As the days, months, years tick by, more and more people supposedly realise that support for populist movements like Trump in the US is not the greatest image. This can be seen through the seemingly constant stream of GOP members jumping ship and/or standing against whatever recent crisis the President has sparked. But this proffers a few curious questions, not the least of which is, why it has taken so long for people to come to this conclusion?
The cynic would argue that it is all about maintaining a palatable image as the 2020 election campaign in the US looms before us. The cynic would be right in some cases, I imagine, because the selfish prospect of being re-elected would encourage people to reject Trumpism and gain the backing of their constituents. This is only made worse due to the fact that it is pathetically easy to ‘appear’ better than Trump, a move that does not necessarily imply that that person disagrees with current policies.
But taking this cynical stance, which I cannot blame anyone for holding because I certainly do at times, is a bit disingenuous. Saying that people are only stepping back from the modern Republican Party now due to Trump and criticising them for not doing so earlier ignores that fact that ‘progress’ (if it can be called that) is possible. Over the last three years, since the 2016 campaign to now, more and more people are adamant about drawing their own line.
The majority of people, certainly, were disgusted by Trump even before he was elected, and his Presidency has only served to exacerbate that disgust. The further Trump and his Administration push their ruthless and barbaric agendas, the more people sit back at their own line. That more people are reverting their previous support for the man is a positive thing, meaning that, yes, America is slowly waking up to the horrors that the rest of the world has witnessed and tried to scream at them.
This, however, takes us back to the question of why it took so long for the newcomers to join the opposition, and what exactly their own stances and motives are. To support Trump at this stage is to support so many wretched policies and actions (in no particular order):
- A still growing number of sexual assault allegations against Trump, alongside the Me Too movement that holds power to account
- The rampant nepotism by placing his family (notably Ivanka and Jared) in positions of influence and power
- Carrying out policies and arrangements that lead to personal profit, e.g. Kushner’s investments in the Israeli West Bank settlements or having foreign dignitaries stay in Trump hotels, etc.
- The drastic rollback of environmental protections in the midst of a climate emergency
- An increase in military and security spending while other concerns, like Puerto Rico’s recovery, Flint’s water, or just healthcare, education, and infrastructure nationally are thrown aside
- The vicious rhetoric targeting migrants and refugees, as well as the US-Mexico border tragedy where families, children, are separated from loved ones, quite likely in breach of International Law (telling that the US is one of the only countries not to be signatory to the UN laws regarding the rights of the child)
- His administration’s attempted coup against Venezuela’s government
- The raising of tensions with Iran and North Korea at various times, all the while making Russia incredibly nervous, by pulling out of various treaties
- The damning attacks on a woman’s right to an abortion
- The obvious and repetitive lies peddled by Trump, mostly through the excessive use of social media
- The attacks on journalists, referring to the (flawed but necessary) mainstream media as ‘fake news’
- The fervour in which the Administration is chasing down whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, and the attempts to extradite Julian Assange – something that also has massive implications for journalists
- Support for Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestinian territory, including the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in breach of international law
Countless examples could be given, and perhaps one day a volume (or two, or ten) of Trump’s exploits might track a dark period of history. And we are only two and half years into Trump’s first term, with a second possible if the Democrats don’t get their shit together.
The judgement of someone who had followed Trump and the Republican Party up until this point, despite all of the above, should be questioned. At what point did they think that it wasn’t for them? Were they happy to tag along for the ride, but one too many scandals and they’re out? Or did they hate what was happening and… do nothing? Any of those are worthy of criticism, and simply because they denounce Trump now does not mean that their ideas, their views, are any better or worth accepting.
The question that needs to be asked, however, is (if those dropping away from the GOP are doing so out of ‘pure’ motives) this still good? Yes, they supported Trump through various horrific occurrences and revelations, but is it not good that they have now called him out for it? That they have realigned themselves with the so-called ‘moderate’ Republicans or Democrats? There is no clear answer, and as someone who views all but a handful of US politicians with utter disgust, I am biased to say no, denouncing Trump is not enough – America needs radical change, and the Republicans or corporate Democrats like Biden will not deliver.
Small steps, though. Even a cynic and, by many US standards probably an insane radical, like myself can see the reality of what is happening. This edge towards ‘normalcy’, promised by the likes of Biden, from Trump’s support base is a good thing. As much as I believe the ‘normalcy’ they speak of is what led them to Trump in the first place, if the repugnant nature of the current Administration is able to turn the tide, then perhaps more would be willing to look the other way, towards Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, etc.
The neoliberal and imperialist nature of the US is rooted into every fibre of their country, whether they like to admit it or not – even Obama was responsible for the turmoil of a number of countries, the Nobel Peace Prize winner. But it cannot be denied that, under Trump, the fragility of international relations is reaching a breaking point for some, and the same could be said internally in the US too.
The more people that move away from Trump, back to the ‘normalcy’ of the pre-2016 years, the louder those on the other end can project their ideas for change. Hopefully, the shift in the Republican Party against Trump will also be matched by a shift away from the corporate Democrats, towards people like Bernie Sanders.
Do you have to sing the praises of people who denounce Trump? No – be critical of them and hold them accountable for whatever their views are, because denouncing Trump is a pretty low bar of ‘morality’. But it is worth recognising that any shift, no matter how small, is good in the long term. Let’s hope it continues and leaps further.
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