Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Eyad Abu Shakra

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Trumpism Is Stronger Than Judicial Verdicts and Democratic Norms

It is said that in 1897, the great American satirical writer, Mark Twain, famously remarked that "the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated," after reading his own obituary in a newspaper.

This applies to Donald Trump today, after the former - and possibly future - US President, was found guilty on 34 counts. The reason is that Trump is no longer just a politician subject to the rule of law in a democratic country with an advanced judicial system, in which the rule of law has been consolidated and the verdicts of institutions that settle disputes are respected without question.

Trump is now a personalistic and populist "phenomenon" that has demonstrated a tremendous - and dangerous - capacity for stirring up and mobilizing the masses at will, around whatever issue he chooses.

After eight years in the spotlight, Trump's gamble on a base he has molded in his own image is proving successful. His base no longer values constitutional norms and institutional notions of governance, including the peaceful transfer of power and the separation of powers. His callousness can be seen in his personal vendettas and baseless accusations against any challenger or rival, and goes as far as explicit incitement to chaos and insurgency.

Of course, that is precisely what happened after Trump refused to concede defeat after the last presidential election in 2020. As a result, a mob stormed the Capitol, the seat of Congress and the symbol of democracy and electoral legitimacy in the United States.

Trump has become convinced not only of his invincibility, but also his infallibility. He sees himself as above making mistakes and, by extension, above accountability.

Did he not say during his successful 2016 presidential campaign that he could shoot someone on a New York street and still get elected?

Trump's prediction has proven accurate. He has won through populist slogans, foremost among them "Make America Great Again," drawing his strength from isolationist anti-immigrant groups, extreme white Christians, fundamentalist evangelicals, conservatives in rural America, and various racist groups.

Trump has benefited from two things that have been true throughout the tenure of the current Democratic President Joe Biden:

First, the performance of Biden's administration has been lackluster and its aging leader has lacked charisma.

Second, there has been a steady rise of blatant populism that tends to promote racism in many major countries around the world, from Western Europe to Brazil and Argentina in Latin America, not to mention India - the former model of democracy that it had been hoped Asia and Africa would replicate.

Following the rise of Trumpian populism - and with it, the Christian right - the American Republican Party stopped being a "big tent" that accommodates both conservatives and moderate classical liberals. The remaining moderate liberal Republicans in Congress, especially in the swing states of the Northeastern United States and the Great Lakes states, are expected to effectively disappear within the next four years.

Accordingly, many observers believe that the potential from an internal war between "rival wings" of the Republican Party has effectively vanished. The dynamics of the struggle for leadership within the party, for the foreseeable future, will remain a competition among contenders blatantly seeking to outflank one another in their absolute loyalty to Trump's positions and beliefs.

Moreover, some suggest that the judicial verdict going against Trump might actually "create momentum" for his campaign at a critical juncture, as the countdown to the election campaign is beginning. Legally, nothing prevents the former president from running in the upcoming election in early November. On the contrary, this indictment might bolster the effectiveness of the two most important intertwined tactics Trump has pursued this campaign: claiming "victimhood" and promoting "conspiracy theories."

Trump’s supporters do not need much convincing that "hostile forces in Washington," led by the Democratic Party and liberal and progressive groups, are "conspiring" against the former president to prevent him from making good on his campaign slogans. Indeed, the belief in a "conspiracy" will be reinforced by perceived courtroom "injustice."

Moreover, Trump has repeatedly managed to convince his consistently loyal base that he has been "wronged" and a "victim of a conspiracy." This conviction could thwart the emergence of any Republican figure with even a minimal degree of independence from the "Trump line," if, for unforeseen reasons, Trump is unable to run in November himself.

Based on all of this, both the American people and the world can expect a feverish few months from now until November. These months could determine the political trajectory of the world's most powerful nation, as well as its engagement with the rest of the globe, for decades to come!