International Policy Digest

Gage Skidmore
Politics /11 Nov 2020
11.11.20

Will a Low Grade Insurgency Follow Trump’s Loss?

More than 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump knowing what he has stood for over the last 4 years – tribalism, racism, bigotry, misogyny, and divisiveness. Many of them supported him with a level of fanaticism usually seen among Middle Eastern terrorist groups. What that says about America is appalling, made even worse by the fact that Trump’s popularity actually rose in this election. Nearly half of those who voted apparently see nothing wrong with Trump’s many outrages or what he stands for. That is not only depressing but contemptible for those among us who happen to treasure virtues such as moderation, equality, and righteousness in our national leaders.

When authoritarians are overthrown, they typically loot the treasury on their way out and retire on the French Riviera. Donald Trump won’t be doing that. Nor will he take the road traveled by George W. Bush after he departed the White House. He will neither retire nor stay silent. On the contrary, he will become the nation’s stalker, the guy peeping through the window at night, a lover for whom a restraining order is required, the insurgent leader working his networks, and commanding his brethren while hidden away in resplendent luxury. In so doing, Trump will keep his base fired up and on steroids in anticipation of his second run in 2024. As long as he is vertical, he will run.

In the interim, he will be nurturing an insidious threat he has left in his wake – a potential low-grade insurgency bubbling beneath the surface. It may well be that America is about to experience a political paramilitary insurgency. Many of Trump’s supporters are “rough people” who are armed, fiercely patriotic, and firmly believe what Trump has been selling for the past four years – such as that America is being overrun by “colored” people and immigrants, is under attack, and that Canada is a national security threat. Many of them also believe that Trump was cheated out of a second term. They may or may not want a civil war, but they will surely want to ensure that havoc and chaos prevail following Trump’s forced departure from office.

We have already seen ISIS-like convoys of ardent Trump supporters parading through the streets of some of America’s cities and towns, flexing their muscles, waving their guns, and blocking highways as Trump has egged them on. In their world, they are totally legitimate, Trump remains president, and anyone who stands in their way should be shoved aside or even eliminated. In the runup to genocides, eliminationist rhetoric often pervades local media. That type of rhetoric now exists in some of the right wing Republican media and is percolating through to the Republican Party. To them, all Liberals belong to a satanic cult and must be put to death.

Two QAnon supporters were elected to office in this election cycle, in Colorado and Georgia, and will peddle their pro-Trump conspiracy theories from their newly gained Congressional platforms. At least a dozen Republican candidates are believers in the baseless, delusional allegations that the Deep State has undermined Trump, that liberals traffic children, and that Democrats are part of a global criminal conspiracy. This absurd political movement has now arrived at the Republicans’ doorstep. Would anyone be surprised if QAnon became an official part of the Republican platform by 2024? It seems a perfectly natural progression from Trumpism.

Put it all together and a frightening mosaic of emboldened, armed, and angry Trump supporters emerges. As Trump’s own rhetoric may be expected to become even more inflammatory after he leaves office, there is little reason to believe that his hardcore supporters’ fury will become more tempered with time. Trump will undoubtedly play them like a fiddle, raising the stakes and America’s blood pressure in the process. America’s National Guard may be required to quell violent protests or insurgent actions in due course.

The country’s founding fathers are surely spinning in their graves. Never would they have imagined that the land of the free and the home of the brave would transcend into such a cauldron of divisiveness and nastiness. For his supporters, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement morphed from making America stronger among nations to a win-at-all-costs and take-no-prisoners mentality, more akin to war, at home. America’s near-term political future can best be described as grim. President-elect Biden has an enormous task on his hands. Hopefully, America will emerge a better nation when the rematch between Biden and Trump occurs in 2024. In the meantime, it must contend with a possible armed insurrection at home.

This article was originally posted in the South China Morning Post.