The Longer Take
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The Longer Take

Just Because Trump Is Out of Office, Doesn’t Mean He’s Out of Power

Donald Trump has lost the 2020 election. Whatever he may say, whatever his supporters may believe, he lost and Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. “Hooray, hooray! Trump is no longer president, he’s out of office and out of power!” you might be inclined to yell. Not so fast, fellow libtard. Because while in January Trump will lose the office of the presidency, that doesn’t mean he will lose his power along with it.

The Cult of Trump

As I have no life, I watch a lot of political commentators on Youtube. And recently a video was circulating among them that really stuck with me.

In this video a Trump supporter calls into Rush Limbaugh’s show. He goes on to talk about how the other elected republicans are traitors, how only Limbaugh and Trump are fighting for him and then goes on to say that he would die for Trump. You read that right, this person said that he would die for Donald J.Trump.

And while I cannot say whether he would actually do this or what percentage of Trump’s supporters he is representative of, one thing is clear: Some of his supporters are truly fanatical.

The Proud Boys celebrate Trump’s response.

Trump also emboldens such people. In one of the 2020 presidential debates, when asked to denounce them, he told noted far-right militia “the Proud Boys” to “stand down and stand by.” Something which many of them celebrated and took as a call to violent action.

And the Proud Boys aren’t the only Trump supporters who pose a danger. Before the 2020 election took place there was much footage of armed right-wing militias walking through town in places Louisville. Quite visibly baring their guns. Waving American flags and Trump paraphenalia. Some of them talking about the inevitability of an armed revolution, something heavily played into by right-wing commentators like Tim Pool.

Furthermore, their loyalty to Trump is only matched by their trust in what he says.

The American Flag, The Constitution and Trump

Since Trump has lost the 2020 election he has been claiming that it was fraudulent, something he set up long beforehand with his “warnings” about mail-in ballots. This despite the fact that he’s losing every court case on the matter and that no evidence of widespread voter fraud has been uncovered.

When he’s brought cases to court, they’ve been thrown out time and time again, even by the judges he appointed, due to lack of evidence. In court his lawyers refused to even state they were alleging voter fraud. When he said dead people were voting, local news went to these people and found them still alive. Even FOX has called several states Trump claims to have won for Biden. Some people on FOX even questioned the idea that Trump actually won this election. And the reaction from Trump supporters has been… telling.

FOX News fans turn against them.

Chants of “FOX News sucks” could be heard around America straight from their mouths. And for the first time in a very long time FOX’s ratings dipped so low that they were on par with CNN and MSNBC. Newsmax, on the other hand, which continues to push the narrative of a supposed Trump victory, has seen its followers on Twitter skyrocket.

The message from Trump supporters is clear: Support Trump unconditionally or we will destroy you.

The Coercive Power of the Trump Cult

Taking all of these things together, it should be clear how even without the presidency Trump could still cause a lot of damage. He has supporters that hang on his every word. They believe him over anyone else. If he says something, almost anything, they will believe it. Some of them are armed and organized in the form of militias, and some may even be willing to die for him. If he calls on them, such as if he fears he’ll be arrested, they could well “rise up to defend their president.” And you better believe Biden’s administration will take that threat into account.

Even if he never gives any such command and even if these groups never engage in any violence, the threat itself gives Trump power. And it is likely to deter anyone from going after him for any crimes he may have committed in or out of office.

Newsmax’s most recent ratings. Copyright: CNN Business.

But there doesn’t need to be any threat of violence for there to be coercion. Trump’s recommendation of OAN and Newsmax and his repudiation of FOX News shows that, with one word, Trump can economically damage any conservative media outlet that threatens to turn against him. This kind of pressure will almost certainly be a coercive force on these media organizations, who will continue to back up Trump on almost anything in order to keep their business economically viable.

This was particularly obvious when, not long ago, Fox host Tucker Carlson quickly backpeddled on his implication that Trump did not have evidence for voter fraud taking place, after the backlash from Trump’s supporters.

This gives Trump, as an individual and not as a president, almost unprecedented power over what is often referred to unofficially as “the fourth branch of government.” Or at least, the conservative part of it. A part which has influence over literally tens of millions of people. And in doing so he maintains unprecedented influence and power.

But, in case you still had any optimism left, it doesn’t end there.

The Party of Trump

Trump is kind of an idiot, but one thing he has always been very good at is keeping his republican “colleagues” in line. One might say it amounts to“the greatest cucking the land has yet seen.”

Ted Cruz gets cucked by Trump after his donors tell him to sit down and take it. Taken from video by The Dallas Morning News.

There have been many times where, despite saying something completely indefensible, republican politicians have rushed to Trump’s aid. No matter how stupid what he said was, no matter how hair-brained his scheme, a good portion of republican politicians seemed to always be right by his side. Just ask Ted Cruz who’s wife Trump insulted and who was doing phone banking for him not long after.

And it makes sense. America is still, at least nominally, a representative democracy and a constitutional republic. That means that it is the voters who elect their representatives. And those voters, at least on the conservative side… I hope I’ve established how much they like Trump. And Trump is unusually good at “communicating” with them.

The man’s love of tweeting might be something many laugh at, but politically it has proven incredibly effective. When someone says something positive about him or does what he wants, Trump will tweet about them in adulatory terms. When they do something he doesn’t like though… he’s not shy about turning those tweets into rhetorical bullets.

This means that going against Trump is usually an electoral death sentence. Just ask Jeff Sessions who, quite reasonably, tried to recuse himself from an investigation into Trump and was fired and publically shamed by Trump not long after. And when he tried to run again for congress again, he was soundly beaten by his Trump-endorsed opponent.

This sets a clear precedent for anyone watching: Go along with Trump and he offers you the biggest, juiciest carrot the world has ever seen. Unbelievable, folks. Go against him and he will beat your career with that stick until it’s dead and bloody.

Even now, with Trump heading out of office, he retains this power. The crucial Georgia race is a good example.

Trump supporter calls for a boycott of the Georgia race and calls Bryan Kemp a traitor. From the video by The Majority Report.

The Georgia race is very important. Its results will determine whether the Republicans or the Democrats control the senate for at least the next 2 years. Despite this there is now a republican movement to boycott the Georgia election. Why? Because Georgia politicians certified the election for Biden. So some Trump supporters believe the republican party should be punished for not showing unequivocal loyalty to the dear leader.

And the Republican politicians know this. There’s a reason why, according to a Washington Post investigation, only 27 Republicans in Congress say Biden won while 220 refused to answer. This despite Biden’s obvious win.

This means Trump, even after leaving office, will still have significant leverage over Republican politicians. With a single tweet he will be able to give them a dressing down that might cause them to lose their next election. Or give them an endorsement that’s almost guaranteed to boost their numbers. Their knowledge of this may keep them, essentially, tied to him long after he’s officially lost all political power.

They may not want to go down with the ship, but Trump has tied their trousers to the mast.

He’ll also still have other connections within the government and the party.

Obama as a Case Study

Trump is no Obama. Obama’s style of wielding power is one of building bridges and relationships, Trump’s is more one of threats and intimidation. The two are not particularly comparable, but nevertheless Obama can still serve as a good case study of the influence former presidents can wield over their parties.

The best illustration of this principle undoubtably comes from the 2020 Democratic Party Primary. After Joe Biden won South Carolina there was still a pretty open field with a lot of candidates still in the running. And the question remained who would win the primary. Obama gave us an answer.

According to several reports, after South Carolina, former president Obama had a nice chat with Pete Buttigieg. And despite Buttigieg initially not wanting to drop out, Obama reportedly convinced him to. Why? Because despite no longer holding political office, Obama is still very influential.

No longer president, but still one of the most powerful men in the world. Picture by Photograph Chip Somodevilla.

Obama is still one of the most popular former politicians in America. This means his endorsement can still drive a lot of votes. Which means that to a politician it is very valuable. Obviously it’s something you’d want if you planned on running for office again.

Above and beyond that, however, Obama was president for 8 years. And in those 8 years built many connections with donors and other powerful people within the Democratic Party. These are people you’d want on your side if you were a politician wanting to climb higher. And they’re people you wouldn’t want to turn against you. A single call from Obama could signal to these people to support/advance someone’s political career, or to tank it.

In the face of that kind of influence Buttigieg obviously obliged, as would most politicians. He wanted to keep Obama on his side because Obama could do a lot for him, or a lot against him. This is just how the game works.

It’s Not What You Know

Trump may not have the same penchant for building reciprocal relationships that Obama does, but his endorsement still carry a lot of weight. And he does have his loyalists in the party as well. And, of course, his tweets inspire fear in the hearts of many republican leaders. All of this means that if he plays his cards right, he could still make himself a nexus of power in the republican party.

A call here, a call there. A favor here, a favor there. A backdoor deal here, a backdoor deal there. An endorsement here, an endorsement there. These things could make or break the careers of republican politicians.

This is especially true for politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene who fully embraced the Trump brand in an attempt to cash in on it. Their supporters ARE Trump’s supporters, and as a result their success or failure is inherently tied to Trump.

All of this power might be further boosted if Trump launches Trump TV.

Trump TV?

Trump TV could be coming to a screen near you soon. I advize you to burn down your house before that happens.

Though no man can know the mind of Donald Trump lest he driven to insanity, it has been speculated by a great many people that Trump may launch Trump TV. This would be a media channel of some sort which would act as a competitor to Fox News and, undoubtably, would be controlled directly by Trump.

Trump being in direct control of a news channel which directly depends on his supporters for its success would likely mean a news channel that never goes against him. Yet the Trump brand is trusted by many conservatives. This means while this channel would be nearly perfectly loyal to Trump, its viewers would also swallow every single thing it claimed.

This is not only a dangerous combination, but controlling an entire media ecosystem directly would almost ensure Trump has the power to swing elections, steer public conversation and stirr up unrest for years to come.

Moles, Moles, Everywhere

All of this is not even taking into account his passive influence. There are people whom Trump, including in his final days, has embedded in the executive branch. People who likely share his beliefs on policy (to the extent that he has them). And people who may well be loyalists and sychophants themselves (as he has a penchant for appointing those). Some of these people may be difficult for Biden to find and remove, and so long as they remain in place will continue working towards republicans’ and Trump’s goals.

There are also the courts. Though Trump’s judges turned out not to be as loyal as he had hoped, as is clear from the many cases he lost trying to overturn the election (some of which were before his own judges), he did appoint quite a lot of them. Not only is there now a strong conservative majority in the supreme court, Trump appointed many judges across the lower courts as well. These judges will continue to adjudicate cases in the manner republicans might want, and in doing so continue to push Trump’s policy without him lifting a finger.

Nuance Has Entered the Chat

Time for a bit of nuance to all of this though. Trump’s power over Republicans is not absolute.

For example, conservative Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager for Georgia, has recently pushed back against Trump’s antics in regards to calling the election fraudulent. Encouraging his fellow conservatives in the GOP to push back against him as well and stating that what Trump is doing is a risk to democracy.

Perhaps more importantly this is also reflected in congress. This can be seen in the recent defence spending bill which Trump has threatened to veto but which several Republicans are trying to push through. The senate Republicans may well follow. And this makes sense. Trump’s interests aren’t the only things weighing on his Republican colleagues (or hostages, I should say).

The real president of the United States.

There are many additional people, donors especially, who want things. Who’s money Republican politicians need to run their campaigns. The defence spending bill needs to pass for Republicans to pay back their donors in the defence industry. And so the Republicans are well motivated to pass it over Trump’s objections. They may feel they have to go along with Trump to avoid angering his supporters, but if Trump’s actions threaten the interests of the people with the money then who will Republican politicians side with? It remains to be seen. That being said, I suspect a big bag of money is… quite persuasive.

It’s also worth noting that most of the Republican politicians don’t like Trump. Half of them insulted Trump before he got into office, with Rand Paul notibly calling him an “orange faced windbag” (before talking about what a good job he’s done) and Ted Cruz saying that Trump was a narcissist on a level the country had never seen before.

Trump rips the mask off of what the Republican party has really become. He’s too stupid to play ball in a subtle way. And he’ll lash out at anyone who even vaguely goes against him and try to destroy them. These people, I’m sure, would happily be rid of him. So if they do get that opportunity, most of them would probably take it.

The Thrilling Conclusion

I don’t know what the future holds. Nobody does. Trump may never launch TrumpTV. The Trump effect may wear off after he’s out of office and the media attention dries up. More than likely, he does not have the political skill to use all of this power and influence in any way beyond brute force. The establishment republicans may win a civil war within their own ranks and destroy the Trumpists by the next election. God himself may come down from the heavens and strike down every last republican for secretely liking gay porn on Twitter. Who knows.

But there is potential here. Trump will still have a lot of power once he’s no longer president, the question is: will he know how to use it?

Trump may soon be out of office, but it’s possible the Trump era has only just begun.

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Dr. Analyze

Dr. Analyze

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Writing about society, politics and a hefty dose of fiction.