The meaning of Trumpism is clear. It’s a paradigm fight. (How’s that for an unburied lede?)
Democrats and “Never Trump” Republicans have been agog and aghast at the degree of enthusiasm generally displayed for Donald Trump by a huge percentage of Americans, and have been mystified by it. How, they think, apart from mass psychosis, could it be possible that people they thought they knew could so strongly support someone so repulsive on so many levels? Poor, rural, working-class voters hailed as one of their own an arrogant New York multimillionaire and hard-edged businessman, a boss. Evangelicals showed up en masse to strongly support their Satan. Horses rode men and grass ate cows and cats were chased into holes by the mouse.
Trump’s unique fractal chaos is their desire. A brutally honest policy platform of theirs might go something like this: “Nothing else can cut apart the Horsemen of our Apocalypse: the cozy political modus vivendi; the rotten previous political parties; the administrative ossification; the Deep State; the self-dealing by elites; the liberal ratchet and the Left’s gleichschaltung over higher education, the media and Hollywood.” This description does not imply agreement or disagreement by me. But into their lives, through the rent that 2016 tore in the American polity, the sweet air of ambition has swept. It’s not only the ambition to decimate the foregoing supposed catalog of the elite paradigm, but the ambition for ambitions of their own.
If you think about it, that’s something the grassroots Right hasn’t had, hasn’t gotten to have, in a long, long time. The last real ambition I remember them having is school prayer, which is a hope (of theirs, not mine) which hasn’t existed in a long time. The Left would respond, “But what about tax cuts, regulation cuts and wars?” Those are things which aren’t actually that conservative, from a grass-roots point of view. They’re things favored by the Republican leadership, as influenced by Madison Avenue. Anger at the Republican leadership for having allowed major donors to suck off most of the political capital is, I think, one of the reasons Trump won the nomination, and it took someone as heedless of political donations as Trump to defeat the influence of those donors over Republican policy. You could argue abortion– but that’s a rollback of the Left’s achieved ambition, and mainly resurgent in the set of “this might actually happen” as a result of the same wave that shattered the previous Overton Window and brought Trump into the Oval Office.
Will they get their ambitions? Hard to say. Despite its power Trumpism is an amorphous cloud of discontent, not a precise policy tool. (As a paradigm it’s no more coherent than he is.) Some, probably. Trumpism does have an effect of reversion to the mean, which means the Left will lose (and has lost) some ground. Nothing, however, is controlling which issues it’ll lose on, or how much. Entropy may be the Democrats’ friend, as the energy of Trumpist discontent spins off into the Void.