Can Donald Trump be Replicated?
Wondering if America’s right wing will be able to find someone who can truly pick up where the former President left off.
With Joe Biden having only been in office for a week, at times I still find myself reflecting upon the past four years of the Trump administration and everything that led up to them. Personally, the storming of the capitol by pro-Trump supporters was a moment that I’ll never forget, and has led me to wonder what it took to bring us to that moment. We can have lengthy discussions — and I know I have — about the pivotal roles of White supremacy and economic anxieties that brought us to the moment where armed men with zip ties, confederate flags, and weaponry were engaged in hours long standoffs with the police, there’s certainly no denying that the cult of personality behind Donald Trump played a significant part in not only his election, but the lengths that his supporters were willing to go to keep him in power.
It should come as no surprise that there are a number of prominent Republicans — namely Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and perhaps Tucker Carlson — who are clearly hoping to capitalize off of the former President’s popularity with the right wing base for their own personal ambitions in upcoming elections. Even with their own lives and the lives of their fellow lawmakers put in jeopardy, it still was not enough to prevent them from putting on a show, and voting against the certification of the election results following the riots at the capitol that had delayed the entire process. But while it’s critical to point out that just because one coup attempt failed doesn’t mean that another one won’t succeed later on, the riots themselves have actually left me wondering whether — at least in the near future — any other lawmaker could have incited that type of activity.
Sure, there would have been some bitter, snarky memes shared online and perhaps a protest here and there, but the right wing would not have stormed the Capitol on behalf of Josh Hawley or Ted Cruz. They would not have brought zip ties and weaponry, engaged in a standoff with police, risked their lives, or vandalized congressional offices so that Ted Cruz could have another four years in office. But why would they? There simply is not the same level of attachment, sense of loyalty, or belief in their goals. Frankly, Donald Trump’s origins alone could be enough to lead one to believe that at least right now, there isn’t anyone currently among the ranks of the Republican politicians that could ever replicate what he was able to do.
No one was watching Cruz or Hawley on reality television for season after season, sitting in a dimly lit room with a large chair and a well-manufactured image of the charismatic, savvy businessman to uplift them, who wasn’t afraid to do what it takes to make a killing. Aside from that, some might even argue that what made Donald trump so unique was his ability to make the Republican base see themselves within him. As misguided as these beliefs might be, Donald Trump had this uncanny ability to command the respect of the Republican base not only because he “tells it like it is”, but I get the sense that he made them feel as though he gave them something to aspire to. He filled them with the notion of what success should look like, and the idea that if they just work hard and don’t let themselves be afraid of stepping on some toes, they can be as wealthy as he is.
While Hawley and Cruz’s ambitions and the lengths they are willing to go to achieve them are undeniably concerning, they don’t have what Trump did. Whether it be the charisma, the blunt personality that the right wing base finds so alluring, or the reality television shows that portrayed him as some sort of hero behind him, Trump was the untraditional, shoot from the hip rhetorical outsider that the right wing base was looking for. The harder those who are trying to follow in his footsteps attempt to align themselves with him and his agenda, the more apparent it becomes that they lack so much of what made Donald Trump a true leader in the eyes of the right wing base, and commanded their support in such an effortless manner.
That said, with the right’s ready embrace of populism it feels almost inevitable that someone is going to come along and achieve what Donald Trump could not. But if it’s any consolation, we at least might have some time to prepare.