It’s a bit surreal to be sitting here at the termination point of Trump’s presidency. Seems like only yesterday we were riding the zeitgeist of 2016-2017 energy, enthusiastically meming a pompous orange blowhard into office for the sheer Hell of it while chanting obscene limericks at the paintsuited libtard avatar of Hilary Clinton. Four years later and it all came to an anti-climactic, humiliating end for a post-modern spectacle of a “leader” who confused late night Tweeting with actual governance of the country. In the eerie stillness of “God Emperor Trump’s” final reduction to a mangled wreck on the floor of the Vengeful Spirit in the wake of the Biden Heresy, I find myself reflecting on his presidency, how he came to be, and how he met his fate.
In a way, I think the Donald Trump ascendancy represents both the power and dangerous seduction of meme culture. Trump support began as performative trolling, as a middle finger to the establishment. No one really believed Trump was going to deliver on his overblown rhetoric, but as the train picked up momentum people began to take their own memes too seriously and believe their own fantastical hype about border walls and swamp-draining. Given the choice though, it was perfectly rational to elect an orange reality TV star trafficking in populism and nationalist ideas because this was at the very least a spin at the roulette wheel, or so it seemed. Trump was a vehicle for expressing genuine dissent at the political system itself while also providing a potential chance at real-world change beyond the bloviating rhetoric.
Except this was a lie and within two years of his presidency none of his dissident right-wing supporters saw him as anything more than another hopelessly compromised conman working to protect a certain foreign government that isn’t in Eastern Europe and is definitely in the Middle East. Syrian missile strikes and seemingly bottomless boons for Israel engineered by Trump’s Jewish son-in-law brought the curtains of a depressing reality down over the hopes for anything new in American politics. Hopes were immediately replaced by copes, and before long “plan-trusting” was itself a pejorative lobbed in the direction of “MAGA-tards” still desperately huddled around the quickly fading embers of 2016’s meme energy. True right-wing dissidents abandoned ship and wrote off Trump as the ineffectual bloviating retard he was and the last wisps of that ol’ 4chan magic faded away.
2020 summoned a nigh apocalyptic combination of forces to sunder the would-be Emperor’s bumbling reign, and in every case, Trump failed in a crisis and couldn’t speak to the needs of his own voters.
- The coronavirus pandemic created a national emergency and ultimately Trump faltered on it instead of sticking to a serious course of action. Indecision is often worse than a bad decision, particularly if your position relies on the fickle perceptions of an electorate. What people saw was an administration that initially downplayed the dangers of Coronavirus for the sake of the economy, then grudgingly got on board, and finally concluded with Trump himself getting sick. Had he pushed for aggressive management of the pandemic from the start he could’ve completely outflanked the media, but even completely denying the dangers of Covid while treating it as a media generated crisis would’ve been a stronger position if he just stayed on message and explained his reasoning. Instead Covid was something that just happened to America, and everyone got the distinct impression Trump himself was just hoping for the best while not taking the safety and livelihoods of the citizens as a serious concern.
- The endless, non-stop BLM and antifa violence in major American cities served as both a potent reminder of the left’s capacity for “street activism” and as a total humiliation of Trump’s authority. When anarchists literally declared certain areas as “autonomous zones” and burned down fucking police stations, Trump took to Twitter to impotently whine that “Democrat leaders” weren’t allowing him to intervene and complained that the FBI should be investigating antifa. It almost seemed like the Orange Man didn’t realize he was president.
- For the final indignity, Trump waded into the presidential debates with his usual blowhard aggression and somehow avoided explicitly mentioning his greatest constituency by name even once. White males in America justifiably feel marginalized, targeted and downright oppressed, but somehow the “populist” president couldn’t even bring himself to name them as an identifiable group. Instead he used his time to brag about how well blacks were doing economically and how many African Americans he had released from prison. These debates were a clear message to white folks that they had no representation in government, not even from the “white supremacist” Donald Trump who seemed to be bending over backwards to prove just how little he was interested in white issues.
So when the election came, the dissident right-wingers, the grizzled meme-war veterans, the wignats, they stayed home. The energy and fun of 2016 was replaced by cynicism, apathy, and outright scorn for the antics of Donald Trump and his remaining supporters. Even when the election itself began to look increasingly rigged and stolen, the dissident right could barely pretend to have more than a passing interest in the scandal, as years of Trump’s empty bloviation had eradicated the final hope for any legitimacy in the system long before suspicious vote tallies and hockey-stick graphs appeared in election results. After being harassed by a corrupt FBI ostensibly under the authority of the president himself, what wignat could really give a shit if Trump’s own reelection was stolen from him? So what if the Republicans and Democrats colluded together to fix an election, it’s not like there was anything to gain from Trump’s policies or any level of participation in the “democratic process”. Exit polls showed that it wasn’t just radical right-wingers that were turned off by the president’s ineptitude and fixation on appealing to women and minorities, across the board, white males just weren’t voting for him like they did in 2016.
Trump communicated loud and clear to disenfranchised white men that he just wasn’t their guy, and at the end of the day, they listened to him.