During these waning days of the incompetent, failed, seditious, and ultimately defeated Trump administration that occupied Washington for a four year long national horror movie, it is worth assessing the future of the massive and chilling movement the greatest American con man in history created. The presidency itself has come and gone, but the movement will live on in some form or another to continue torturing our nation and the very idea of democracy itself. Many Trump voters will refuse to accept how badly they were crushed at the polls in 2020 for the rest of their lives. Their lead carnival barker may not hold the mantle of leadership for many more years given his advanced age, disintegrating mental health and disgusting lifestyle habits, but his evil adult spawns are likely to live for decades to come, perhaps somehow evading the prison they rightfully belong in, flaunting their gleeful political ambitions even after the dramatic electoral beatdown the family just went through courtesy of the Biden/Harris ticket. For the family is incapable of introspection, much like the lemmings who follow them. And so Trumpism will unfortunately live on for years, and we need to accept that. Despite all of this, it’s not Trump or his family I am so worried about when it comes to the future.
It’s Trump people, who are still legion, that are the real problem. Although I am loathe to do so, I have spent a great deal of time trying to understand the people who make up the hardcore MAGA cult. I have had numerous interactions with many of them in person and on social media. I know many card-carrying members quite well, just as I have become a hobbyist expert on cults and cultism due to their profoundly negative effects on my own personal life. Much of the below you may already know about. But my overall impressions may surprise you, so I hope you will read on.
I have something deeply in common with all these people, and regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, you might as well. I like to win. Very, very badly. Whether that means a pickup basketball game, a card game, the stock market, or various types of more serious conflicts I find myself in, I cannot stand to lose, or to be wrong in my choices that led to a loss. I cannot stand it when my favorite sports teams lose a single point, let alone games or playoff series. I hate losing with a passion regardless of the stakes. So we can comprehend where all of this fear and loathing and lack of acceptance of reality stem from: Trump represents a false sense of victory personified to a certain brand of observer, be it in life, business, or politics. He is a voice for many Americans and others around the world who feel they have been stomped down by the dark hidden forces of some vaguely evil and unfair system, an entirely unfamiliar and wholly uncomfortable position especially many white people find themselves in today as the playing field is being leveled unsteadily. These self-fashioned victims are tired of being left behind, and the simple answer is recklessly blind faith in their perceived champion who will pull them into a promised land. How very American indeed for some cocktail of superhero comic, God, manifest destiny, and rural culture to form the backbone of a uniquely American confidence man’s following, though he doesn’t care about these people even one iota and will largely have gone down doing nothing for them. This is all so diabolically brilliant actually as an overall scheme.
This is where I dramatically split off from these people in the tree of human evolution though: the desire for Trump and his minions to win is so great, they are willing to beg, steal, lie, and cheat to get there. Or whatever else it takes, including collusion with foreign enemies, once upon a time an untouched guardrail in electoral politics. For me, if I win a pickup game by cheating, that is actually worse on my sensibilities than the admitted horror of losing. In fact, more than 3 decades later I am still haunted by guilt about a pickup soccer game at my 7th birthday party, where as team captain I stacked my team inordinately with the best players in attendance, and we went on to romp to victory in an unfair match that was no fun for anybody including myself. The Trump philosophy if ever there was one is to entirely abdicate the concepts of fairness or rules, which are for chumps and losers. Trumpism and MAGA can be boiled down entirely to one simple phrase: “heads I win, tails you lose.”
So what does that mean for our continually dangerous reality? When Trump won an election in 2016 it was of course legitimate. When he lost an election in 2020, it was naturally rigged. When COVID deaths spiked, it was the fault of China or state governors. When a vaccine is about to come online that the White House had absolutely nothing to do with, Trump will pounce to take the unearned credit. When the stock market is up, Trump’s economic genius is on display. When the stock market tanks, it’s the fault of the Federal Reserve and Democrats. When Fox & Friends hosts shamelessly suck his dick for half an hour in the morning, they are great journalists, but a single tough question at a presser is fake news. When Trump’s crooked friends like Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, Brad Parscale, and Michael Flynn are indicted for proven and serious criminal conspiracies they are innocent victims of the deep state. Yet Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton need to be locked up- though no prosecutor in the crooked Trump DOJ has come close to pinning a legitimate crime on either of them. No, they do not engage in Satanic pedophilia but if presented with real proof, I would certainly look at that.
But that’s not how heads you lose, tails I win works at all. Our friends on the other side do not provide us such courtesies as objectively examining facts and evidence. They live in a headspace where everyone commits the types of evil that they condone, accept, and support when their team does it in the service of winning- which is how we get “whataboutism” as their basic answer in any debate: “But Hillary’s emails!” For their team has REAL pedophiles who are always excused. At the heart of all this rot is a serious logical fallacy- that they are always right, and the other side is always wrong. And everything and everyone is on a side: with Trump or against Trump. This is how cults operate and even thrive, with an us against the world mentality. You’ll see it in Scientology, multi-level marketing schemes, and all the rest.
When we look back on the Trump years with this clear lens, everything makes sense. Biden could not have won fairly by definition, because he is on the other side. Mexican or Muslim immigrants cannot be good for our country, because they are on the other side. War hero John McCain didn’t deserve White House representation at his funeral, because he said mean things about Trump. Every hard question from the press conference, town hall, interview, or debate is unfair! COVID data is all fake news! Any Republican leader who didn’t sign on to Trump’s disgusting campaign to overturn a fair election is the enemy.
This is the biggest tragedy of the presidency. What an awesome opportunity wasted. If Trump cared about America in the least and was capable of a little focus, great things could have been accomplished such as controlling the COVID pandemic, improving on Obamacare rather than trying to dismantle it, or legalizing marijuana at the federal level, all of which would have gotten broad support across the political spectrum and in fact would have helped Trump get 4 more years. But political self-interest- real winning– is less important than being perceived as a winner in a world where smoke and mirrors are the ends unto themselves. So instead of any sweeping bipartisan policy accomplishments for the last few years, we have become the laughingstock and pity party of the world, a rudderless and gridlocked federal government bumbling its way through our historic crises. We will need to dig ourselves out of this deep hole in a long, hard slog and I’m not sure how long that will take.
To be fair the above issues aren’t exclusive to the Trump cult. Many leftists I come across have seemed to give up on all logic in public debate as well, oftentimes preferring to espouse what feels good rather than what is factually correct or effective towards reaching their stated goals. However, by far the leading example of where the logic train has broken down in our public discourse rests firmly in the Trump inner circle and radiates out through most of his millions of voters in 2016 and 2020. They are a far bigger threat to America than any external enemy could ever hope to be.
Morality is one of the first victims in discourse where logic has fallen by the wayside, and this is how a two-bit goon like Trump becomes powerful. The answer to our problems lies in addressing this fact, and dramatically. Logic and reason are what actually made America great in the first place, as we became the unquestioned academic, economic, cultural, and military engine for the rest of the world. Logic and reason are what will get us back to our rightful place as great “again.” It all starts and ends with our education system. Schools and universities need to shore up on our STEM education drastically for us to emerge from the pit we are in, and as a side note this is also a prerequisite if we hope to be competitive on the world stage for the rest of the 21st century at all. Every single grade K-12 and core university curricula needs to have Logic taught as a class required by law. Otherwise, we may as well just drop out of the race altogether.
The media has gone down a rabbit hole of entertaining readers, viewers and listeners with sexy soundbites and zero-sum vituperation, if not outright lies made up from whole cloth, all in service to ratings and dollars rather than thoughtful examinations of the given issues and guiding those through to their natural ends using effectiveness metrics as the most desirable outcome rather than riling up the audience emotionally. Throw in the zero value added of the social media echo chamber to our public discourse, and its role in spreading lies for those remorseless enough on the most important matters of the day.
Next let’s get started on these damn politicians. If I could, I would mandate that every politician in America is forced to attend a national Logic Academy, where ground rules would be set that debate requires a common set of agreed upon conduct protocols steeped in facts, evidence and data. I mean, what a pathetic state of affairs. We now as a nation and world have a richer set of available hard data on every subject we could possibly imagine, growing exponentially every day, all of it waiting for us to harness it to make life better for our polity and our people, rather than shouting over each other on cable news. Imagine if all of that computing power was focused on better policing, foreign policy, healthcare, and addressing climate change. Data is in fact how we proved anthropogenic climate change is even real. But that’s not enough. We are running out of time, and we can’t let the knuckle-dragging GOP Neanderthals of our society be the ones who hold us back from progress any longer. That blame will eventually be deserved by those of us who should know better.
Unfortunately for this path I have paved with good intentions, time is not on our side. For many older Americans in the MAGA cult, it will be too late to ever learn logic. The media landscape looks to get worse and worse, not better, and the increased democratization of media is actually what got us here. Social media is an obvious cancer steadily picking apart our society that is not going anywhere anytime soon. The mandatory national Logic Academy for politicians is nothing more than a pipe dream of mine- it’s just too well-adjusted an idea for modern America. Any moves to improve our gargantuan mammoth of an education system in this area will take decades, not years.
In attempting to accomplish most if not all of the above, we unfortunately do not have much hope unless enough of us like-minded folks come into more power than we have right now. But there is a moonshot that just might sooner help America move forward, and it might be the last viable option left. The Grand Old Party, which has been enslaved by a fickle and disloyal Master Trump, will need to shake off those rusty shackles and redefine itself as a legitimate political party once again with an actual interest in governing, a policy platform, and the return of moral rectitude and basic decency from the abyss they chose to climb down the last 5 years. No party should be about one person. Country should always go above party meanwhile- for both sides. This will no doubt be painful, and will likely lead to some electoral losses for the Republicans. However, the alternative will certainly be much worse, for the party and also for all of us. Republicans would be best served by ripping the damn Band-Aid off, now. The longer they wait, the worse it gets. The decent Republican voters who are left, and are disturbed with the dark direction their beloved political party has chosen to plunge into, need to step up right now and restore what has been lost. They need to seize back the reins of their once-proud legacy, now in tatters. We are well beyond the territory of partisanship or Republican vs. Democrat being what ails us. We are in more dangerous waters.
Trump will not go quietly into the night on January 20, 2021. There is simply no universe where that is possible. I guarantee it. That’s not who he is and it’s not who he will be in post-presidency. His mental illnesses and terminal lack of decency make him easy to figure out. He won’t build houses for Habitat for Humanity, like Jimmy Carter, or engage in any other type of volunteer work for that matter. He isn’t going to paint portraits to benefit military veterans, like George W. Bush. He isn’t going to do adventure water sports and write books, like Barack Obama. He will land on his perch in Mar-A-Lago and continue trying to ruin America for his own self-aggrandizement with nasty Tweets and super-spreader rallies. So that’s coming, brace for it. However, America’s future is not up to this stinking turd sticking relentlessly to the bottom of our shoes. It is up to all of us. In the vanguard of the return to normalcy, the pressure rests mostly on the Republican voter of tomorrow.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor