Trumpism today and tomorrow
Inroads has explored the emergence of populist politicians and movements in a number of European countries (this issue is no exception). They constitute a development we should not underestimate. Yet nowhere is there a populist constitiuency in a longstanding Western democracy as big and isolated from the mainstream as the Trumpites among our neighbours to the south.
This is the third consecutive issue of Inroads in which I offer commentary on American politics, a reflection of my obsession with Trumpism. This time I write in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections (see box). These comments set the stage for a report from Frances Boylston, recounting her impressions when visiting the United States at the end of September.
What we could see from afar in the late summer was that, while Donald Trump was alienating opinion leaders at home and abroad, he seemed to be consolidating his position among Republicans. This meant that Republicans in Congress had either to swallow the Trump line, retire voluntarily or be pushed out by Trump loyalists in primaries.
Conservative intellectuals were in a somewhat similar position. Many never warmed to Trump, and even many of those initially willing to give him a chance have abandoned him. For them, in contrast to Republican politicians, expressing critical views of Trump did not, as a rule, mean putting their careers on the line. What is remarkable is that expressing such views seemed to have little or no effect on those who--they assumed--read, watch and listen to them in forming their opinions.
I have made a habit of watching the CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN Sunday talk shows. Each of these shows allocates about half its time to panels of commentators which, traditionally, are balanced in their composition between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. As the Trump era proceeded, they increasingly had to abandon this format. The only defenders of Trump they could find, apparently, worked for him in the White House. It has become effectively impossible to find someone with intellectual credibility willing and able to defend Trump and his congressional enablers.
What about Fox News? While I do not know of any respected pro-Trump conservative intellectual who appears on Fox as a commentator, Fox is known for having pro-Trump hosts. Does that mean that the Trumpites have simply been following Fox's lead? I doubt it; more likely, the relationship is the reverse, comparable...