The House Trump Built

Make America Great Again is a house Trump built yet the plans weren’t his own. He borrowed them and better crafted what would become a viable movement that captured the presidency and the Republican party. Is he still welcome? What becomes of the movement after him? Can there even be, as Steve Bannon believes, Trumpism without Trump? Pundits portray an increasing divide between Republicans. Not just one where grassroots activism challenges established mores, a Grand Old Party at odds with a new wave of populist-nationalism swelling within its ranks, but also a conflict between these populists and nationalists (and conservatives) who believe they rightly occupy a space that’s become the MAGA movement.

In simple terms what came first: the chicken or the egg, Trump or MAGA? For this paradox there is an answer. You can be certain MAGA didn’t start June 16th, 2015 at Trump Tower, with The Donald descending an escalator to announce his candidacy as “Rockin’ In the Free World” played. In fact, it didn’t start with Trump. The position wasn’t an epiphany revealed to him like God instructing Noah. It is, moreover, this confusion about MAGA’s origin that leads to the internal conflict noted above amongst adherents; their infighting is a symptom and misplaced loyalty is the cause.

Before I dissect what became Trump’s signature platform of “Make America Great Again” allow me to address the factions warring over its legacy. A modicum of foresight can easily see it splitting the president’s base much like John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson did to Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans, but I digress. There must be moderation in all things, politics included (though it’s difficult at times I admit), yet these fervent forces vie for the last word on Trump’s movement without knowing how it started. This, I believe, is a serious problem that perpetuates discord.

The loyalists I’ve termed Ever-Trumpers. A passionate bunch who willfully accept every action taken by the president, like battered spouses defending their abuser. Harsh, I know, but the mentality is the same. They cannot explain why Trump occasionally deviates from the MAGA platform so they ascribe it all to sublime genius. Ever-Trumpers see a brilliancy playing out on the chess board and the president working four moves ahead. Certainly, there is some merit to it but this is not the answer to every single maneuver and resulting mistake made by the president. Arguments to this effect, however, are met by Ever-Trumpers with chiding or “let Trump be Trump.”

Whatever. It’s okay to expect the president to be the Trump we voted for and call him out accordingly when he falls short.
Continue reading