Despite Everything, Trump Is Going To Walk Away a Martyr

And here’s why this could cripple a democracy already under attack.

Sikander Hayat Khan
Jan 12 · 7 min read
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Image by vasilis asvestas/Shutterstock

By far, the one thing that’s more dangerous than authoritarians themselves is their martyrdom. Because their politics, and the damage they've done, can leave with them once they vacate office. But give them martyrdom and things only get worse.

I’ll show you what I mean. On 5th April 1979, Pakistan’s prime minister was hanged by the military in a coup. The charge? Murder. Leaving the fairness of the trial to one side, the man turned into a martyr. And you know what happened next? His daughter became prime minister — twice. Then? She was assassinated. And her husband used sympathy votes to become president (many believe he’s the one who was behind the assassination in the first place). And now? Their son is leader of the party gunning to become prime minister himself.

And this is no coincidence. Because every single one of them campaigned on the back of the man who was hanged by the military. His death, to this day, is their ticket to power.

Now, you may well be wondering how Trump is going to do the same. After all, he isn't on death row. But the thing about martyrdom, in a political context, is it doesn't require death.

All you need is for the people to believe he was wronged, cheated, stabbed in the back — all because he chose to serve them. This is exactly what’s happening in America right now. Trump has been, for months, telling the American people how “the establishment” robbed them of their democracy. He’s been telling them that the only reason he was unfairly ousted from office was because he chose to serve them rather than the powers that be. And as the attack on the Capitol has shown, his base has bought it. And now they see him being banned from social media, ridiculed the world over, and believe it’s all because he tried to fight for them.

So with his supporters emotional, and prone to violence, Trump is going to find himself in the driving seat once he leaves office. He’ll be the “peoples champion,” on the streets with them, fighting to overthrow a “corrupt regime.” This is where you see protests large enough to shut down entire cities. This is where you see the hatred dialled up. And once Trump’s got the pot boiling, his army may turn to violence. And not just ordinary violence. Because when they’ve got Trump standing by their side, literally, they’re going to feel invincible. In their mind, he’ll be their general leading them into battle to reclaim their democracy.

And then what happens? Around a month ago, I answered that question with “political instability.” But the truth is that was a very different America to the one that exists today. Now that the Capitol has been attacked, nothing is off the table. Now it won’t be mere instability. It’ll be America getting shocked to its core.

And you know what makes that situation even more plausible? The fact that America hasn't been through this before. With every riot, every coup, every shot fired, it steps further and further into uncharted territory. So how does America cope when it doesn't know what’s coming next until it actually does?

To make matters worse, remember that Trumpists won’t be fighting for Trump because they owe him their loyalty no questions asked. It’s because he’s their best chance at creating the America they’ve always wanted to live in; one characterised by white supremacy, violence and misogyny. Evil didn't suddenly appear in America because of Trump. It was always there — he simply gave it a platform — and power.

And you know what that means? They’ve got a “stronger” reason to fight. Because it’s not just whether Trump becomes president again — it’s whether America “survives.” After all, in their minds, they’re “American patriots.”

But will any of this do Trump any good? Will all this will actually get him back in the White House?

In his mind, yes. Trump’s already gunning for a run in 2024. This is why he refused to concede in the first place. He knew his attempts to overturn the election were failing. Martyrdom was his best chance of making a comeback. But I’ll leave all that to one side for now. Because his martyrdom poses another threat that’s far greater in the long run. What is it? Political dynasties.

Martyrdom breeds them. I gave you an example above. But the Third World has many more. And right now, American politics is, in some respects, even worse than theirs. And you know what that means? The Trumps pose a greater threat to democracy in America than the threat some dictators in the Third World pose to their own.

You see, in the developing world, it’s the military or the police that carry out the dictator’s orders to subvert democracy. America didn't have that. It saw its own citizens break into the Capitol, armed, all in order to overturn an election. And you know why that makes a Trump dynasty more dangerous?

Because now they’ll never need the institutions to get on board. They now have a standing army ready to go the distance. An army who will be willing to break into any federal building at his command. An army that can never be reformed. An army whose exact numbers are unknown. An army who will stand by the Trumps as long as they stand by their evil vision of a white America.

And you know what that means? Double trouble. A Trump dynasty doesn't just become a threat to democracy — it becomes a threat to human rights. Because America will be a country ruled by Trumps, for Trumpists, all to cement white supremacy.

But can Trump’s children even get the job done? The answer is yes. Ivanka already has political aspirations. But even if she doesn’t stand, you’ve still got Trump Jr., who’s his father’s right hand, to contend with. And my experience living under two dynasties leaves me with no doubt in my mind that he’s the next one in line. Why? Because he’s the rising star of the MAGA movement. He was amongst those leading the fight to overturn the result in the courts. In doing so, he told the people he was going to help them reclaim their democracy — making him another “peoples champion.” And make no mistake — he is one. Because the Trump base has a certain reverence for him. Perhaps the best example of that is how they answered his call to “welcome” the Biden campaign in Texas — a message that resulted in the “Trump train” violently chasing their campaign bus.

And you know what’s perhaps the most important reason of them all? His name — Donald Trump Jr. What better way for the Trump base to give their movement continuity? To them, it’ll be like Trump’s second-coming — a “rebirth.”

And as for the GOP, and whether they’ll back the Trump children, it’s highly likely. By silently enabling Trump’s repeated assaults on democracy, they’ve pushed themselves so far down the black hole of authoritarianism that they’re going to have a tough time pulling themselves back out. Even now, with the attack on the Capitol still fresh in everyone’s minds, the Republicans saw fit to block a resolution calling on Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment. Besides, once they see the number of votes Trump’s martyrdom can pull in for his children, they’ll sell their souls to authoritarians once again.

That’s why, even with Trump leaving office, neither America nor its democracy are in the clear. The fascists have, with their attack on the Capitol, declared that they’re not going to stand down. That they’re willing to desecrate everything America stands for as long as they can get their man back into power. All so that they can remodel America to their liking.

And you know what makes all this even worse? The fact that America cant stop it. Because right now, Trump leaving office is in their best interests. But it’s a double-edged sword; he’ll become a martyr in the process.

What America can do is make sure that never becomes enough to propel him, or his children, to power. That is one thing that is still in America’s control. Despite Trump’s best attempts, America still has its democracy.

And that — that means America has to vote. It is no longer just a right. It is no longer just a duty. This is now about survival. Because I don’t think America is going to get a second chance. Trump and his army are not going to forgive America. With Trump, it’s because America voted him out. With Trumpists, it’s because Americans “stole” their vision of America from them. This is now about more than who wins and who loses — this is about what America becomes. And make no mistake — what the Trumpists could do to America with a second term is beyond frightening. Look at what they’ve managed to do in one. And then consider the fact that they’re only getting started.

America now needs to understand that its democracy is in the fight for its life. Because this doesn't end with Biden assuming office. A change in administration doesn't mean Trumpism dies, white supremacy disappears, Trump’s martyrdom is somehow reversed, and Trumpists suddenly forget that they’re capable of attacking any federal building in the country.

Besides, they’re leaving Biden an America that’s broken. It’s now in a place where you no longer ask the question of, “This happened in a Third World country. Will it really happen in America?” but the question of, “This happened in America. Will it really happen in the Third World?

So if this is the case with the Trump army only getting warmed up, what’s going to happen once they unleash? Once America lets them into office? Will its democracy survive? Maybe. Maybe not. But those aren’t odds a democracy already under attack can afford to play.

Sikander Hayat Khan

Written by

Political opinion from a Law & Politics grad. Top Writer in Government & Politics. Twitter @SikanderH8

The Purple Giraffe

The Purple Giraffe reports on what is happening today; with a dynamic insight into politics, policy, leadership, culture, social issues, and the economy.

Sikander Hayat Khan

Written by

Political opinion from a Law & Politics grad. Top Writer in Government & Politics. Twitter @SikanderH8

The Purple Giraffe

The Purple Giraffe reports on what is happening today; with a dynamic insight into politics, policy, leadership, culture, social issues, and the economy.

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