We shouldn’t be asking ourselves what just happened. We shouldn’t be asking ourselves what now for Donald Trump. What we should be mulling over is what happens to the brand which was pipped at the finish line. What we have learnt, and I dare say Trump himself learnt, in three days in early November is that Trumpism itself is alive and well. In fact, it is positively thriving. And so, 2024 should be a date etched in our memories as Joe Biden takes on one of the toughest presidencies to date and tries to undo the madness of Donald Trump, both in the Far East (China), the Middle East (Iran, Lebanon, Syria and even Afghanistan) and at home with Covid killing over 230,000 Americans and a floundering economy which has become like a ship with no rudder.
Trump had no real presidential values or skills. And America is in a mess because of it. Biden, who won more votes than any president in history, has four years to clean the mess up and bring some sobriety to the White House.
But his hardest job is to convince the American people that Trumpism and its myths – that it is out to protect blue collar workers and make America a super power like in days gone past – has no depth to it and that the Republicans should think long and hard about backing Eric or Ivanka when the time comes to begin presidential elections again in four years’ time. Republicans may well think that due to Biden’s highest ever voting record, it will need to take extreme measures to stand a chance. The smart thing would be to let the Trump camp, which might include Steve Bannon even as a candidate, go it alone and wheel out someone like Mitt Romney.
The other thing we learnt about the Trump period is that, after all, you’re never too old to become president. One has to wonder if Biden will even make it to a second term which will bring him into well over his 80s.
And also, just when you think American media can sink to an all-time low, Trumpism takes it further into the ditch. Trump’s genius was his ability to manipulate the media agenda through tweeting and distracting journalists away from the hardcore subjects like healthcare, the environment, the economy and foreign policy onto the president’s jaw-dropping ignorance of almost everything and not being able to spell words like “polls”. Or not being able to find Iran on a map of the world. Or for the thousand of pitiful lies he spewed out.
As David Cay Johnston, an old school investigative journalist who has pursued Trump before anyone had ever heard of him, laments, Trump’s other genius with media is that his litigation mania which he directs against people in the building trade which he royally cheats, spooks decision makers in media so much, that they’re terrified of him and his lawyers; not to mention the “Trump factor of Tv” which is “that the moment Trump is off TV, people tend to switch off”.
Johnston, who has a book about Trump and has an extraordinary insight into the man, is not invited often on mainstream media shows in the U.S. because of this. Media got addicted to the ludicrousness and rank stupidity of Trump and news giants like CNN and Fox became junkies. The award-winning journalist is an opaque yet respected expert on Trump and in his book and various interviews he gives an intimate and shocking insight into who Donald Trump really is and a packed trove of fascinating anecdotes.
But here’s why you should watch these interviews on YouTube. Nobody has done the homework on Trump like Johnston. And this journalist’s prescient understanding of Trump and how he got elected will spook you but also remind you of something important. Trump isn’t going away. The clown who, in 1988 asked George Bush senior to consider him as a vice president, might have to leave the U.S. as a deluge of legal cases begin to gather momentum, but his ideas, not matter how stupid they are, resonate with a large demographic of Americans who are divided over what kind of America they want to live in. Trumpism, if anything, got stronger on November 7th when Pennsylvania became a Biden winning state, than ever before. Even Trump himself didn’t realise just how many people out there wanted him back as he most certainly planned for a bigger defeat. As David Cay Johnston warns, the worry about Trumpism is that it doesn’t take much for smarter people than Trump to think “what about if we found a smart version of Trump”. And this is where Steve Bannon comes in.
And so Bannon’s legal case becomes suddenly news again, when Bannon himself couldn’t get his own ideas published by mainstream media for love nor money. Trump may well have to be physically removed by White House security officer in January, but he will try every cheap and embarrassing trick in the book to claw back a state, which won’t compromise Biden’s win. In the meantime, watch very closely which international players, indeed, erstwhile partners of Trump around the world, support him and his desperate antics. Perhaps calling UK media celebrity Piers Morgan days before the election or for that matter wheeling Nigel Farage out to tell ignorant Trump supporters how, hilariously, Trump “had brought peace to the Middle East” was one of a thousand stupid ideas which backfired on the day. But the next few weeks in the White House are going to be hard, lonely days. Anthony Scaramucci was wrong to predict that Trump would be destroyed at the polls. He under-estimated Trump and could barely contain his vitriol on Twitter in recent weeks. Trump, or his cult-like brand of pseudo politics will be back in 2024. But are we ready?