“Trumpism Without Trump” Is a Dead End—Until It’s Not

Does this look like the kind of guy who can pull off a Trump impersonation?Dan Herrick via ZUMA

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National Review editor Rich Lowry explains how Trumpists have turned on Ed Gillespie so fast it’s a wonder they didn’t suffer whiplash:

As of last week, Gillespie looked to be gaining on Ralph Northam fast (I thought he had a good chance to win). Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, the self-declared keeper of the Trumpist flame, believed Gillespie had cracked the code by fashioning a “Trumpism without Trump.” He managed, per Bannon, to close the enthusiasm gap “by rallying around the Trump agenda,” and Democrats needed to be “very, very worried.”

At least that was the party line until the race was called soon after the polls closed at 7 p.m. Then, Gillespie became an establishment tool who had betrayed Trumpism and the president. A Bannon spokesman blasted Gillespie for allegedly having no message and being inauthentic, which is quite the charge coming from people who will change what they are saying on a dime, depending on the imperatives of the political spin of the hour.

Lowry believes that there’s really no such thing as “Trumpism without Trump.” I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it’s certainly true that, at the very least, it requires a blowhard candidate in the Trump mold. A milquetoasty guy like Gillespie had no chance of pulling it off and probably shouldn’t have tried.

Beyond that, “Trumpism,” such as it is, is mostly just a garden variety conservative agenda with a border wall tacked on. Trump’s extreme popularity with his base isn’t really about taxes or abortion or Obamacare, it’s about his willingness to rabidly attack everyone and everything they hate. As Lowry suggests, this is not really something that can define an entire party. There just aren’t enough people who are willing to go down that road, and even fewer who can pull it off.

However, there are some, and Trump might bring more of them out of the woodwork. After getting blindsided by Trump, Republicans should keep a very sharp lookout for these pestilences. Believe it or not, there are worse things than Donald Trump.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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