They decide instead to double down. Where politics hasn’t worked, violence, they think, might.
You know and I know it. This is how Trumpism was always going to end. Where it’s escalating abuses, explosive rage, mounting resentment, growing fanaticism. Its violence was always going to erupt like a volcano. This was always fascism, and fascism always ends in an eruption of violence.
There are only three kinds of people in America that didn’t know it. One, CNN analysts and NYT pundits, who spent the last four years in a bizarre, wilful haze of staggeringly foolish denial. Two, DC insiders, who did the same thing. And three, the political opposition, the Dems, whose job it was to not let things reach this point.
Which point is that? The point of a genuine fascist collapse. There is now a madman in the White House who is totally off the rails. He still has more than a week to do, well, anything he can get away with. We joke that he might nuke Belgium. But we all know it’s not really that much of a joke.
America is now at the point of a full blown fascist collapse. There is a fascist in the White House, leading a fascist coup, which reached the point of violently storming the Capitol.
I’ve explained how all this happened — as you probably already knew, if you were a thoughtful and sane person — through a toxic cocktail of denial, complicity, and silence, all of which added up to a society in the throes of appeasement. White liberals denied it would get “this bad,” intellectuals literally laughed at the warnings that it would, the opposition failed catastrophically to heed them, instead relying on the usual coterie of clueless insiders, who’ve never lived through such a thing, and are still in shock that “it could happen here.”
What planet are these fools on? It’s been happening here for the last four years.
The last few days have just been the culmination of a pattern we all learn — or should have learned in high school textbooks, and then again in college. Scapegoating, hate, dehumanization, camps, paper-checking, raids, bans, purges, “family separations” aka genocide attempts, Gestapos beating and gassing people. What was the final explosive step in this sequence? A paroxysm of violence. A coup. What is that sequence — which is so, so predictable — called? Fascism.
So where does Trumpism go from here? I have some bad news, and I have some worse news. The pundits and intellectuals are as wrong now as they have been for the last four years. Trumpism isn’t going away, Trump didn’t “concede,” and his malign influence is only going to grow because he’s not President. I know that because a) I’ve seen it happen before, and b) that is how failed states like America evolve into ones plagued by sectarian violence and terrorism and long civil wars.
Let’s start with some grim, grim numbers. 80% of Republicans think Trump shouldn’t be removed from power — that’s after the attempted coup. 80%. A full half of them support the coup attempt, and think it was perfectly legitimate. Those are shocking numbers, and I’ll explain exactly why in just a moment.
First, why do those numbers exist? Because millions of Americans buy Trump’s propaganda and lies. They really do think the election was stolen from them. They think there was widespread election fraud. They believe that the election was rigged, that Trump should have won, that all those mail-in ballots which tipped the balance late on election night were some combination of fraud, trickery, and deceit.
Nothing — and I mean nothing — can convince them otherwise. Why is that?
White Americans have been radicalized. Maybe you haven’t been, sure. But a majority of white Americans voted for Trump, and a massive, massive majority of that majority thinks he should still be in power after a coup. About half of that majority thinks the coup was a perfectly acceptable way to deal with a “rigged election.”
How many people is that? 74 million people voted for Trump. That means something like 35 to 40 million Americans support the coup. There were about 153 million registered voters in America in 2018. 35 million people is about 25% of voters.
That is how many Americans have been radicalised by Trump. Radicalized in what way, precisely? Into being modern-day authoritarians and fascists, who think that violent attacks on the government are perfectly acceptable and desirable, if they lose an election, in which they wanted to reshape society along supremacist lines to begin with. If all that’s not authoritarianism and fascism, by the way — then what on earth is?
This group — which is almost entirely white — is every bit as radical as the kinds of social groups Americans imagine they disdain. They are America’s Taliban or ISIS. They do not want to live in a modern democracy. When they cry “the election was stolen,” and storm the Capitol, what they really mean is: we want to live in a totalitarian society where we make all the rules. We want a society of the pure blooded and true in faith. Every last aspect of society should be shaped along those regressive, hateful lines. We want a society of violence, which is why it’s perfectly logical to us that if you don’t agree with us, we will respond with violence.
This is exactly how the Muslim World collapsed. Americans, having too watched too much dumb cable news, imagine that the Muslim World is fanatics and extremists to the last man and woman. It isn’t. Quite the opposite. What happened in the Muslim World was that a fanatical minority attacked the institutions of liberal democracy, of civil society, of modernity, with a vengeance, with a determination, until they finally won. That process is what is beginning in America today. What gives me chilling certainty about that prediction isn’t just the dynamics — but even the numbers are eerily the same: about 25% of people becoming committed, hardened fanatics is what it has always taken to destabilise a society.
So what am I saying?
I’m saying that Trumpism as we know it is dying — but only to be reborn. It is undergoing a phase change, like wood becoming flames. It is transforming now from a political movement to a sectarian terrorist one.
Trumpists have made a fatal choice, one which Americans of the other kinds haven’t fully understood or reckoned, understandably, because they haven’t lived social collapse ever. Trumpists have decided to give up on politics. They have decided that they cannot bring about the social transformation they desire — which, again, is a totalitarian society of purity and blood — through politics alone, or maybe politics at all. They are discarding the idea that their fanatical, fascistic wishes can be accomplished through democratic means, because democracy has vehemently rejected them and their wishes. They have given up on the fundamental democratic ideas of peaceful consent and legitimacy attained through it — to the tiny, tiny extent that they ever brooked such ideas at all.
Trumpists have decided that because politics hasn’t worked to bring about the fascist society they want — they will use violence, instead.
If you think I’m kidding, go watch a few videos of the “rioters.” Look at the twisted rage on their faces. Listen to the words they’re using. “We’re coming for you, Nancy Pelosi, you c**t.” We’re coming for you? Those aren’t things that people committed to, say, peace, consent, and democracy say — or even think, much less say when they’re storming the Capitol. It couldn’t be any clearer — though I have a sinking feeling white liberals will go on living in denial about all this, but I digress.
Trumpism is dying, to be reborn again. That is the same pattern that has occurred in so many failing states. In the Muslim World, just the same thing happened: when the fanatics realised they couldn’t bring about their ideal society of the pure and true through democratic means, what happened? That’s when the fireworks really began.
That’s when what Americans think of as “the Muslim World” was born. The paramilitaries gave themselves grandiose names — The Army of the Pure, the Defenders of the Homeland, and so on. They began attacking the institutions of modernity, democracy, and civil society. Bars, clubs, restaurants, malls. Courts, parliaments. Hospitals, clinics, pharmacies. Anything that diverged from the pattern they wanted for society was now fair game — they were only doing God’s work, after all.
And so something gruesome came to pass. A kind of long, slow, grinding civil war. A war of terrorism, a war of attrition, a war on the innocent waged by the violent, stupid, and thoughtless.
Year in and year out, attack after attack came. People’s sense of optimism and faith waned. Nowhere and nothing seemed safe. Slowly, they lost confidence in their government, in the idea of peace and safety and togetherness. Distrust and suspicion grew. And before anyone knew it, the fascists had won.
There are countless examples, by the way, of such long, slow civil wars. You can think of The Troubles in Ireland. The Balkans. Parts of Latin and South American — which, ironically, were destabilized by America. What all these regions have in common is a certain pattern. Fanatics, leaning already towards violence, led by demagogues, one day wake up to find politics has failed them. But they are not about to give up. They decide instead to double down. Where politics hasn’t worked, violence, they think, might.
That is how long, slow civil wars begin.
Americans know these process by many other names — “guerrilla wars,” “insurrections,” “civil conflict,” and so on. That is because America started many of these civil wars. In Nicaragua, for example, America literally traded drugs for guns with the fascists. In Chile, America literally supported death squads.
American media, which gave a free pass to all this ugliness, was hardly going to snitch on the Pentagon and CIA. America’s intellectuals and editors and columnists, after all, were behind these shadow wars, vehemently. And it wasn’t just that the seeds of a Trump were sown, because such violence always comes home. It was also that Americans never understood how societies fall into terrorism, civil war, violence as a way of life.
That is why Americans at this juncture don’t quite understand what is happening to their society yet. So let me spell it out again, in painful detail, as clearly as I can.
If history is any guide, Trumpism is now undergoing a kind of terrible metamorphosis. From a political movement to a violent one. From one who seeks power democratically, to one which contests it violently. From one whose means are the ballot box and the policy podium, to the terrorist attack and the guerrilla bombing and the coup. Trumpism is now morphing into America’s ISIS or Taliban, its sectarian terror wing, dedicated to overthrowing democracy, and replacing it with a totalitarian, fascist society.
Again, if you think I’m kidding, go ahead and tell me where the mistake is. I know that sounds a little much — but think about where we are, my friend.
What’s likely to happen is this. Trump will emerge freed from the shackles of the Presidency to lead this “insurgency,” which is what its die-hard meme era will call it, probably, or “liberation movement,” or some such thing. When he’s not President, he’s much, much freer to do even more dangerous things than when he was. He can openly incite violence and demonise the opposition and wink-wink nudge-nudge say I’m not telling you to bomb that courthouse or attack this state capitol, but. Perhaps you see my point.
Trump is on his way to becoming something like an American Ayatollah. Someone who runs a terrorist movement and network of die-hard fascists. If you think that sounds over the top — and I bet you do — then consider that there’s more than a 9/11 every day now. Largely of Trump’s doing. And Trump and the Trumpets don’t care.
Let’s connect a few final dots. Trump and his Trumpists are totally OK with mass death — that much Covid proves beyond a shadow of a doubt. They are totally comfortable risking their own lives — Covid proves that, too — which means they are already willing martyrs. And they back violence as a means of attaining power.
What does all that tell you? It tells me — someone who’s seen exactly all that happening before, exactly — that this is an army of sectarian terrorists in waiting. It is a fascist tidal wave just waiting to be unleashed, at a new level of rage, brutality, and indifference.
What we saw at the Capitol is not the end. It is just the beginning. Of a new level of Trumpism. The democratic phase of this fascist movement is over. The violent one is just beginning. Will it plunge America into the long, slow civil war that happened in so many other countries — so many of them created by America itself? I shudder as I write that, my friend.
I lived through not just one, but several. And deja vu gives me a terrible, icy chill. What I have to tell you today is that there is every chance that such a thing is happening in America now. Trump might well emerge as America’s very own Ayatollah, leading an army of terrorists and fanatics to heaven — and the rest of us straight to hell.