How Trump revealed the right's 'psychic longing for an American strongman'

How Trump revealed the right's 'psychic longing for an American strongman'
President Donald J. Trump stops to talk with reporters outside the South Portico of the White House Sunday morning, Feb. 23, 2020, prior to boarding Marine One to begin his trip to India. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)
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Many Never Trump conservatives were hoping that if President Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, the GOP would reject Trumpism and return to a more traditional conservatism. Trump lost, and President-elect Joe Biden won 306 electoral votes in addition to defeating Trump by more than 6 million in the popular vote. But author Richard North Patterson, in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark this week, laments that despite Biden's victory, Trumpism will continue to plague the GOP for the foreseeable future.

Patterson, a former chairman of Common Cause and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, explains, "(Trump) inflicted on us a presidency which was ignorant, cruel, reckless, lawless, divisive and disloyal. Mendacity and bigotry became the mode of communication between America's president and his party's base. Not only did he worsen a deadly pandemic — by immersing an angry and alienated minority in his alternate reality, he is sickening our future."

Trump, Patterson stresses, "did not materialize from the ether," but rather, "rose from a political party bent on thwarting demographic change by subverting the democratic process; a party whose base was addicted to white identity politics, steeped in religious fundamentalism, and suffused with authoritarian cravings — a party which, infected by Trumpism, now spreads the multiple malignancies metastasized by Trump's personal and political pathologies."

The GOP's brand, according to Patterson, is now "white grievance and anxiety," and "racial antagonism" has become a "badge of pride" for Trump and his devotees. Trump, Patterson writes, "comprehends his audience all too well" — and that audience is an angry one.

"For many in the Republican base, he fulfills a psychic longing for an American strongman," Patterson notes. "This will to autocracy as self-defense is supplemented by fundamentalist fanaticism…. When electoral defeat augurs a religious apocalypse in the minds of evangelicals, democracy itself becomes their enemy."

Patterson describes Trump's refusal to accept the 2020 presidential election results as "banana Republicanism," noting Trump's "spate of bogus lawsuits seeking to invalidate many thousands of ballots in five critical states — particularly those cast by African-Americans in major cities like Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta and Milwaukee."

"One danger has become abundantly clear: far too many elected Republicans are just fine with Trump's anti-democratic moves, or at least would not honor their sworn responsibility to defend the Constitution from his depredations — often because they are simply too terrified of their party's base, and the voracious right-wing media which inflames it," Patterson observes.

Patterson wraps up his article by predicting that Trumpism will dominate the Republican Party long after Trump's presidency ends.

"For the foreseeable future, Trumpism will define the GOP," Patterson warns. "The path to regeneration runs not through reform but, one fears, must proceed from self-destruction. The wait time will be painful for the party — and fateful for the country."

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