Celebrate the Facts!
Donald Trump almost overthrew a legitimate government in 2020. Despite public statements, recordings, and other media, Trump and his many public enablers escaped with no consequences. Watch out, because next time Trump may indeed say ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy.’ With Elon Musk’s recent purchase of Twitter, the odds of Trump’s return twitched up a touch.
The United States is in the middle of a revolution. The Democratic Party and its constituents seem to lack the political will to resist a seeming upwelling of Christian Nationalism, hatred, and bigotry. PG-rated ads, tribal television Infotainment, and serial television stand up comedy acts won’t get it done.
No intelligent or rational person has any doubt Donald Trump attempted a coup regardless of public representation. Multiple entities regardless of political alliance confirmed the election was conclusive and Joe Biden was the president-elect of the United States. Regardless, Trump attempted to install himself as president, and, quite possibly, intended to stay in office until deposed or dead.
The Democratic Party, with ancient leaders using even older strategies, has allowed a recent coup attempt to remain smoldering, and while a bit of a long shot, there’s a very real possibility the leaders of that insurrection and their enablers may return to power.
A key point in understanding white nationalist strategy is its stated strategies to insulate leaders from criminal charges. White nationalist Louis Beam prescribed the mechanism in his 1992 essay Leaderless Resistance. The piece recommended no longer planning in large groups but forming cells of one to six men, with little or no direct contact with nominal leadership. This methodology became standard among white nationalist groups, mitigating the ability of law enforcement to tie leaders to criminal acts.
Trump led the insurrection with his messaging. He provided a rationale, election fraud, and a means for the coup. He attempted to sway various arms of the federal and state governments to his side, and, on at least one occasion, was recorded in such effort. He called violent supporters to Washington DC to a rally he addressed and encouraged the mob to march on the Capitol building. The leaderless resistance concept insulated him, and his henchmen, including cultish paramilitary groups, such as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers along with the mob of white trash at the Capitol, implemented the message.
While some wish to dismiss Trump as a dullard, such appears an erroneous conclusion. Trump has incredible intelligence about anything that benefits him. He has an uncanny sense of how far to push the law and still stay free of consequences. One might reasonably conclude anything else fails to capture his attention.
Trump’s genius is the use of media of various provenance to reach various audiences. Trump cobbled together a group of minority groups that often overlapped demographics. Mainstream Republicans couldn’t stomach voting for a Democrat and held their nose and pulled the Trump lever. Much of the rest of his support came from special interest groups including gun nuts, fervent Christians, people who were against abortion, racists, and disaffected white men and the women who love them.
While many of these special interest groups were very small minorities of the electorate, a few points were enough to make a difference in razor-thin elections and those groups pushed Trump into the presidency.
One of Trump’s challenges was overcoming his messaging of hate and reaching audiences who were undecided or could be swayed into his camp. Many of the media audiences were echo chambers with only like-minded consumers with Fox News perhaps being the best example.
Social media was one area that offered a bit of penetration into other audiences and was critical to Trump’s success with Facebook and Twitter providing the most effective platforms. Trump’s campaign organizations pumped many millions into advertising each. Both organizations removed Trump after the January 6, 2020 coup failure, and such was a perhaps fatal blow to his hopes for a political future.
Regardless, in the movies all monsters come back for sequels and Trump is no exception. There’s money in those political hills and Trump may come back to mine them again, and if he does, Elon Musk will be his resurrector.
Musk’s apparently successful buyout of Twitter is the end game of billionaire hubris. Musk is not an innovator. He didn’t invent the Internet or wire transfer of money, he merely put them together at PayPal. Musk didn’t come up with the idea for an electric car, lithium ion batteries, and upscale branding, he arranged for them to coincide with Tesla. Similarly Musk didn’t create spaceflight or underground tunneling. Musk puts money and other people’s ideas together in new packages.
Musk won’t innovate at Twitter either. What he will do is make money, and he will make a lot of money on Twitter. Musk has already dog whistled Trump’s return with his comments about free speech.
Twitter makes money on selling user engagement. No current political figure is more loved or more hated than Trump so Musk is certain to allow his return and Trump will reward him with elevated engagement. And engagement means higher advertising rates and more advertising and that means a whole lot more money.
And there’s apparently nothing Musk yearns for more than more money.
Twitter offers a lot more to Trump than merely reaching potential swing voters. Trump used Twitter to test drive ideas, often tweeting or retweeting dozens of times a day. Trump then used those analytics to gauge real-time audience response to themes.
Trump could then tailor his messages and stay current with his audiences rather than relying on surveys or anecdotal data. And analytics are almost instantaneous data so Trump could stay ahead of the competition with themes and responses that resonated best.
There’s a lot of ground to cover until the next presidential election cycle. The Russian war in Ukraine put a dent in Trump’s brand but it’s unlikely that will diminish his support among his true believers, regardless of Vladimir Putin’s brutality. Trump’s health as always is uncertain, particularly his mental health.
Regardless, Trump delivered on his commitments to his core constituencies. He gave them a Christian Nationalist Supreme Court that will certainly overturn Roe v Wade with a ruling in June 2022, thereby rewarding the Christians and anti-abortion crowd. He honored the white nationalists with praise and legitimacy. He gave mainstream Republicans their treasured corporate tax cuts.
While free speech advocates say all, or almost all, speech deserves to be aired and ideas will succeed or fail best debated in open forums, hatred and its sisters deceit and racism, are a birds of different feathers. And poking fun at them won’t put them to rest.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.