You’ve heard it on the news, and you’ve seen some writers use the phrase before – “Trumpism.” Generally what follows is a depiction of the Boy King’s personality quirks, but I am much more interested in what “Trumpism”, as a political philosophy and political movement, substantively represents. Answering this question was by no means an easy task, but I gave it my best shot here. So, let’s take a little peak down the old rabbit hole, shall we?
First and foremost, we can definitively say that Trumpsim represents a…
Reactionary movement: Reactionary movements, as defined by Wikipedia, are those whose “political views favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which possessed characteristics that are absent from the contemporary society.”
“Make America Great AGAIN !”
Any objections so far? Okay, so, given this, it seems reasonable to say that Trumpism represents a…
Conservative reactionary movement: Trumpism clearly favors a return to a society (real or imagined) that is perceived as having been more conservative, generally speaking (i.e. fewer immigrants, religious homogeneity in Christianity, “law and order”, open discrimination against both racial and sexual minorities, openly acknowledged racial hierarchy with clear benefits for the dominant race, protectionistic posture internationally, intolerance of leftists/communists/anti-patriots, etc.). But to say that it is merely a “conservative reactionary” movement is not quite specific enough, as traditional conservatism as a contemporary ideology in the United States has, for the most part, rejected the political stylings of one Mr. Donald J. Trump. We must be more specific.
Okay, well, American “conservatism” as an ideology is a fairly broad tent. Is there a particular strain of American conservatism that more closely tracks this movement’s philosophy and goals? I believe there is, and therefore I would more accurately characterize Trumpism as a…
Paleoconservative reactionary movement: There is a rock-hard case to be made that the central tenants of Trumpism fit most neatly (though not perfectly) into a Paleoconservative framework. Paleoconservatism is defined by Wikipedia as “a conservative political philosophy stressing tradition, limited government, and civil society, along with religious, national and Western identity.”
Sounds like my uncle at Thanksgiving.
Continuing, “According to international relations scholar Michael Foley, ‘paleoconservatives press for restrictions on immigration, a rollback of multicultural programmes, the decentralization of federal policy, the restoration of controls upon free trade, a greater emphasis upon economic nationalism and non-interventionism in the conduct of American foreign policy, and a generally revanchist outlook upon a social order in need of recovering old lings of distinction and in particular the assignment of roles in accordance with traditional categories of gender, ethnicity, and race.’”
Grab ’em by the green card!
Finally, one could make the argument that Trumpism is potentially even closer to being something significantly worse, in which case I would define it as a…
Paleoconservative neo-reactionary movement: The Neoreactionary movement, sometimes referred to as the “Dark Enlightenment” or the Neo-fascist movement, is defined by Wikipedia as “an anti-democratic and reactionary movement that claims to be the antithesis to the Enlightenment. It broadly rejects egalitarianism and the view that history shows inevitable progression towards greater liberty and enlightenment. The movement favors a return to older societal structures and forms of government, including support for monarchism or other forms of strong, centralized leadership coupled with a right-libertarian approach to economics.”
Continuing, “Some consider the Dark Enlightenment as an early school of thought in the alt-right, or as its most theoretically minded branch.”
Given the generally anti-intellectual ethos of the contemporary Republican party, coupled with Trump’s implicit assertion that Barack Obama’s proclamation that “the arch of history bends towards justice” is absurd and baseless, in addition to Trump’s clear authoritarian impulses, this definition doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to me. While it does seem clear that the leaders of the Trumpist movement are generally content to operate within a relatively mainstream, democratic framework, some of them have also signaled that they would be willing to resist such a framework if it significantly hobbled their ambitions (which is to say nothing of the fact that many card-carrying Republicans express distaste for democracy in general).
In short, Trumpsim as an ideology can be accurately described as embodying (at least) the following traits:
- Ethno nationalism
And depending on your interpretation, being also:
For further reading…
Dark Enlightenment: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Enlightenment#Relation_to_the_alt-right
Alternative Right: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alt-right
Hard right politics in the United States: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_right_(United_States)