reversible in an endless whirligig. For manipulation is a floating causality where positivity and negativity engender and overlap with one another; where there is no longer any active or passive (p. 30).”
6 World Economic Forum. The Great Reset. https://www.weforum.org/great-reset/; and for further commentary on events see: Doane, Thomas. (2020 November 1). The Convergence of the Progressive Telos. Truth In Focus. https://edwardkylerichey.org/2020/11/01/the-convergence-of-the-progressive-telos/
7 Richey, Kyle. (2020 October 26). PostModernity: A Perpetual State of Modernity. https://edwardkylerichey.org/2020/10/26/postmodernity-a-perpetual-state-of-modernity/
8 —. (2020 November 2). Totalitarian Incantations: Late Modernity’s Radical Manifestations. https://edwardkylerichey.org/2020/11/02/totalitarian-incantations-late-modernitys-radical-manifestations/
9 —. (2020 August 20). Mob Rule, Mob Rules 2020: Part 2. https://edwardkylerichey.org/2020/08/20/mob-rule-mob-rules-2020-part-2/
10 —. (2020 November 2020). Too Divided To Stand: Election 2020 & The Future of America. https://edwardkylerichey.org/2020/11/06/too-divided-to-stand-election-2020-the-future-of-america/
11 Several references: Lofgren, Mike. (21 February, 2014). Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State. Moyers On Democracy. https://billmoyers.com/2014/02/21/anatomy-of-the-deep-state/; Kaizen, Michael. (Fall 2017). The Rise of the Security State: From the Great War to Snowden. Dissent Magazine. https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/world-war-i-aftermath-security-state-nsa; Healy, Gene. (1 March, 2015). National Security State. (Book Review) National Security and Double Government By Michael J. Glennon. https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/national-security-state; Epstein, Richard. (20 October, 2019) How Bad Constitutional Law Leads to Bad Economic Regulations. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/how-bad-constitutional-law-leads-bad-regulations/600280/
12 A great reference point for understanding the Market State is from Constitutional scholar Philip Bobbitt’s, The Shield of Achilles, including on page 347 where a small set of graphs or “plates” he calls them demonstrate the evolution of the state including a small definition of each entity. The Market State according to Bobbitt “will maximize the opportunity of its citizens.”
13 Greven, Thomas. (2016 May). The Rise of Right-wing Populism in Europe and the United States: A Comparative Perspective. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation. http://dc.fes.de/fileadmin/user_upload/publications/RightwingPopulism.pdf
14 Wilson, Matthew. (2020 July 17). Donald Trump and the “Alt-Right”: How Much Connection Is There. ISPI. https://www.ispionline.it/it/pubblicazione/donald-trump-and-alt-right-how-much-connection-there-26990
15 Richey, Kyle. (2020 August 20). Mob Rule, Mob Rules 2020: Part 2. https://edwardkylerichey.org/2020/08/20/mob-rule-mob-rules-2020-part-2/