Op-Ed: Trump’s Base: America on the Brink

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Trump’s use of messaging communicates his platform malevolently. (Image Credit: The New York Times)

January 6th was an extremely important lesson for all in America and around the world.

Trump has a cult-like following of millions who will believe everything he says and do all that he asks them to. A Siena poll conducted in July asked republican voters if they believed that Trump had committed any serious federal crimes.

According to 71% of republicans who had answered the poll, he had not.

This means that Trump appears to possess unwavering support from most republicans. While most traditional TV outlets create a compelling case as to why Trump is guilty for the indictments that he is facing, most republicans continue to cover their ears and believe Trump, a man that has called the trials a “scam”, a “sham”, a “witch hunt” and a “disgrace”.

Trump has used his platform malevolently many times. On January 6th, it is precisely this that caused thousands of Trump supporters to raid the capital. While almost every media outlet agreed that the general election had been won by Joe Biden, Trump blamed illegal immigrants and dead people for rigging the vote. On December 19th, 2020, Trump tweeted “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”. Perniciously, people listened. Seven people died and millions of dollars were lost as a result of the siege.

However, the bigger effect of this power is on right-wing news outlets and other republican candidates that wish to gain popularity. Trump has dominated platforms and instilled fear amongst influential reactionaries who wish to speak out against him; to do so means to lose almost all your audience and support. Tucker Carlson, for example, said on Fox that “it is clear the 2020 election was a grave betrayal of American democracy”, implying that the election was stolen from Trump and that he had won. In private, however, Carlson declared that the claims of election fraud were “ludicrous” and “totally off the rails”.

The pressure of viewership and ratings keep news sites like Fox subservient to Donald Trump. On the election night of 2020, they correctly called Arizona for Joe Biden. Fox’s audience, however, was furious at the network and protested by switching to Newsmax, which saw it’s viewership spike from 58,000 to 568,000. Fox news’s ratings fell to third place and there was legitimate worry that the business could fail. Fox took the smart path; they changed their content to appease Trump supporters, a move that possibly saved the company from collapse.

When republican candidates run on an anti-Trump platform, they become even further destined to lose. Chris Christie, the former Governor of New Jersey, ran as a candidate for the republican primary this year. He distinguished himself from the other contenders through his clear anti-Trump stance; believing that Trump would “Burn America to the ground.” This, however, has been incredibly unpopular in the Republican Party. National polling statistics show that Christie has never amassed more than 4% support in the primaries. Trump has become so popular in the Republican Party that news outlets and opposing candidates are still forced to support him for any chance of gaining traction.

This creates a vicious, perpetual cycle. Right-wing voters insist that media outlets and candidates create Pro-Trump content, a move that further creates echo chambers of MAGA propaganda. Reactionaries now become deaf to any criticism of Trump, pressuring news outlets to continue supporting him. Trump has been able to build a cult of personality this way; this circular succession of events makes the success of all republican ideas, news channels, and personalities tied to Trump.

This can be dangerous in the upcoming election. Trump has already threatened “Bedlam” if the criminal cases that he currently faces disqualify him for the 2024 election. A textbook narcissist, Trump would blame a potential election loss/prohibition on minority groups or on outside interference. Drawing from precedents, such as in the 2020 election, he would likely ask his supporters to protest those that he censures. As Trump has almost complete control over the right-wing media, and since opposition to him become immediately silenced, Trump’s call to action would be disseminated from the bustling cities of New York to the mountains of Colorado.

If Trump loses or is excluded from the election, there will be riots. The effects would likely be bigger than the storming of the capital in 2020, as Trump has since tightened his foothold of the Republican Party. Reactionaries have become unable to escape the specter of Trump; the party of law and order has turned into the party run by a wannabe dictator – one that will create chaos and instability in the United States if he does not win the election.

Written by Pacey Qi

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