Imagine Biden voters, mouthpieces for establishment lies about the stolen election, & cheerleaders for the doxing & arrest of Capitol protesters becoming influential voices in post-Trumpian populism.— Counter-Currents (@NewRightAmerica) January 18, 2021
No, I can’t imagine it either.
More disinformation on message boards.— Tyrone Jackson 5% (@cashmoneyglock) January 19, 2021
MAGA/QAnon types look at this post and see a “patriot”. To me it looks like it was posted by a snarky liberal that knows how to hit all the right tropes. pic.twitter.com/RzVPUroPHN
Soooooo, are they releasing the Kraken yet… pic.twitter.com/0i35C2ZQn0— Gr???????????ymond the Gr????????????????????????y (@TheGreymond) January 19, 2021
17 hours to go… pic.twitter.com/QsxGvrO5ek— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) January 18, 2021
In the 2016 election, we elected a demagogue, a narcissist, a plutocrat and a reality television celebrity as president of the United States who cynically exploited nationalist and populist themes to build a cult following and get himself elected. Everything that followed over the next four years during which he inflicted unprecedented damage upon our cause flowed from this central fact.
2017 was the watershed year that began to separate real populists from fake populists. The people who were principled populists began almost immediately to sound the alarm about the incoming Trump presidency. The fact that Donald Trump had picked Gary Cohn, the president and CEO of Goldman Sachs, to be his chief economic adviser and had nominated Andrew Puzder to be his Secretary of Labor telegraphed the sort of economic policies the White working class and middle class could expect out of the Trump presidency. The fact that Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci was on the Trump transition team was also a clear sign that Donald Trump had sold out to the Republican donor class after duping populist voters by saying during the primary that he was self-financing his own campaign to be free of their influence.
Over the course of the next year, we were introduced to Jared Kushner who had been invisible on the campaign trail. We saw Donald Trump launch a military strike on Syria over a fake gas attack which was an early illustration of his poor judgment. Immigration was put on the backburner. Instead of pushing the populist and nationalist themes that had won him the presidency, Donald Trump embraced Paul Ryan’s Better Way agenda and squandered his political capital on repealing Obamacare and passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. These two policies were respectively the two most unpopular proposals of the last twenty years and began to tank his approval rating with moderate voters. In addition, Donald Trump put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, which didn’t raise any eyebrows at the time because he was fulfilling a major campaign promise, but was in retrospect another sign that his administration was drifting in a conservative direction. It highlighted the dynamic by which the conservative agenda was sailing through the Republican Congress while the populist and nationalist agenda was being blocked. Everyone from Ben Shapiro to Rich Lowry who had bitterly opposed Trump suddenly began to warm to him.
Once again, the people who were genuine populists were upset by these developments and reacted to them as one might expect. This is why his approval rating steadily tanked when the focus was on health care. It happened again when his approval rating crashed when the focus was on the tax cuts. Even though the tax cuts and repealing Obamacare were always part of Trump’s agenda, Independent voters had swallowed a lot of things they may have disagreed with and voted for him in spite of these things. They assumed it was a price to be paid in exchange for a massive border wall, a trillion dollar infrastructure plan, swift withdrawals from interminable wars, deportations of millions of illegal aliens, etc. They had voted for Donald Trump because he hadn’t presented himself as another mainstream conservative.
As the leftwing political violence cranked up after the Trump inauguration, genuine populists and nationalists were incensed by the lawlessness and attacks on their free speech and freedom of assembly and began to go out into the streets to exercise their right to oppose it. It was the attack on MILO’s speaking event at Berkeley in February 2017 which galvanized the movement. It led to a series of rallies in Berkeley and around the country. The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville was the culmination of these free speech rallies and was the biggest event of its kind to date. There was going to be a torch march like at the previous rally, a political rally in Lee Park and an afterparty for socializing and networking. The Charlottesville Police and Virginia State Police stood down that day, Antifa violently disrupted the event and James Fields, Jr. crashed into that crowd and killed Heather Heyer. Over the course of the next three years, there were dozens, if not hundreds of events involving groups like the Proud Boys which played out like Charlottesville although the Alt-Right was never again present at any of them.
In the aftermath of Charlottesville, the only question that seemed to matter was how the fallout from the event would affect Donald Trump, which was itself a symptom of the rising lawlessness due to the failure of his Justice Department to prosecute and convict Antifa that had begun at his Inauguration. The people who had went to Charlottesville, who played by the rules and got a federal court order and who had done nothing that day except show up to voice their opinions were viciously attacked as “bad optics.” James Fields, Jr. went to prison for half a millennium. The Rise Above Movement was prosecuted by Trump’s Justice Department. The guys who were ambushed by DeAndre Harris while returning to their cars went to prison and Antifa got away with it and Donald Trump and the GOP did nothing about it.
Charlottesville was the watershed event that divided the populists from the conservatives who had joined the Alt-Right. The populists who were seeing things clearly were already angry about Donald Trump’s steady betrayal of his campaign promises and began to break with him completely after that event. In contrast, the conservatives rallied behind Weev and Republican operative Ricky Vaughn and branded anyone who was becoming critical of Trump as a “whigger nationalist” or a “wignat.” If you didn’t “trust Trump” and “Trust the Plan,” the stereotype was that you were a low-IQ, high time preference trailer park Nazi whose “bad optics” was detrimental to their effort to infiltrate the Republican Party and blend in with MAGA. You were an albatross holding them back from “appealing to the normies.” As they told us thousands of times on the internet over the next three years, we were “goon marchers.”
There was a clean separation after Charlottesville between the core of the Alt-Right and the “American Nationalist movement.” They wrapped themselves in the American flag. They started calling themselves America First paleoconservatives. They clung to Daddy Trump’s leg and rationalized and waved away every single one of his subsequent betrayals. They tarred anyone outside of the MAGA personality cult as a “cringe wignat.” They voted for the Republican Party in the 2018 and 2020 elections. Their behavior was not motivated by any genuine populist worldview. They were motivated by ambition.
If you were a Donald Trump plan truster, cheerleader and chump in 2018, 2019 and 2020, you were bringing in a massive haul of superchats, donations, page views and the clicks. There was no pressure or criticism of Trump coming from anyone besides us to fulfill his campaign promises. Slowly, QAnon replaced the Alt-Right as Donald Trump’s base, which was reflected in the way in which websites like The Daily Crackpot went full conspiratard and plan truster in their content in 2020. There was no plan beyond trusting Trump and clinging to Trump and orbiting MAGA and keeping Trump in office to grift off of both like leeches for as long as possible. The plan was to ride Trump’s coattails and to tell people stories that they wanted to hear. “Donald Trump is moving the Overton Window.” “This is how Trump can still win.” There was no market for bad news or “blackpills” and especially for the truth. Some of these people even went so far as to promote crackpots like Sidney Powell and Lin Wood to vacuum up that last dollar.
How far were some people willing to go to follow these charlatans and mountebanks (there is nothing new under the sun) into this post-truth world? Some people like Ashli Babbitt genuinely believed the lies and died or went to prison for Donald Trump. Some people were willing to do anything for viral clicks like Baked Alaska. Even after the certification of the Electoral College vote and the Supreme Court rejecting the Texas case doomed any chance of a Trump second term, some people were still pushing this “Stop the Steal” narrative and dangling out the hope that there was still a chance that the election could be overturned on January 6th. Republican senators and congressmen cynically went along with this knowing it was nothing but performance art. Legions of small time grifters like Nick Fuentes and the America First movement were sucked in by the irresistable opportunity to promote their own brands by the optics of fighting for Trump. Donald Trump raised over a quarter of a billion dollars off his gullible supporters by raising their hopes that there was a plan and that somehow he could still win the election. At no point over the course of four years did Donald Trump ever tell his supporters that QAnon was a hoax.
It looks like some people followed Trump’s example and lack of character and looked in the mirror and convinced themselves that they were the plan. As long as my own brand is growing, what is wrong with telling all these people that Trump has a plan and that it is all going to work out in the end? Besides the obvious problem that the clock was running out on the Trump presidency, nothing of lasting significance for populist voters was getting accomplished and that there would likely be severe political consequences? Only a high-time preference “wignat” would point out that in the long run there would be a price to pay for tricking people like this and squandering a populist mandate for political change.
The price that we are going to pay for that is Joe Biden’s presidency. We began sounding the alarm about Big Tech censorship, Trump’s conservative agenda, Antifa violence and Trump alienating his populist base years ago. Nothing was done about those problems which continued to metastasize. We sounded the alarm about COVID-19 and warned it wasn’t “just the flu” and that it was going to cost Trump the election. No one wanted to hear that at the time and sure enough it ended up costing Trump the election. Finally, we repeatedly warned people about the Grift Right and the Stop the Steal rallies. We identified, called and flagged every major mistake of the Trump presidency well in advance.
What about the brain trust of the White Nationalist movement? How did they do in the Trump era? Greg Johnson continued to push the old “mainstreaming” strategy which hasn’t worked for 50 years in the vain hope that somehow having Trump in office as a “symbol” was advancing the cause of White Nationalism. No one got jobs in the Trump administration in exchange for their support. The Trump Justice Department incarcerated a record number of White Nationalists. White Nationalists were officially condemned by Congress at least two or three times. Israel got virtually everything it wanted short of a war with Iran. Donald Trump destroyed Jeff Sessions’ career. Immigration hawks like Steve King were purged from the party. Groypers were purged from Turning Point USA. Political correctness intensified into militant wokeness. We lost hundreds of our monuments and our online platforms. Law and order collapsed. Wall Street is at a record high though so oligarchs like Jeff Bezos made a fortune in the Trump era. What did White Nationalists get out of it except for absorbing the full force of the backlash of having Trump as president? The lulz of “owning the libs” by voting for the Platinum Plan?
Aside from losing an election to Joe Biden that could have been easily won by fulfilling popular campaign pledges instead of following Jared Kushner’s strategy, what’s the cherry on top of this shit sundae? It is that this toxic relationship with Donald Trump and MAGA and the allure of Thiel bucks and the compulsive need for White Nationalists to seek validation from conservatives and to impress the “normies” with displays of optics and this desire to grift and seek attention has now culminated in a disaster that is currently over 100x greater than Charlottesville ever was and could very well result in a new version of the Patriot Act and the arrest, imprisonment and financial destruction of all those who knew better but were dumb and greedy enough to participate in it anyway. Everything we learned from Charlottesville and stuck with for two or three years was unlearned in two months for the sake of Donald Trump’s vanity.
The damage to rightwing populism from the memory of the Trump presidency will be severe. The movement is now associated in the public mind with violent conspiratards, mass death, incompetence, race baiting, grifters and lunatics like Lin Wood. The phrase “Trust the Plan” will linger in our language for centuries to denote someone who is dimwitted and being duped by others. The real “blackpill” will be when all these people who were conned by Trump finally figure out they got played and become even more cynical and drop out of politics. The long term cost of performance art populism will be a cloud of suspicion that hovers over anyone who is genuine and tries to run that kind of campaign again.
My final memory of the Trump presidency will always be how God Emperor Blumpf got rolled by Mitch McConnell on $2,000 checks with the support of 80% of the American people, how he ended by pardoning Lil Wayne and how Nick Fuentes and Baked Alaska set their future on fire for him with less than two weeks to go in his term. I will also remember how Ashli Babbitt stormed the Capitol and literally died for a man who wouldn’t give her the time of day. There is a strong pent up desire for change out there which could never fully express itself through Donald Trump, the Republican Party and institutional conservatism. Unlike Huey Long, the man never used his talents of persuasion to build his own organization and to mobilize his supporters to advance populist goals or to utterly destroy the people he had defeated.
As we enter the Joe Biden presidency, I will try to close on a positive note. We have learned a number of things from what we have just experienced over the past five years. We’ve been transformed by it. We are older and wiser for having been put through this ordeal. In the end, many of us saw how our hopes, values and beliefs were being used against us by people who knew which buttons to push in order to manipulate us into getting what they wanted and most importantly we got a sense of who was real among us. Many of us weren’t fooled by the same old siren song and didn’t walk into Capitol Siege trap. The ability to billionaires to use their vast ill gotten wealth to buy the votes and policy agenda of elected officials and to essentially nullify the will of the people must be on the frontburner as a populist issue. The power of tech oligarchs to censor political viewpoints that they dislike must also be on the frontburner as a populist issue. When you drill right down into it, you find out that all that money is the source of their power over us and that mainstream conservatism and libertarianism are unequipped to address the problem. The little guys have their votes and no power because the big guys have amassed all of it to themselves. They can walk into the Oval Office and purchase whatever they want no matter how unpopular.
Donald Trump isn’t the first demagogue in American history. He is the first one to win the presidency. The next populist leader must pick up where Huey Long left off, not Donald Trump.
Note: We saw in the Democratic primary how billionaires like Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg bought their way on to the debate stage. They were both inspired by Donald Trump, but lacked his skills at marketing themselves. It is not a Republican or a Democratic problem.