Clarence Page: What happens to Trumpism after Trump? Auditions are underway
As a liberal about most political matters, I am not delighted that President Donald Trump’s nomination of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett may be his most durable legacy.
But like the rapidly approaching Election Day, it gives new energy to an old question: After Trump, what happens to “Trumpism”?
The replacement of 87-year-old liberal giant Ruth Bader Ginsburg with 48-year-old Barrett is expected to bring a new 6-3 conservative majority that could endure for at least a couple of generations. Elections, as both political sides are muttering, do have consequences.
Whether he loses this election or not (and whether he accepts a losing vote count, which he has suggested strongly that he will not without a court fight), it’s not too early to contemplate what happens to the maverick movement he put together and surprisingly rode into the White House.
The term “Trumpism,” as far as I can tell, rose up as a joke. Trump proudly presented himself as ideology-free, unencumbered by the factions and labels usually offered in conventional parties and political science books.
The crowdsourced Urban Dictionary offers, among other definitions, “A social/political movement based on elements of (a) racism, (b) religious bigotry, (c) demeaning attitudes towards women, (d) attempts to intimidate the press, (e) economic uncertainty, (f) rejection of scientific findings and (g) general expressions of hatred that are reminiscent of German National Socialism of the Hitler era ...” and “... often characterized by completely baseless false statements.”
Well, I’ll concede that those deplorable (yes, I said it) characteristics can be found in some Trumpers — and Trump has been too slow in condemning bigotry and anti-intellectualism. But Democrats can’t get too full of themselves to recognize that bigotry, elitism and narrow-minded stereotyping can be found in their ranks too.
As I have written before, I grew up in “Trump Country,” a Southern Ohio factory town where steel and paper mill jobs helped my family and me pay for my college tuition. Almost all of those jobs have disappeared in ensuing decades.
Most Trump voters I have known — and polling data I have examined — tell me they were won over a lot less by bigotry and sexism than by the sense that he simply was there, speaking to their despair and resentments that both major political parties had failed to acknowledge or address.
And the parties have paid attention. For all the talk I hear about “the Democrats moving left” (in much the same way that Republicans lost my family in the 1960s by moving too far right), it is instructive to note how quickly Democratic primary voters bypassed Bernie Sanders and other more progressive contenders for Rust-Belt-labor-moderate Joe Biden, after Black primary voters in South Carolina rescued him from oblivion.