In an article titled, “The Next Trump,” on Slate.com, Isaac Chotiner writes about what he calls, “the really scary thing.” It is worth considering, Chotiner writes, what Donald Trump has unleashed, not just in terms of nativism and bigotry, but in proving that white nationalism has a real base. The fear, then, isn’t just that Trump could win, which he could, despite his low odds. The fear is that a better, cooler, more polished version of Trump could rise in his wake. That is a prospect, and a danger, that will not disappear no matter what happens in November.
While I believe Chotiner correct in pointing to the dangerous nature of what Trump has unleashed, I believe he is mistaken in thinking that this danger “will not disappear no matter what happens in November.”
These ugly forces have been there in America for a very long time. Nonetheless, as a result of the GOP having fed these forces for the past generation, they have grown in strength. In Trump’s becoming the Republican nominee for President, these forces now have their opportunity to grab for power.
(David Duke recognizes that this is the moment of bigotry’s ascendance, which is likely why he’s decided now is the time for him to run for the Senate.)
But times of opportunity are also times of risk. (As the coup plotters in Turkey know now all too well.) The attacker who fails to storm the walls can be annihilated.
Or, to put it in terms of American electoral politics, these ugly forces are now coming up for judgment by the American people. If Trump should win – or even if he should perform respectably – the lesson will be drawn that the banner of bigotry and ugly nationalism offers a path to power.
But if Trump should lose in a landslide – if the American people repudiate Trumpism in an overwhelming manner – everything that Trump represents will be discredited and weakened. His bigotry and his disregard of truth and his bullying approach to the world — and all the ways Trump has made manifest the spirit that the Republican Party has been overtaken by in our times – will become political poison.
If the defeat is complete.
So it is incumbent upon all of us – upon us who wish to rid America of the threat from this proto-fascist spirit — to use the coming election not only to stop Trump’s advance toward power but also to burn the bridges behind him for all who might have followed.
This is, as Chotiner suggests, a dangerous moment in America. But it is also a moment of opportunity.
This disease has been rising on the political right for a generation. A thorough rout of Trumpism in November might bring about, at long last, the breaking of the fever.