“Trumpism has a future independent of Trump”

A graduate of Columbia University and a specialist in the American Congress, Maya Kandel is an associate researcher at the University of Paris-III Sorbonne-Nouvelle (CREW). She notably published The United States and the world. From George Washington to Donald Trump (Perrin, 2018), where she offers a perspective on the foreign policy of the United States since its birth.

Trump is described as an impulsive politician, a populist devoid of any ideological consistency. But you say on the contrary that Trumpism exists and that “its essence is nationalism”. Why ?

It is not contradictory! Trump has long been closer to Democrats than Republicans – through his campaign contributions or his “liberal” positions, such as on abortion. But Trump is not an ideologue or an intellectual, he is first and foremost a businessman, a businessman – and one showman. What made his fame if not his fortune, is the reality show “The Apprentice” [sur NBC].

And we must recognize his mastery of communication and his domination of the media message. Trump has also benefited from very detailed data collection operations (notably through the specialized company Cambridge Analytica). This enabled him to calibrate precise messages, intended for constituent groups of the Republican Party – since it was in the Republican primaries that he chose to compete in 2015. This, for example, sheds light on his alliance with the anti-abortion movement and more broadly with evangelicals, to whom he has promised to appoint “their” judges – choices unrelated to his personal convictions.

It was others who theorized for him. Steve Bannon in particular, recruited in the summer of 2016, who inspired the themes of l’alt-right in the Trumpian campaign, blew Trump his commonalities with Andrew Jackson [7e président des Etats-Unis, connu pour son populisme en politique intérieure et sa politique de « nettoyage ethnique » des Amérindiens] whose portrait he hung in the Oval office; Steve Miller, his immigration advisor; Yoram Hazony and the Californian think tank Claremont Institute, where this sentence comes from, written by Christopher DeMuth: “Trumpism has an essence and that essence is nationalism.”

Trumpism designates these strong ideas behind the electoral coalition that gave Trump the victory, and the a posteriori intellectual theorization that can be made of it: a mixture of “anti-system” and anti-elite messages, nationalism, religious conservatism, and illiberalism.

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