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Trump Reminds the RNC That He’s a Fascist
Fascists don’t do primaries
You can find an index of all my substack posts on fascism here.
In a stunningly unsurprising development, Donald Trump said yesterday he wouldn’t sign a pre-debate RNC pledge promising to support whichever Republican candidate wins the nomination. “Fuck that,” Trump said, as he feasted on the liver of the RNC official. “I’m the king, you fuckers. I’M THE FUCKING KING!”
Or, you know, if he didn’t say that, it’s what he meant. Trump has only been involved in mainstream politics for around eight years, but in that time he’s agreed to concede an election a total of zero (0) times. Before the 2016 election, he refused to promise he’d concede if he lost. Then when he won, he refused to admit he’d lost the popular vote. Before the 2020 election he insisted he’d accept the election results only if he won. Then when he lost, he lied to his followers, assuring them he’d won in order to encourage them to attempt a violent coup.
Trump fundamentally doesn’t believe in elections. He has a fascist conception of legitimacy and mass representation. Trump believes he embodies the will of the people, and that only people who support him are legitimately part of the nation. Those who vote against him are illegal immigrants, or Black people who shouldn’t be allowed the vote, or ballot stuffing liberals. The only true vote is a vote for Trump, the only true nation is a nation for Trump. Trump cannot fail; he can only be failed by evil unAmericans corrupting national greatness. Make America Great Again by Making Trump Great Again. The orange path is the only path.
In general elections, the Republican party more or less agrees with Trump; the party of voter suppression and nostalgia for Jim Crow has long more than half believed that Democratic votes shoudn’t count. Trump himself, though, isn’t really a Republican partisan. He’s a Trump partisan. He hates Ron DeSantis and Chris Christie as much as he hates Joe Biden, and for the same reason—they all have dared to run against him.
This presents a huge problem for any GOP pol who is not Trump. Authoritarianism is all well and good if you’re the authoritarian at the top. But fascism is, by definition, not a democracy. There’s only room for one personality in that cult.
Political parties are supposed to be coalitions. In the US, they’re also supposed to be outlets for the political ambitions and talents of, like, more than one person. In the normal course of things, when a president loses a national election, that candidate steps aside, and there’s a contest in which someone else gets to be president. Candidates and individuals give their loyalty and support to the party because they believe that their interests are advanced by being in a coalition; in return the party gives them a reasonable chance to attain office and influence.
But Trump’s torched all that. He has no interest in what he can do for the party, only in what the party can do for him. He won’t step aside, or even admit he’s lost. He treats all challengers as traitors to both him and the party. And he absolutely refuses to support anyone but himself. Which means, in effect, that if he doesn’t get party support, he’s willing to tear the GOP apart.
This is a very dangerous situation for Republicans. If someone else wins the nomination, and Trump runs third party, he could pretty reasonably peel off 10-30% of the GOP vote. Even that lower limit would be devastating; the GOP would lose Texas, Ohio, Florida just for a start. Downballot results could be almost as bad, especially if Trump demands that GOP Senators and House candidates denounce the Republican candidate or face his wrath—and why wouldn’t he demand that? He’s Trump.
The safer bet for the GOP seems to be to just let Trump win. But he’s under multiple indictments; he could be convicted in multiple trials before the election. He could well be in jail.
So far that hasn’t damaged his support much…or has it? The GOP is on a long losing streak ever since Trump took the reins of the party. They lost a Senate race in Alabama in 2017; they got clubbed in 2018, they lost in 2020, they lost in 2022. So far those losses have all been painful but within acceptable bounds. But will they continue to be acceptable?
In the normal course of things, this would be the moment to cast Trump aside, and try a candidate without mounting legal troubles a solid track record of humiliating defeat. But again, Trump won’t be cast aside, and threatens to destroy the party if abandoned.
The GOP has long flirted with fascism. Trump is the end result of that flirtation. But transitioning from a democratic party to a fascist party has a lot of downsides when (a) you still need to contest democratic elections, and (b) your party includes lots of people who got into politics with the understanding that they were going to have the opportunities offered by a democratic party.
This isn’t a plea for sympathy for Ron DeSantis, obviously. Him and McConnell and Tim Scott and Kevin McCarthy and the rest of the GOP coalition of scumbags, bigots, and authoritarians are getting pretty much what they deserve. The only worry is that they’re not getting enough of it fast enough. We’re currently in a race to see whether Trump destroys the GOP before he can destroy the country or vice versa. I wish I was surer of the outcome. Trump’s put the RNC on notice, though, that they can’t be sure either.
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