Trumpism as a movement has defined the alienation of that large segment of the American public feels Image Credit: AFP

Donald J. Trump, who served as the 45th president of the United States from 2017 to 2021, dined with Nick Fuente, a far-right activist with a history of touting White nationalist ideas, and Ye (formerly Kanye West), a hip-hop artist and fashion designer known for his questionable views on race, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. He did that just a week after he launched his bid for reelection in 2024.

The blunder drew lacerating, not to mention unprecedented criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill, GOP elite who in the past had turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the former president’s snafus; from news outlets like Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and National Review, once bastions of Trump-worship; and even from his own advisers, with one of whom acknowledging that it was “horrible” and another as “totally awful”.

Read into that, as I do, a sign of the dwindling support by GOP elite for Trump and his progressively dwindling prospects of winning the primary, let alone the presidential elections in 2024, but don’t read into it a dwindling in the popularity of what has come to be known as Trumpism.

Donald Trump did not invent Trumpism; he simply stoked it

There are few political leaders in modern world history who succeeded, in their lifetime or posthumously, in having their names enter the lexicon as adjectives and nouns, say, as did Karl Marx with Marxist and Marxism, Mao Tse Tung with Maoist and Maoism and Jamal Abdul Nasser with Nasserist and Nasserism.

Donald Trump did so with Trumpian and Trumpism — Trumpism being a movement that defined the alienation of that large segment of the American public that seethed with resentment about their diminished status in society and with fear of the coming doom of the “Great Replacement”.

This Trumpian sentiment has it that the “migrant invasion” would surely soon replace and wrest power from conservative, God-fearing, law-abiding Americans. Consider here the White man who gunned down 23 people at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart in 2019, jabbering away to police about how he targeted Mexicans because of the “Hispanic invasion of Texas”; and that other White man who targeted black shoppers at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket in May this year, killing 10, who had written that Black Americans were part of a conspiracy to “ethnically replace my own people”.

(On Monday, the latter, one Payton Grenden, pleaded guilty to carrying out the massacre, which authorities called a “racially motivated attack” fuelled by a bigoted ideology.)

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Yet Donald Trump clearly did not create this movement so much as he tapped into it at the right time in American history. The hour, as it were, met the man that day seven years ago when he took his ride down the escalator in Trump Tower to declare his candidacy for president, and then, in later months and years, went on, armed as he was with his populist vision, to launch what many have come to consider one of the most socially divisive political movements in modern American history.

No, Donald Trump did not invent Trumpism; he simply stoked it — and so stoked it that it has become encoded in American political culture and etched in the political consciousness of a not insignificant part of the population.

And there is no reason to believe that his absence from the political scene or his loss of prominence on it would cause his Trumpian base, made up of millions of people across the country, to evaporate.

Trump’s primary campaign

Those analysts who from the outset of Trump’s primary campaign dismissed the man as a snake oil salesman, forgot that it was those very millions who rushed to buy his wares, and equally forgot, when they called his presidential campaign a circus, that it was those same millions who had put up the tent.

Trumpism, as a mass sentiment propelling a political movement, is here to stay — for years to come, and independently of the political fortunes of Donald Trump himself.

Rebel all you want against the political leader we call Donald J. Trump, an ex-president who has defied the model of other ex-presidents, folks who leaving office or losing an election fade away, often attending to the construction of their presidential libraries, working on their memories and giving the odd speech at a think tank in Washington somewhere.

But rebelling against Trump is a different kettle of fish from rebelling against Trumpism. Vociferous MAGA-style, America First populism is here to stay — and it would be a fool’s errand to predict for how many years to come.

In short, Republican political elite and power brokers operating inside the Beltway may, seeing Trump as a liability to the party, “jettison [him] like loose cargo on a storm-battered freighter, and that the most volatile and dangerous elements of American politics will sink with him”, as a writer in the New Yorker suggested in an article last week, but we’re a long way from seeing Trumpism itself veer toward irrelevance in American society.

That tells us a lot, as we say, about where America’s head is at in our time.

Fawaz Turki is a journalist, academic and author based in Washington. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile.