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.”1 His inauguration address was radical Trumpism pure. The President’s first week in office indicated that the goals of T-Plus are guiding his governmental agenda.2 Blanket executive orders against immigration from Mexico3 and entry from seven majority Muslim countries (later reduced to six) were issued and reissued in January, quickly stopped by objections from the lower courts and then partly allowed by the Supreme Court in June.4 Trump’s call as President-elect for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”5 resulted as soon as possible in Trumpian action. Dark words have dark consequences.
The whole world is watching what kind of America T-Plus will create. Most Americans would like to see Trumpism made small again, yet neither they nor the world oversee American history today. To borrow from Decius/Anton’s Flight 93 analogy, Trump’s party, the minority of Americans who voted for Trump, and the right-wing enablers of radical Trumpism have boarded the airplane and Trump occupies the pilot’s seat.
We are now in a contemporary history emergency. What can a historian do in that situation? My answer is this manuscript. It won’t contribute an iota to a safe landing, but even if flight America crashes, I want to know what was happening. Thus, I am recording the dark words of Populism/Trumpism as well as the dark energy, which roils the Trumpian force field and enables the deadly winds that can bring us down.
THE AMERICAN VOTING pattern favors change-candidates after any two-term presidency. Hence, the eight years of Barack Obama helped both the election of Donald Trump as well as the prediction of Trump’s victory.6 Although an important element, the “swing of the electoral pendulum” (Norpoth) was no guarantee; a whole lot of additional factors had to gather substantial strength to produce the 2016 election result. Many things had to accumulate to shatter the old order. A critical mass of simmering discontent, novel opportunities, and disruptive innovations had to join forces to blow the contenders out of the race and sweep Trump and Trumpism up and into the cockpit.
Long in the making, it is highly unlikely that the Trumpian force field will shut down quickly. Instead, its dark energy will remain a source of deadly winds for years to come. This force field is constantly energized by forces that are not going to let up soon. America is facing a perfect storm of overwhelming changes:
- disruptive technological trends
- strategic allocations of big money
- despair about rising inequality
- unsettling demographic shifts
- corruption of party politics
- global geopolitical pressures
- politics as entertainment
- the postmodern inability to distinguish beliefs, opinions, lies, facts, and truth.
I will discuss these eight dynamic forces in the second part of this manuscript, starting with the spectacular growth and political impact of new social media, one of modern technology’s most recent and beloved, yet also most disruptive and subversive innovations.
- Donald Trump, “The Inaugural Address,” 20 Jan. 2017.
- See Office of the Press Secretary, “President Trump’s First Week of Action.” 28 Jan. 2017.
- Donald Trump, “Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.” 25 Jan. 2017.
- For the first attempt, see “Full Executive Order Text: Trump’s Action Limiting Refugees into the U.S.” The New York Times, 27 Jan. 2017. For the second iteration, see Matt Zapotosky, David Nakamura, and Abigail Hauslohner, “Revised Executive Order Bans Travelers from Six Muslim-Majority Countries from Getting New Visas.” Washington Post, 6 March 2017. For the third, but not last act, see Michael D. Shear, “Questions and Answers About the Travel Ban Case.” The New York Times, 26 June 2017. A Supreme Court decision is scheduled for later in 2017. Sept. 2020 addition: The Supreme Court ruled on June 26, 2018. It upheld Trump’s travel ban (with a 5-4 opinion split) as within the President’s power. See SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES and Wikipedia, Trump vs. Hawaii.
- Jessica Taylor, “Trump Calls For ‘Total and Complete Shutdown of Muslims Entering’ U.S.” NPR, 7 Dec. 2015.
- See chapter 3: The Dark Features of Trumpism, note 21.