“Trump World” is not a joke, if it ever really was. That’s no longer the term exclusively applied to Donald Trump’s orbit by media observers or political opponents. It’s now how Trump World describes itself.
When longtime Trump loyalist Corey Lewandowski lost his job leading the pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Action, after facing accusations of sexual misconduct, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich tweeted that Lewandowski “will no longer be associated with Trump World.” (He was replaced by former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is very much still associated with Trump World.)
Yes, it may be amusing to hear Donald Trump’s agents and apparatchiks referring to the Great Leader’s inner circle with a term formerly used by detractors. But only if you still believe that liberal schadenfreude and mockery offer an effective defense against the rise of neofascism.
Yes, Trump World has interesting and bizarre characters: a mattress salesman, a former mayor of America’s largest city who has hair-dye issues, a Nosferatu-like white supremacist, a drunken would-be Renaissance man and various other hucksters, henchmen and rejects from the Republican Party’s “land of broken toys” who are now Trump’s agents of chaos and perfidy.
Yes, Donald Trump himself only seems to exist as a simulacrum, a TV or film character come to life, who exemplifies the worst aspects of the human condition. That is not a bug but a feature: As a man and a figurehead, Donald Trump is irresistible to his cult members precisely because of those attributes.
In essence, Donald Trump the man is identical to “Donald Trump” the character, who is so ridiculous that he could not possibly exist. Yet he does.
Some have even speculated that there is no Donald Trump — it’s really the late legendary comedian Andy Kaufman, playing Tony Clifton, who in turn is playing “Donald Trump”. We may never know the answer.
But one should not forget that fascists, authoritarians and autocrats more generally can often be funny, both in terms of style and personality. Such individuals and their followers are often mocked by “serious” leaders and intellectuals, as well as by the larger political class and other respectable types. That mockery and humor all too often turns into existential terror, recrimination, pleas for mercy and other desperate apologies.
In fact, a certain leader universally viewed as one of the greatest villains in human history, who brought the world to the brink of disaster, was frequently described by the American and European news media and other observers as a ridiculous buffoon who posed no real threat.
In the famous description by biographer Joachim Fest, said world leader “always appeared foolish to sage political minds, and for years — indeed, virtually to the moment of his final victory — arrogant conventional wisdom did not take him seriously. The widespread mockery heaped upon him has been justified by his appearance, his unhinged rhetorical flights and the theatrical atmosphere he deliberately created around himself. Yet in a manner almost impossible to describe, he has always stood above or outside his banal and dull-witted persona.” Does any of that sound familiar?
Ultimately, Donald Trump and his movement — in other words, Trump World — offer a lesson and warning that they and people like them are capable of anything in their war on American democracy and society.
To wit: Politico recently reported on Trump’s obsession with “challenging and changing election laws,” which he hopes to convert into “legislative action” if he ever regains the presidency:
Trump is expected to mount another bid for president in 2024. And as talk of such a campaign has grown more concrete, so too has speculation over what type of agenda he'd actually pursue. Some answers can be found in the work being done by America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank stacked with former Trump administration officials. Among the group's 20 main policy priorities, which include trade, immigration and education, is promoting more comprehensive voter restrictions in the name of election integrity. Officials describe it as a priority. "One hundred percent yes," AFPI President and former Trump White House Domestic Policy Council Director Brooke Rollins said of having legislation on a set of issues ready to go should Trump prevail in a 2024 election. "If we do our job right we will have a package of model legislation for the federal government and the state governments where they align."
Joe Biden may be president, but Republican fascists and their movement are still in the ascendant. Trump World’s war on democracy and the ongoing coup continue. What will America be like if Trump World emerges victorious?
Trump World is a fascist and authoritarian cult oriented around pathological, antisocial and anti-human behavior. Its leader is to be worshipped as a civil-religious prophet, savior and living God.
Trump World is also a type of “life world” that provides meaning through narratives, values, identity and an entire culture, at least for its true believers.
There is no objective empirical truth or reality in Trump World. Such concepts are bent and twisted to serve the agenda of the Great Leader and his or her fantasies, edicts and desires. Trump World is a closed episteme, whose logic is self-sustaining and self-justifying.
Trump World is a type of “democracy” — albeit a fake democracy where only the votes of “real Americans” count. The leaders and ruling party of Trump World reserve the right to reject any votes they deemed “fraudulent” and to control the results of elections such that the “correct” decision is reached.
Likewise, the Trump World regime also controls the courts and legal system. If “erroneous” legal decisions are made, the leaders and ruling party reserve the right to “correct” them.
Trump World is an apartheid society, a Christian nationalist theocracy and a plutocratic oligarchy. It worships death, violence and sacrifice for “the cause.” Martyrs are to be revered, celebrated and thus given eternal life. Trump World is sadomasochistic.
Only right-wing political correctness is allowed in Trump World. Thoughtcrimes are to be immediately punished because they are “divisive” and undermine “unity” and “patriotism.” Silence is deemed to be consent and agreement.
Trump World is terrified of genuine human freedom. As such, women’s reproductive rights and freedoms are to be extinguished. The civil rights of nonwhites and other marginalized individuals and groups will not be protected. The natural environment is to be exploited by rapacious capitalism. Labor unions and other attempts by working people to fight for decent wages and better living conditions will be illegal.
Trump World is a realm of “white freedom,” which in practice means the ability of white people — especially rich white men and “Christians” — to impose their will without restraint on other human beings deemed to be inferior.
In a recent conversation with Salon, historian Timothy Snyder described what such “freedom” actually looks like in practice: “The other side’s idea of freedom is so impoverished that it does not exist anymore: it is a cliché with no real content. Freedom for them just means being rolled by the waves. Freedom for them just means their impulses or whatever they’re feeling right now in the moment.”
Trump World will come very close to devouring American society if Trump and the Republican Party (and the larger American fascist movement) “win” the 2022 midterms and then the 2024 presidential election.
In his newsletter, journalist Judd Legum recently explained how close America is to such a nightmarish outcome:
In 2020, Trump's strategy to overturn the election relied on Rudy Giuliani and a ragtag group of conspiracy theorists. It didn't work out. In Iowa, Trump made clear that his strategy in 2024 is to install unwavering Trump loyalists throughout the state and federal government. "The election was a fraud and if we want to save our country and make America great again, we have only one choice. We must elect strong and unyielding American Republicans at every level," Trump said. This would facilitate a much more sophisticated effort to seize power in the next presidential election, regardless of the actual vote total…. Part 1: Put Trump loyalists in charge of election administration in key states... Part 2: Elect Trump loyalists as governor in key states... Part 3: Put Trump loyalists in charge of Congress The third part of the plan is more straightforward: restore the Republican majorities in Congress. On January 6, 2021, about two-thirds of the Republican caucus objected to the certification of the Electoral College in an effort to reverse the outcome of the election. Some of the Republicans who did not object to the certification are retiring or facing primary challengers. A majority might be all that's needed to rubber-stamp efforts in the states to swing the election to Trump.
In a recent essay, Thom Hartmann offers this warning from history about America’s crisis of democracy and how close we are to Trump World’s final victory:
In addition to amplifying the usual barriers to voters in mostly Democratic neighborhoods (long lines, harsh ID requirements, short hours, limiting mail-in voting, etc.), Republicans are now putting open advocates for a Trump Oligarchy into positions to determine which votes to count and which to reject. Trump and the Republicans going along with him (which is almost all of them now) are playing an old game. Instead of voters selecting their politicians, these Republican politicians are selecting their voters. Boris Bazhanov was Joseph Stalin's personal secretary from 1923 to 1928, and later served as secretary of the Soviet Political Bureau. In his memoirs published in 1980, he recounts something Stalin told him about voting. "I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how," Stalin said. "But what is extremely important is this — who will count the votes, and how." ... And now Republicans are setting things up so when they flip elections, à la Stalin, it'll just seem like a normal part of politics. They tried it last year and it failed by a whisker, so now they're setting things up to pull it off in 2024.
Trump World is not an alternate reality or a different dimension of the multiverse. It is not a metaphor, a Jungian shadow or an archetype. It is not part of some thought experiment or counterfactual.
Trump World is the here and the now; it is not America’s “undiscovered country.”
The American people have two years, at most, to save themselves and their democracy. Tomorrow is not an option. Procrastination and denial will make matters worse. Only the “urgency of now” has the potential to save American democracy from Trump World. Do the American people, or those among them who still support democracy, have the energy, courage and strength to defeat Trump World? Or, have they already decided to surrender and assimilate into it?