Guest Post: Observing how Trump Has Been Defeated While Trumpism Remains a Threat

Today, a News In Brief on gas & oil money in the NM legislature & another with Covid-19 advice for staying safe. But today’s focus is a guest post on Trumpism & how we can ensure we douse those flames, by winning Georgia & passing good legislation, i.e. actually govern in the interest of all Americans.

Webinar Monday, Nov. 16, 6:30-7:30 pm with Gwyneth Doland, New Mexico In Depth reporterJoin Fair Districts for New Mexico’s Dick Mason and Kathleen Burke as they speak with esteemed writer and reporter Gwyneth Doland, of New Mexico In Depth, about the historical aspects of redistricting in New Mexico, how they impact redistricting today, and what we might expect in redistricting 2021. Gwyneth authored “Redistricting NM 2021 a Troubled History and Opportunities for Change” which can be accessed here.

Webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83706860443?pwd=TElRMVJoZ05hTFMwZFVhWGFkbVdpQT09

Redistricting has been in the news this week in New Mexico:

Tuesday, Dec. 1, 6:30 – 8 pm. Election Debrief and 2021 Legislative Agenda Review with Senate Floor Leader Peter Wirth and Speaker of the House Brian Egolf. We will discuss how the primaries and the general election have altered the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate and what those changes mean for getting transformational legislation passed in 2021. We will ask each chamber leader for their view of the bills Retake is endorsing. We will also discuss the national election and what has been a most chaotic November. We’ll ask tough questions, but you can too during the last 30 minutes of the Zoom.

Click to register for this Zoominar.

News In Briefs:

The first NIB below focuses on the influence of gas and oil money on our legislature. It is an excellent report very worth reading. The second NIB is especially timely as we approach the holidays. We all have Covid fatigue, Thanksgiving is coming and with colder weather, eating outside becomes difficult. But as this report makes clear, the most prominent source of Covid spread right now is the seemingly innocent dinner party with a very few friends. You just can’t do it safely inside. In fact, Heather Cox Richardson reported today that “Experts remind us that we should avoid spending more than 15 minutes within six feet of anyone outside our own household in any 24-hour period, and they beg people to stay home for the holidays this year.

Another contributor to the current explosion in cases is that too many people are now including others in their “bubble” without really knowing with certainty that these people’s bubbles are safe.

And the virus is out of control, breaking records for cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations. And our hospitals are reaching capacity. The vaccine is coming soon, but soon is not today and today: isolate, wear masks, be safe.

In short, we are getting careless. No criticism intended. It infuriates Roxanne and I that for the first time since they were born, we will not even see any of our kids, over the course of an entire calendar year and that on Thanksgiving, we will be singing “Just the two of us” while prepping turkey thighs for two instead of a big spread for 10 or more. All of us, quite justifiably feel this way, but we must return to our rigor of May when we saw no one face to face. It is sad, but this is likely how it MUST be for the foreseeable future. Keep hopeful, but please stay safe.

A Guest View on Trumpism in 2020 & Beyond

Adam has contributed posts before and they are aways clearly laid out and insightful. This is no different.
Adam Wasserman, Retake Transformation Study Group Member

By now it’s clear that while we may have gotten rid of Trump, we didn’t get rid of Trumpism.  It was always there, of course, but it was like the piles of kindling that have built up in our poorly managed forests.  Over the last four years it has roared into the open, turning into one of the huge fires we have become used to each year.  It has darkened the skies and thrown a pall of smoke and ash across the entire country.  

I and many others had hoped this election would, if not put out the fire, at least squelch it.  The Blue Wave would crash over the flames, empowering more reasonable Republicans.  Trumpism would go back into the shadows.

But the fire was not dampened.  In some ways it blazed up with greater strength.  Despite 25,000 lies, rampant corruption, impeachment, mishandling COVID-19 to the tune of millions infected and over 230,000 dead, shamefully ramming through a last-second Supreme Court appointment, a boorish and incoherent debate performance, and openly trying to disrupt the election and democracy itself—despite a thousand things that should have ended his career and lost him the support of all but a tiny minority—Trump almost won.  He got more votes than in 2016, and actually increased his share of the white vote.  By pledging fealty to him, his party kept control of the Senate (probably), almost won back the House, and held onto its strong position in state legislatures, ensuring that redistricting will, as in 2010, lock in place Republican advantages.  

Clearly most of what I call ‘despites’ were, in the eyes of almost half the voting population of the United States, not mistakes, not negatives.  They were pluses.  President Biden, and the remaining pockets of anti-Trumpers in the Republican Party, face a daunting task.  It is vital that we understand what Trumpism is, and why many Americans love it so.

The answer, in my view, has little to do with policy, and much more with human psychology.  As many have noted, Trumpism is a type of cult masquerading as a political movement.  Its appeal stems especially from a cult characteristic that is especially prominent in Trumpism:  it absolves its believers of all guilt and responsibility.  Trumpism makes it OK to be selfish, OK to be angry and vindictive, OK to blame others for your problems.

  • According to the book  Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships, one common cult identifier is:  “The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (e.g., lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).”
  • Genuine religions (sometimes) try to rein in our demons and encourage concern for others.  Trumpism instead lets the demons run rampant, under the guise of doing what is needed to stop some terrible threat:  Clinton, or immigrants, or socialists, or Black Lives Matter protestors.  

This syndrome, of encouraging our bad angels because they’re needed to cope with an existential danger, of casting politics as a drama of good vs. evil, is not unique to Trump.  Far from it.  It is characteristic of fascism and Leninism, not to mention countless episodes of religious fanaticism and personality-driven authoritarianism.  Terrible words and deeds become acceptable, indeed praiseworthy.

Let’s look at the key characteristics of Trumpism.  I count eight, though one could add others.  Together they amount to a complete reversal of our ordinary moral and practical judgments.  Here’s how Trump himself might summarize them.

Nothing is your fault.  The buck never stops here.  If something gets screwed up, find the culprit and explain how stupid they are, and how they did it on purpose because they hate you.  Like coronavirus:  China allowed it to spread to infect the United States and hurt my re-election chances. 

White guilt is bull***t.  Liberals invented political correctness so you won’t fight back when black people and immigrants invade your suburbs.  White people made this country—it’s ours.

Sacrifice is for suckers.  There is zero reason you should give up anything you want to help other people.  People who do this are dummies.  People who try to convince you to sacrifice something are trying to take advantage of you.  They’re probably socialists. (Or…hint, hint… Jews, or both.) 

There are no experts.  You are just as smart as anyone else.  Smarter, in fact!  So-called experts are mostly just pretending to know things so they can act important and manipulate you.  They think their education and degrees make them better than you.  Don’t fall for it.  Climate change, wearing masks, trickle-down economics—believe what works for you.

Truth and consistency are over-rated.  What is ‘truth’?  No one can answer that.  If you say something over and over, with enough conviction, and get it on TV, other people will agree with you, and that’s all the truth you need.   (NB — the bigger the lie, the better!  Most people can’t believe anyone would be brazen enough to tell such whoppers, so they think “there must really be something wrong with voting by mail.”)

And please, never worry that what you say today contradicts what you said yesterday.  Ignore it, and say something new to distract everyone (by ‘everyone,’ I mean the press).  Flood the zone, it doesn’t matter with what. They’ll move on.

Being rich is everything.  How do you know someone is really smart and talented?  They have lots of money.  They’re good at business.  Anything else is hogwash.  Don’t trust anyone who isn’t rich.  My job as President is to make sure rich people aren’t hindered by taxes and regulations and prissy concerns about ethics.  Being against rich people is socialism. 

Always lawyer-up.  Anytime someone does something you don’t like, attack, attack, attack.  Never admit you might be wrong or might compromise.  This shows weakness.  Look strong, talk strong, tell everyone how great and strong you are.  You’ll be adored.  Like I adore Putin.

Nobody is neutral.  People are either with you, or against you.  There are no disinterested public servants.  If they disagree with you it’s because they belong to the Deep State and are out to get you.  Get them first. 

For millions of Americans, these upside-down values are not disturbing but liberating and invigorating.  They come across as a (perverted) form of Christian teachings that the last shall be first, of American teachings that one person is just as good as another and anyone can be a millionaire.  If you are struggling and poor, a whole movement encourages you to point fingers and find scapegoats.  If you are successful and rich, it encourages self-congratulation.  You can be selfish, you can lie, you can indulge your anger and frustration and prejudices, all without guilt.  This is what will make America great again!  

This is not to say Trumpists have no real problems.  They have plenty.  But Trumpism is the antithesis of serious analysis and policy work.  It channels dissatisfaction away from fixing things to expressing anger.    

Not all Trump voters are Trumpists, of course.  Many are uncomfortable with Trumpism but like particular results, like low taxes or anti-abortion judges.  But in doing so they give Trumpism and its principles a pass.  They look the other way because it is in their self-interest.  As fallible human beings all of us sometimes avoid facing the full implications of our actions, or inactions. But after four years of Trump there can be no excuse any more.  We know what we are doing. 

Now that Trumpism has been unleashed, others will take it up with or without Trump himself in the saddle.  The basics of Trumpism overlap with the core message of modern conservatism, which exalts individual self-interest, denigrates the idea of a public good, despises government, and puts rich businessmen on a pedestal.  Conservative leaders and thinkers will continue to see it useful to fan the flames.  

The best hope for deflating Trumpism was, in my view, a combination of clear defeat at the polls, followed by an effective progressive government that quickly accomplished big concrete things that made the lives of Trump voters better—affordable healthcare, jobs from a big green infrastructure program, free childcare and college.  We didn’t get the clear defeat, and without control of the House and Senate, an effective agenda appears unlikely.  The odds of winning two Georgia Senate races are not good.  Maybe the Biden team can work some policy magic.  But it goes without saying that it will be Mitch McConnell’s mission to make sure none of this happens.  

I remain convinced that eventually Trumpism will burn itself out.  Without Trump himself in the White House and the platform this gave him to shape the national psyche, there is room to recover.  A few Republican Senators may feel liberated to act cooperatively.  But huge swaths of our country are already charred and blackened.  The fire is not contained.  It is not clear how much will be left standing.   

Adam Wasserman

If Biden Can Deliver the Right Column, While Reminding America of Trump’s Priorities…We have hope

I want to amplify just a bit on Adam’s excellent piece. First, I completely agree that the only way to diffuse Trumpism is for Biden to quickly launch initiatives like the ones suggested by Adam, initiatives that will immediately and positively benefit all Americans, including Trump supporters. Messaging around these initiatives should explicitly ask Americans to consider: “Doesn’t free childcare we have made possible make your life easier?” “Doesn’t the large tax cut for taxpayers earning less than $400k make your life better?” “Don’t you think that we all benefit from the 3 million Americans we’ve put to work on our infrastructure has made life better for all of us?” We must restore our withered belief that government can and should initiate actions that benefit the people.

We will want to make very explicit that Trump talked about helping long-neglected working people, but he never even tried to do anything constructive to do so. He cut taxes for the rich, his friends, he built a wall to protect us from an invented threat, but he did nothing for working people. He didn’t do the work because, in actuality, he didn’t even care about these people, indeed, he didn’t even notice them. They are not part of “his people.”

But, to achieve any of the above, we must take both Georgia Senate seats. So much of what might be possible rides on the Georgia vote on Jan. 5. Otherwise, all Biden can get done, outside exective orders, is whatever Mitch McConnell okays, which is quite likely nothing.

Resources to Win Georgia

Another source which will play an important role in these races is the organization led by Stacey Abrams, Fair Fight.  Donations to Fair Fight will be split three ways between the two candidate campaigns and Fair Fight who plays a critical role in voter engagement, education and registration, having registered over 1 million new Georgia voters in the past two years.

And thanks to Heather Karlson, another resource for investing your time to win in Georgia.

In addition to calling and texting opportunities with Fair Fight, Working America is doing another effective calling and letter-writing program (similar to the one they did for swing states in the general election). They make it super easy – you personalize and print your letters, then sign and address them by hand to ensure they get opened. The letters don’t talk about the election, just about health care issues to help get voters engaged. These voters will then be followed up by calls or canvassers from Working America. You do have to provide your own paper, envelopes, and stamps. I did a bunch of these for the general and it is easy and fun. Here’s the info from Working America:

We’ve identified folks at 956,000 households in Georgia who are ideal targets for our health care letters (or postcards). The pandemic is continuing to rage across the country and by sharing relatable personal experiences with this group of modeled targets, our research shows we can shape how these folks’ interpret new information and make decisions. For a quick refresher on the research on this tactic, check out this summary:

Working America Letter-Writing Research GA

Additionally, we’ll have opportunities for volunteers to phonebank with us in order to recruit new Working America members. We have a goal of recruiting 75,000 new members in Georgia in the next two months. Studies have repeatedly shown our members are 3-5 times more likely to be receptive to our communications than the general public. It’s critical we’re able to break through the noise to reach as many people as possible in the next couple of months.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for bringing people together for positive change. Join us for letter-writing, phonebanking, or both by signing up at workam.org/VolunteerGA and we’ll follow up via email when our programs launch tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 10.

In solidarity & hope. Stay safe, friends.

Paul & Roxanne



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4 replies

  1. The doctrine of ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is a foundation of trumpism. This concept is justification for all of the above trump cult behaviors. Dangerous evangelicals, attempting to justify their own “con” on believers, have rebirthed this form of Calvinism: if you are poor, sick, or disadvantaged, its all your own fault and a sign of god’s disfavor. If you are rich, healthy and privileged, god loves you and you owe nothing to anyone else. (If you get Covid, you are not devout enough.) trumpism and evangelicals are destroying christian theology and they are desperate to force their distortions on the rest of us to ensure their vision of the US as a christian nation– no longer welcoming the stranger, no longer following the golden rule, everyone is on their own, and deserve nothing. Jesus wept. The Sadducees are in charge.
    Read the Family, or watch it on Netflix. We have our own version of this in New Mexico, too.

    • 100% agree! ‘60 Minutes’ TV reporting program covered the Evangelical movement in the US over a decade ago, warning Americans of what will become if they gain political power. What irks me the most is the fabrication that Jesus will return when the Temple of Solomon is rebuilt in Jerusalem. This lie only began in the 1890s with the birth of Zionism, and the disappointment Jesus didn’t come in 1844 as many fundamental Christian movements predicted. If there were any truth to this lie the Christians of the world, especially Catholicism (and Chaldeans who are the first tribes of Christ in Palestine) would have built that Temple immediately.

      It’s all an American Evangelical lie. Now these fundamental movements support Israel blindly, and are pushing for rebuilding the Temple at the Dome of the Rock.

    • Definitely agree that the Prosperity Gospel and other aspects of American evangelicism, like the obsession with Israel, are intertwined with Trumpism. The Family shows how religion has been warped in the service of the rich and powerful. Trump doesn’t have an iota of actual religiosity in him, but he was raised on Norman Vincent Peale and his “Power of Positive Thinking,” which is the lineal precursor to the Prosperity Gospel.

  2. This article linked below confirms some of what Adam Wasserman wrote. Mostly coincidentally, during the trump administration income for low-wage workers did increase slightly, and unemployment fell. Although these are likely part of “normal” economic cycles, the fact that they happened during the trump times immediately links trump to the tiny improvements. So people give him credit.
    https://thecorrespondent.com/790/not-every-trump-voter-is-racist-or-misled-theres-a-rational-trump-voter-too/858929706470-a7d14250?pk_campaign=weekly

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