One dilemma in political analyzing is the fact that political arena is not merely political, it affects and is affected by economic, social and cultural prevailing circumstances, which means that any analysis of the local political reality must take into consideration such circumstances, and in a dynamic, vital manner, particularly if such context is entangled, changing and full of surprises like the current scene in the United States.
The “Post-Trump phase” might be one of the most phases to get a thorough study that is likely to elaborate to turn into a special sub-field under the section “Post – Trump Studies”, still, ascribing the changes that occurred lately in the social and political American structure is a huge fallacy, mainly because what happened during the past four years is not but a disclosure of an accumulated imbalance that has been going on for many years. The gap widened between classes of people who consider that they have been deliberately excluded by the elite – of various political affiliations – in a way that reduced their representation in the political system and limited their economic capabilities.
That`s why we can categorize the changes clearly crystalized internally in the US as populist transformations. Such transformations were predicted years ago by a number of researchers in political sociology which means they are “natural” changes and are consistent with a reacting context that witnessed the faltering of multiple pressing factors used to affect political and social systems.
Being “natural” doesn’t mean being perfect, nor that it will beget positive effects. It is natural in the sense of being a natural predicted product of previous causes. Populism is not, after all, an anomaly as much as it is a side effect of the courses of “globalization” and “digitalization”, both affected every life aspect and impacted the mechanism of dealing with public affairs.
Globalization is based on melting all barriers that face the flow of ideas, goods and services between world countries, and comes as a result of domination of liberal democratic pattern over political sense of western countries and its conformity with liberal thought alliances as a way to counter the expansion of communism in the world.
With the demise of the external threat embodied in the Soviet Union, globalization lost its luster in the eyes of many Americans, because it is considered by many of trump`s supporters as a burden to be shed in order to harness all capabilities and powers for “America`s First”, and minimize focus on international relations unless they benefit financial and economic interests of the American people.
The digital media revolution represented by social media enabled the populist crowd to interact directly among themselves and to confine themselves to their social media pages sitting behind a specific narration of events, which is normally completely different from the narration of a media that is keen on specificity and objectivity, and also distant from adopting an emotional discourse that is directed to one specific spectrum of society.
Indeed, social media in addition to some applications became platforms to mobilize and organize the groups that stormed “Capitol Hill” building in January 2021. Such actions prompted many social media companies to block tens of thousands of accounts, including president Trump`s, which was considered an account that promotes violence and violates public policies.
In the light of the above mentioned data, Trumps policies did not create this wave of populism and rightism, it already existed duo to the lack of handling the shortcomings in the American internal structure. What happened in the past four years only accelerated the appearance of these imbalances, and was also aggravated by the economic and health impacts of Coronavirus that deepened the distrust of Americans in their state.
These structural imbalances are not unique or unprecedented in the American political history, for example, at the second half of the 19th century, and as a result of the industrial revolution and employing machines, some sectors such as agriculture and handicraft occupations were harmed, countryside population moved to city centers to get closer to industrial facilities, at the same time, the social transformations of the industrial revolution promoted the “Anti-Elites” and “Anti-Immigrants” populist discourse that calls for following economic protective policies, very similar to what we witness nowadays.
Despite the instability that followed the industrial revolution, still, the American system managed to absorb the shock, grasp the demands and move on to a phase of prosperity and recovery. That`s why some American writers are optimistic about the United States ability to overcome the current tension. Cycles of repeated crises throughout American history show that criticizing political and social structures is mostly followed by an advanced phase of high confidence in the capabilities of institutions and public collective conscious. According to “Freedom Lab” intellectual organization, in a report published in November 2020, regarding the “Trumpism” future, one of the most notable writers who tackled this issue is George Friedman in his book “The Storm Before the Calm: America’s Discord, Coming Crisis of the 2020s, and the Triumph Beyond”.
However, this doesn’t mean underestimating the current crises, getting over it is not – by any means – a given, it rather needs to be subjected to thorough reviews and calculations. Trumpism is not just associated with trump, and will not withdraw with his departure, even if Trump`s “chaotic” methods in governance – according to critics – and his narcissistic personality that tends to deny objective facts, played a role in shaping the current scene in America.
An opinion article published on the blog of London School of Economics and Political Science in December 2020, argued that populism has the quality of being a “Top-Down Process”, meaning that populist base entitles its leader to act on its behalf in leading, and is content with expressing support for him and acting according to his vision. Those followers do not feel the necessity to practice practical roles related to political matters other that what`s needed to ensure the ascending of such leader to governance and to maintain in that position.
The slogans held by the protesters who broke into the congress had the same ideals of crowning the leader, “One for all and all for one’, for example, was highly present in the halls of the congress, a slogan that refers to “QAnon” extremist group.
With trump leaving the office, a great percentage of his right-wing populist supporters will lean more towards practicing legal and illegal activities to express their political identity and their right to participate in American policy-making. This bedrock of supporters will no longer be restricted by considerations of political stability, rather, it will be undisciplined and anarchic. Even if it was managed and guided, there is a chance of being led in a direction that is not in line with the standards of democracy.
It is very important in this context to predict the “Trumpism” conduct for the next phase in political, social, and security aspects in order to pre-empt any possible dangers, and to prevent those latest transformations from becoming an established feature in American political culture.
In the political sphere
We can`t just sum up the current scene as a rejection of some of Trump supporters of the elections results, it is rather a case of rebellion against the established values in American democracy, and a violent explicit try to change the track of political constitutional entitlements governed by peaceful transfer of power as a basis of liberal democracy.
In general, populism is defined as a non-liberal democracy, it tends towards participation in the political process but only under its own terms, and in a manner that grants it an empowerment in the political system, mainly without paying any respect for the rules of the democratic game.
Regardless of the emerging populism, constitutional institution remains the guarantor of democracy, and will “challenge” - using its robust procedures - any pressing variable that’s trying to “endorse” democracy that excludes the “other”.
At the peak of the crisis on the day of breaking into the congress, the security system took action to control the situation and evacuate the protesters, and the legislative system insisted on moving forward in validating Biden`s electing as set out in the constitution, not to mention that a number of republican party leaders abandoned Trump and clearly expressed their anger and discontent with the way things ended up.
The republican party is expected to have some thorough reviews in preparations for mid-term congressional elections that will occur in less than two years. On one hand, it is not in the interest of the party to go through elections looking as an “incubator” for rebellion and fanaticism, on the other hand, it can’t participate after provoking the grass-roots that voted for Trump and granted him 75 million votes.
Keeping in mind that if the congress did not declare the incapacity of Trump to assume any federal position in the future, he might be a presidential candidate in the elections of 2024, and even if not, he still can be playing hidden political role that makes him a “kingmaker” by recommending candidates that are close to him, and supporting them through elections.
Here is where a Republican-Trumpism division might aggravate to a full discord, marked by the departure of Trump and his supporters to create a new party that goes in line with the principle of “A Great America”, a principle used to stir the emotions of his supporters, as it was very clear that their anger was not directed in the first place towards the democrats, but towards the Republican leaders who did not agree on his proposals and were considered as “traitors” for those supporters.
This Republican-Republican fracture did not suddenly appear after the presidential elections of 2020. there have been some intense discussions since the 2016 elections, republican leaders were debating the medium-range fallouts of supporting Trump on the strength and solidity of the party. In his presidential campaign in 2020, Trump did not hesitate to publicly and explicitly criticize some party leaders who did not show enough support for him, and classified them as “"RINO=Republican in Name Only”.
Worth mentioning that the congress building protesters set up a symbolic noose for “traitors of the white race” inspired by “day of the rope” promoted among the fantasists that call for “purging” the United states against those who stand against achieving a white race full supremacy.
In the social sphere
Social theories may be providing a more accurate diagnosis of reality than that of political theories, mainly because the present “inputs” of the political process stems from a social disorder that transformed into demands by angry and furious groups “Catalyzed” to defend its social identity against the “other”.
This “other” for Trump supporters is not just immigrants or African Americans, it is any and every person who might oppose their perspective of a white evangelical America led by a president they feel he comes from their environment and pledges to protect their “existence” against “cultural abolition” targeting them.
The visit Trump made in January 2021 to the border wall with Mexico sent a clear message to his supporters, saying that he fulfilled his election promises when he was a candidate and maintained his pledge as a president to reduce the entry of immigrants to the United States, signifying one of his achievements to his grass-roots.
Biden`s presence in office – supporting open immigration policies – does not mean an upside down change in the way American authorities deal with immigration file, because such change might provoke further a broad crowd, that is already expected to become more active in a movement opposed to receiving more immigrants.
The religious factor is also expected to become more prominent in the American “public sphere”, where Trump supporters will rise up to defend gains achieved by his administration. This might cause the promoting of more extremist religious ideas of religious myths, especially ones related to the end of the time “Armageddon”. At that point, the puritans would feel nostalgia to the period of trump`s ruling “the savior” who provided moral services for the conservative evangelical public.
Talking about the effect of religious considerations over the American structure is not some sort of exaggeration, because such considerations have great influence over the unconscious of any individual. Religion is one of the “hidden” motivators of the American voter, a closer look for example, shows us that most American presidents were Protestants, the only two Catholics were Joe Biden and John Kennedy who was assassinated in events that remain mysterious and still fuel cinematic drama.
At the same time, and contrary to the rightest-extremism, the liberal stream may follow a clearly extreme path that adopts anti-rightist ideas, leading both –rightist and leftist extremists – to fuel each other, causing more complications and creating more obstacles in front of the efforts to reduce current tension. Thus, extremism is no longer an exception affecting a minority, it becomes an indication denoting a whole political orientation.
All of the above mentioned shows that the interaction of Trump and his opponents in the cultural structure will lead to a sort of “Deconstruction” in the social fabric, unless the political elite were to act up – both Republicans and Democrats – to mend these gaps, which is an issue Biden is going to place on top of his priorities and aims.
In the security sphere
Security officials did not hesitate to call the conduct of the congress intruders a “domestic terrorism”, a concept that refers to violence enacted by an ideologized group to achieve political goals. Usually, these ideologized groups are part of society and its identity, but they decided at a given moment to express themselves in a violent illegal manner.
We didn’t get a chance while preparing this report to reach a reliable source among the groups placed on terrorist lists of the security monitoring agencies. Most extremist-rightist groups don’t seem to be tracked as possible terrorist risks, rather, they move easily through the internet. The security systems may be running – or already did – a security evaluation recommending the necessity of tracking and following up such groups on an equal footing to transnational terrorist organizations.
In January of 2020, STRATEGIECS Think Tank published a research paper titled: “New Zealand Attack: A Manifestation of Transnational Terrorism” in which it recommended the need to observe far-right groups in Europe, in addition to enlisting such groups as terrorist, and subject combating it to security logic usually used to deal with terrorist groups.
Having an international data base about extremist-rightists and exchanging information related to these groups among security institutions of various countries can truly facilitate tracking its members and consequently neutralize any systematic actions that aim to harm security and democracy.
Groups like “Antifa, Black lives Matter, QAnon, Proud Boys” should be on terrorist lists, considering that some members in such groups may commit terrorist acts in the immediate term, like assassinating a public figure or targeting a certain group of people.
Indeed, federal authorities in Washington are preparing to ensure the security during inauguration day on the 20th of January. Robert Contee, the police chief of Washington, confirmed that maintaining public order in DC on that day will be assigned to more than 20 thousand of national guards soldiers. Jeffrey Rosen, acting United States attorney general, also threatened groups he described as “domestic terrorists” in case they committed any act of violence before or at the day of inauguration.
In this context, American democracy will be facing a dilemma of balancing between security and freedom. the borderline between freedom and chaos becomes very narrow in such cases, and requires, sometimes, sacrificing a step of liberty in order to maintain security. Most probably, and if the current tension were to continue, deep state will be forced to create a new reality where security necessities will be a priority, which in turn may lead to restrain in freedoms for a long time. Here we should seriously question if there are some entities that will benefit from these restrains, or maybe had a role in creating the circumstances that warranted the restrains.
Just a start
After the resentment that followed braking into the congress building and legislators` validation of Biden’s win, Trump pledged an “orderly transfer of authority” without admitting the validity of the elections results. He commented: “While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again”.
This diagnosis may be accurate, what happened may be “only the beginning”, and the real troubles may start on the 21st of January, on the next day of Biden`s installation, that`s when “American democracy” will be put to test as institutions and social values that have developed through an enormous historical context, starting from the declaration of independence in 1776, the civil war, the two world wars, the cold war, and all that permeated and accompanied these events of intellectual social transformations that were absorbed and handled by the political system. Democracies are renewable and can rehabilitate themselves for survival, because the only alternative would be the disintegration of the United States as a political unit, and the loss of 245 years formulated as a strategic stock for the concept of the state.
Therefore, this situation demands Biden’s administration to carry out a meticulous and deep review for the American interior, then formulate a practical and radical strategy to face extremism. It must also work on keeping partisan “push and pull” away from doubts and accusations of extremism. After all, if both parties were to defiance rightist-populism, they will need a sagacity that will not provoke their supporters, otherwise Pandora's Box will open to evils of anger and racism.
The situation also requires giving priority to domestic reality over other files, after all, the United States` competitors and enemies did “benefit” from the drainage of its capabilities over external files that are not urgently connected to American national security.