Asheville Daily Planet, January 1, 2021

Kushner had some reason for optimism [that Trump would promote mask-wearing]. Trump had agreed to wear one not long before for a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center…But Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff — backed up by other aides including Stephen Miller — said the politics for Trump would be devastating.  ’The base will revolt,’ Meadows said.”  — The New York Times

I had to read it twice.  The base will do what?  Revolt?  Was Meadows warning the big dog that his tail might start wagging him? 

Yes, he was.  You see, Trump is just renting the “Trump base.”   It’s much older than Trumpism.

Recent example:  Haywood County Republican women held a “Can’t Coop-up Christmas” event last month.  The event organizer had this comment:

“We have something called freedom,” she said….“As Christians, we have the duty to draw the line in the sand and say this is enough.  Is it public health or tyranny?  These are people that understand that some of the liberal media and people that may not have the best interest of America at heart, they push all these rules and regulations and take away freedoms.”

Sound familiar?  Right: Tea Party.  The in-group code word, “freedom,” is the giveaway.  The Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives, remember, changed its name to Freedom Caucus.  The Haywood event organizer’s words didn’t come from Donald Trump.  She inherited them.

Sure, at this point in time, his core supporters are super-loyal to him.  Didn’t the crowd at Trump’s January 4th rally in Georgia chant, “Fight for Trump!” two months after he lost the election?  He has a grip on them…for now.

When Meadows said the base would revolt, he was recognizing a deep truth:  Trump didn’t start from scratch in building his base.  No, it was a takeover.  He very shrewdly observed that a huge chunk of our population could be won over with the right message and style.  He saw a variety pack of disenchantment — religious people with social agendas, workers displaced by corporate greed, people disturbed by powerful changes in our longtime social fabric, unabashed revolutionaries — all patriotic in their own way.

In common, they distrusted the (fact-based) eliteness and inefficiency of government — to an extent they were open to being ruled by a strongman who would “just do it.”  They were ready for Trump.

Well into this century, Trump was a pro-choice Democrat, but when he started thinking about running for president, he went where his future base was.  They were mostly Republicans, so he planned to run as a Republican.   He was famous as a TV star and a rich man.  He learned the group’s political language and spun it into marvelous oratory. 

And this new Trump base delivered him the presidency.  Now, four years later, they love what he’s delivered for them.

Trump is their leader.  But he doesn’t own them.  They’re committed to their political beliefs a whole lot more than they’re committed to Trump. 

I read that ex-president Trump will maintain control over his millions — like the headline, “MAGA movement will move from the White House to Mar-a-Lago.”

But will he actually keep them?

For a while, yes.  After that, no one can know.  How much will the 1/6 Capitol Riot impact public opinion, including his followers?  And revelations that will inevitably come from criminal prosecutions?  Will the Republican Party realize their cowardice under Trump and begin renewal?  In other words, will his base crumble?    

It also depends on where Trump himself sees his future self-interest.  His antics before the Georgia runoff elections showed without doubt that he has no real loyalty to the Republican Party.  He’s never had high regard for our Constitution or our democracy. 

It’s likely that he will stay engaged only if he stands to gain something personally — financial or setting up Ivanka for 2024.  

A massive political earthquake is rumbling under America.  The structure of our democracy has been weakened by four years of Trump desecration.  Now we look, with some hope, to the policies of President Biden and to a desperately needed reawakening of conservatism in the Republican Party.

The future is a well-kept secret, isn’t it?