Dark Words and Deadly Winds: Trump & Trumpism

By Wolf Schäfer

Satirical Illustration for the 2016 Trump/Pence Campaign by Tucker Viehmeister

NOT LONG AGO – although it seems very long ago – I wrote an essay on Donald Trump and the forces which enabled a TV star and real estate magnate to acquire the White House. Written from January to September 2017, I sought to publish the 200-page manuscript but was turned down repeatedly. “Too early,” was the general verdict.

Back then, the liberal editors of all good publishing houses believed two things. First, and true, a sound analysis of Trump’s victory in 2016 needs a fair bit of hindsight. Second, and wrong, Trump cannot last and will be out of the People’s House in no time. Taking Trump and Trumpism seriously, as I did (and do), was my handicap.

Now, four years after the surprise election of Trump, American democracy approaches the inflection point of re-electing Trump. “The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long,” Joe Biden told a remote audience in his DNC acceptance speech on August 20. I agree. But what if the 2020 election repudiates Biden and the Democrats? Who knows for sure that dark is less powerful than light? Don’t black holes swallow all light? So, what if the model of political scientist Helmut Norpoth scores again?1 — God bless America!

Future history is known to be unknown and not determined by metrics and models. Dark or light, either could win. If light wins, it will heave darkness out of the President’s office. But then what? Will the ills of American history and political culture heal in a flash? Can a Biden-Harris government quickly cure American democracy? I doubt it. The dark forces of Trumpism will not stop; they will survive Trump.

TRUMP IS NOT essential for Trumpism; he never was. Trump is incidental. The intellectual avantgarde of Trumpism made that clear in 2016. “For now,” they said, “the principal vehicle of Trumpism is Trump.” If Trump loses and light wins, Trumpism will still be alive and battle the light of democracy. Therefore, light must fight to make Trumpism small again.

I finished the essay on Trump shortly after Steve Bannon, once the foremost lieutenant of Trumpism, was ousted from the White House on August 18, 2017. A year later and having learned that nobody was interested in publishing my study, I put the manuscript away. Yet now I feel compelled to publish Dark Words and Deadly Winds: Trump & Trumpism.

There’s no need to amend my argumentation or alter the two-part architecture of my essay, but it will take some time to check what I wrote and documented three years ago. So, the twelve chapters of Dark Words and Deadly Winds will be posted on this website in sequence.

Part One – Dark Words – examines Trump’s weaponization of speech in four chapters. The eight chapters of Part Two – Deadly Winds – analyze the force field empowering Trumpism: new social media, strategic allocation of big money, rising inequality, unsettling demographic shifts, corruption of party politics, global authoritarianism, entertainment politics, and the postmodern inability to distinguish beliefs, opinions, lies, facts, and truth.

The forces that supported Trump’s rise and energize his government have never been put together and thus are obscure as a whole. Much of what conspired in 2016 is already forgotten. Bannon is back in the news since late August 2020, indicted on charges of money laundering and fraud. True to form, Trump quickly recast his erstwhile Chief Strategist as barely involved in his first campaign and only “for a small part of our administration.” Hence, light must also fight against Trump’s constant rewriting of history.

Please cite this publication as follows: Wolf Schäfer, Dark Words and Deadly Winds: Trump & Trumpism. Online at https://make-trumpism-small-again.us


Foreword: Rorty’s Nightmare

TWENTY-TWO YEARS ago, American philosopher Richard Rorty imagined a disastrous future – the very present of the United States today. In Achieving Our Country, he wrote: Many writers on socioeconomic policy have warned that the old industrialized democracies are heading into a Weimar-like period, one in which populist movements are likely to overturn constitutional governments. […]


Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing. Stephen K. Bannon, 18 November 2016 | Source

1: Make Trumpism Small Again

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to make a major announcement today: I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters, and to all of the people of the United States, that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win. Donald J. […]

2: The Dark Force of Populism

POPULISM IS A wish-machine running on the words believe me. Usually, that “me” is a strongman, yet it can also be a strong woman these days. European dictators have activated this machine since classical times, from Caesar to Napoleon, Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler. It is employed globally in our time. Nicolás Maduro, Recep Erdoğan, Rodrigo […]

3: The Dark Features of Trumpism

TRUMPISM WAS LAUNCHED anonymously, and defined unmistakably, by a group of erudite writers who flash-published a blog on “radical Trumpism” in February 2016. The blog’s title was grand – Journal of American Greatness (JAG) – and the blog posts took critical aim at the Republican, not the Democratic Party. The authors hid behind mainly Roman […]

4: The Dark Trumpian Force Field

TRUMP WON IN 2016, the battle lines are drawn, and by the time of the next presidential election we shall know what Trump and radical Trumpism have amounted to in four years of Trumpist governmental practice. On day one, Trump announced, “From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.” His inauguration address was […]


5: Dark Technology – Social Media

TRY TO ANSWER the question: Is technology per se good, evil, or neutral, and you will quickly get into epistemological trouble. To avoid this trap, I enter this discussion at the usage station, the point from whence technologies are part and parcel of modern societies, embedded in social, natural, cultural, and economic activities, open to […]

6: Dark Free Speech – Big Money

THE CONSTITUTION OF the United States of America has guided the country and its citizens since 1789. Only twenty-seven amendments have been added, the first ten, known as the Bill of Rights, straightaway. Compared to the Magna Carta from 1215, which has guided the UK for eight hundred years, the US Constitution seems young, however, […]

7: Dark Capitalism – Rising Inequality

KARL MARX THOUGHT capitalism was destined to die. 150 years ago, he predicted in Das Kapital (1867), “capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of Nature, its own negation” and “the expropriators are expropriated.” Concentrating outsize wealth in the hands of “a few usurpers” did not look like a sustainable system to Marx, […]

8: Dark Demography – White Recoil

DARK DEMOGRAPHY WARNS “good” people about hordes of “bad” people. A recurring syndrome, it was a hallmark of Trump’s campaign from the beginning, deeply rooted in Trump and his loyal “voters and supporters” as well as large parts of the Republican Party. The fearful theory about masses of bad people overwhelming good people was loudly […]

9: Dark Party Politics – Neglected Voters

AMERICA HAS REACHED the point of dark party politics. Party politics is “politics that relate to political parties rather than to the good of the general public.” Dark party politics, however, is politics that neglect the public good, sabotage the nation’s collective interests, and harm the planet’s fitness for humanity’s long-term survival. In a democracy, […]

10: Dark Geopolitics – Expanding Authoritarianism

ILLIBERAL STATES RULE in the global East and populism provides them with leverage in the global West. Their governing regimes oppose the freedoms of Western democracies, suppress the rule of law, subvert civil society, support anti-democratic movements worldwide, persecute and target critics at home and abroad. The outcome is a foreign and domestic policy in […]

11: Dark Political Culture – Politics as Entertainment

PUBLIC DISCUSSION OF American politics follows the lead of American mass culture and has become a ratings-driven commodification of politics as mass entertainment. In the light of this definition, Trumpian politics is bound to ascend the highest stage of dark political culture. What critical theorists of the Frankfurt School said about the “culture industry” (Kulturindustrie) […]

12: Dark Philosophy – Postmodern Relativity

TRUTHS TO ONE side of the political spectrum, lies to the other – how is that parallax possible? Well, good stories don’t lie; the hero always wins; and Trump is the hero in a galaxy of narrative truths. If you live in a world with factual truth, your sun shines in another universe. Consider the […]

Postscript: Trump & Trumpism in Hindsight?

DARKNESS LOST IN the United States presidential election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Light won by a wide margin: 81 million popular votes for the Biden-Harris ticket versus 74 million for Trump-Pence and 306 Electoral College votes versus 232. However, Trump did not concede. The defeated worked all legal and illegal angles to prevent President-elect […]

  1. Helmut Norpoth correctly predicted the 2016 election. This was his prediction for 2020: “The PRIMARY MODEL gives President Donald Trump a 91% chance of winning the 2020 presidential election, with Democrat Joe Biden having just a 9% chance. Trump would get 362 electoral votes, Biden 176. This forecast is unconditional and final, hence not subject to any updating. It was first posted March 2, 2020, on Twitter.”