opinion | Donald Trump is trapped in his own strategy. That doesn’t mean it won’t work.

Frances Lee, a political scientist at Princeton, argued that over time the Republican Party has embraced an extremist fringe that hasn’t grown as much in recent years but has gained a speaker in the form of social media. In an email she wrote:

I see no change in the broader Republican Party. Yes, there are some Republicans in Congress who have a closer connection to the far right than others, but such figures have been present in the Republican coalition for longer than I can remember, including back to Charles Lindbergh and other isolationists opposed to a Intervention against the Nazis pronounce Germany.

Social media, Lee continued,

gives extreme members a bigger megaphone than in previous eras. There was a notable far-right fringe in the Republican Party in the 1990s, when Pat Buchanan ran for the Republican presidential nomination in a stronger-than-expected manner. This edge is still present. But I don’t see any large-scale change in the size or influence of far-right groups in the Congressional Republican Party.

I asked Alvin Rosenfeld, Professor of English and Jewish Studies at Indiana University, on Trump’s ambivalent relationship to anti-Semitism. He replied via email:

Given some of the things he has said (and not said) about Jews and anti-Semitism, I am sometimes asked, “Is Trump an anti-Semite?” Not in the ideological sense, but he’s not averse to keeping company with some people who are outspoken hateful in what they say about Jews, as the now infamous dinner at his Florida home with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes made clear.

Basically, Rosenfeld claimed:

A self-serving opportunist, Trump courts people who glorify him and enable him to maintain an inflated public image of himself as an indispensable leader. He must and wants to be in the foreground. And for that to happen, he will court and cater to a coalition of passionate supporters — his MAGA crowd — and if, as they do, they include people on the far-right wing of his party, including white supremacists, Christian nationalists and anti-Semites, he will apparently join them.

Adam Endersa University of Louisville political scientist who has often written with Uscinski about conspiracy thinking argued in an email

Trump identified a fairly large segment of the American population that is neither particularly ideological nor particularly attached to the two major parties. Furthermore, these individuals are distrustful of government, fueled by an anti-establishment political worldview that says politicians are unresponsive to their constituents, corrupt, and overly eager to conspire against “the people.”

Enders said he doubted Trump

sees itself “trapped” in this strategy – rather, this coalition expansion represents its primary value for the Republican Party. That’s his magic trick. And I suspect Trump’s Republican contenders recognize this. For example, it’s these very anti-establishment voters that DeSantis is vying for when it engages in conspiracy-related culture war stances on issues like Disney’s “care” of children, CRT, and the like.

In their July 2021 paper, “The role of anti-establishment orientations during the Trump presidency“, write Enders and Uscinski:

The toxicity that typifies the Trump era — support for outsider candidates, belief in conspiracy theories, corrosive rhetoric, and violence — stems more from antipathy to the established political order than from a strict adherence to partisan and ideological dogma. We conclude that Trump’s most powerful and unique influence on American electoral politics is his activation, inflamation, and manipulation for partisan purposes of pre-existing anti-establishment orientations.

Sander van der LindenProfessor of Social Psychology at the University of Cambridge and author of the forthcoming book “Foolproof: Why misinformation infects our minds and how to build‘ wrote via email:

Based on recent public opinion data, I definitely think it’s reasonable to conclude that conspiracy theories are increasingly characterizing the GOP. One explanation for this observation is the statement that “conspiracy theories are for losers”. We typically see that those who no longer have power or who perceive a loss of power and control are much more likely to espouse conspiracy theories. In fact, we know from research that a lack of trust in the mainstream media, academia, formal institutions, and the electoral process is a key indicator of belief in conspiracy theories and the return of the “paranoid style” in American politics.

Trump, van der Linden wrote:

partially created and must now be supported by an increasingly radicalized movement. I think this is also reflected in Trump’s implicit and explicit endorsement of “Q” on his social media (even with the “Q” pin) and his retweeting of prominent troll accounts like “Cat Turd. He basically amplifies extremist stances and ideologies to maintain support.

Van der Linden identified a significant difference between the Conservative Party in England, which routinely opposes conspiracy thinking, and the Republican Party in the United States, which tolerates and even endorses it.

“Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative MP and former party leader, was recently suspended by the Conservative Party after comparing Covid-19 vaccines to the Holocaust,” van der Linden wrote, and “Boris Johnson cited anti-vaccination activists as spreading a completely false ‘hocus pocus’ on social media. ”

The problem in the United States, according to van der Linden, “is that many Republican elites, including prominent members of Congress, are themselves actively supporting and promoting conspiracy theories without consequences.”

Van der Linden asserted that “unless Republican leaders are willing to actively confront, sanction, and condemn members who promote unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, the party will continue to be riddled with outrageous untruths.”

The bigger question, however, is whether Trump and other Republican leaders will not only continue down the rabbit hole — a rampart of victimhood, resentment, and conspiracy — which seems likely at the moment, but will drag the rest of the nation along with them them down.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/01/opinion/trump-desantis-2024-campaign.html opinion | Donald Trump is trapped in his own strategy. That doesn’t mean it won’t work.


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