There are two options available to deal with those entrenched in Trumpism: give up on them or free them. The first option seems easy and will reap terrible consequences. The second seems impossible but is really quite simple (and will not be completely effective).
I’ve seen the theory posited that we should simply abandon Trumpists, let them die out over time. The theory fails on multiple levels, most important of which is that time exists. As time and events move forward, people will age, but there will also rise new grievances. Nativism isn’t about any particular issue but rather a philosophy on how to handle those issues. The nativists of the Trump era were not screaming about the Irish in the way the Know-nothings were; many of them had some Irish ancestry. They weren’t furious at the Jews or the Catholics, they were angry with the genderqueer and the Muslims. And ultimately, saying that the Trumpists aren’t capable of being contributing members of society is a fundamentally nativist view in and of itself, reminiscent of how being “anti-fascist” by violently attacking fascists and shutting down their free speech is fascist and being “anti-racist” by focusing everything in the context of race and elevating some above others is racist. Abandoning the nativists prolongs and expands the problem.
So, how to free people from their nativism?
First, let’s address the elephant in the room… the Republicans. Contrary to popular belief, the Republican establishment members – professional politicians – are going to be the greatest drivers to flush Trumpism from their ranks. This is why getting rid of Trumpism will be easy. Defining it as a combination of nativism and adherence to the “charismatic” leader of Trump, the other politicians in the party will not want to remain subjected to the whims of a poorly educated and thoughtless narcissist. They will work quietly, but aggressively, to purge Trumpism because doing so solidifies their power.
Recognizing that Trumpism isn’t long for the political arena, it’s important to distinguish between Trumpism and nativism. Trumpism will be pushed away, but nativism is at risk of staying and becoming the defining characteristic of a permanent subgroup of the Republican party. If that occurs there will be some times where nativists threatens to take the lead, in the same way that socialism adherents have become a prominent subset of the Democratic party.
If the goal is simply to get rid of Trump, you’re going to be able to breathe a big sigh of relief a year from now. But if that’s your only goal, you’re going to feel some nervousness when one of the nativists… whether the Trump kids or his most vocal enablers… gets a hint of traction in the 2024 and 2028 primaries. And if you believe that Trump was so bad that the Republicans won’t be able to come back from him, politically… I wish to point out that many Democrats predicted that Obama signaled 20 years of Democrat dominance of House, Senate and Presidency in 2008.
The time to attack nativism will be while the Republican establishment is attempting to pull people back away from Trump. At that point, the only places still pushing Trumpism will be a network of social media connections and conspiratorial websites. As the Republicans press on things like fiscal responsibility and working across the aisle, which they completely abandoned under Trump, people will be open to discussions about what they believe and why.
If this sounds like a rosy analysis, it’s not. In the first paragraph I said the attempts to pull back from Trumpism wouldn’t be fully effective. They won’t be. While there will be many people who move on from Trump and are willing to chalk up their support to a mistake, others will double down. For the remainder of our lives there will be some who insist that Trump was better than any other Republican President. Worse, there’s absolutely no way to predict who they will be, because that determination will be based on the person’s emotional and intellectual makeup… everything from actually being a racist to simply too egotistical to admit they’d made such a mistake. This means we’re going to be stuck both with talking people out of their nativism and wasting time on those who will never abandon it.
Worse, we’re going to have to start early. This is a long slog, and the Republicans establishment isn’t going to just choose a day to undermine Trump, they’re going to do so in a variety of little ways, daily, gradually shedding him from the party. This is how political parties have always operated.
What we’re left with is countering the narratives on the ground level among those who will listen to us, and remaining open to frank and (at least on the surface and as much as we can muster) non-judgmental discussions of why Trump was bad on specific topics when some of these people seem open. Attacking Trump directly is going to shut them down (again, people don’t like accepting they were wrong.) Ideally, we can also be ready to address their concerns.
And, mind, this isn’t even reaching toward one of the cores of the problem, the concept of “always R”. Trumpism will go, and nativism may go, but “always R”… the notion that all Democrats are inherently more evil than Republicans and therefore a) third parties are wrong and b) all Republican sins must be forgiven until a primary replacement can be made… will still need to be addressed if we’re to bring forth an ascendant third party. I’m not sure about how to even begin to address that, and it will need to be addressed.
This is all frustrating. It shouldn’t be necessary, but it is, even as we work toward the growth of a third party – and I ask anyone who is not comfortable with many Democratic agenda items but who cannot abide the Republicans (particularly those who promoted and enabled Trump) to avoid putting themselves in a situation where they always feel forced to choose one or the other. It’s one more reason to help suppress nativism. The Republicans are going to come back to power as the Democrats overreach, and the country is poorly served if a mentality of “us vs. them”, mistaken for patriotism, continues to thrive there.