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No Matter Who Wins, Trumpism Is Here to Stay

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A man holds up a cardboard cutout of President Donald Trump in Miami, November 2020.
A man holds up a cardboard cutout of President Donald Trump in Miami, November 2020.Credit: Rebecca Blackwell,AP

Whatever the outcome of the American presidential election, Trumpism – the powerful process characterized by deep identification with the current president, his values and all his whims – is here to stay and has permanently altered the basis of support for the Republican Party, which had remained stable for many years.

The Republican candidates vying for hundreds of seats in the House and 34 Senate seats dare not distance themselves from Trump in any way because he holds the huge right-wing American base under his sway. The kind of criticism coming from the Bush family only seems anachronistic now. Despite the Bushes’ powerful standing in Texas, it will have no effect on Trump’s base. Trumpism relies upon direct support, unmediated by people of high station.

All the serious media outlets in America have exposed Trump’s numerous lies. Everyone knows that he paid hush money to women to keep quiet about his sordid actions. But none of this interests the Trumpist party that keeps its ears shut and follows its leader. Yes, some Republican senators are warning that the party’s support for Trump will lead it to lose the presidency and its Senate majority. But they are not currently running for reelection. Anyone running for election must show total loyalty to the president. This is the essence of Trumpism.

Even though Benjamin Netanyahu outshines Trump by any measure, the clear similarity between American Trumpism and Israeli Bibi-ism worries many and delights others. In Israel, too, Likud, as a party, has been done in. It didn’t happen in one swift stroke, but the process – the party’s surrender to the rule of a single emperor – is clear.

As in America, here, too, Netanyahu’s lies have been exposed, along with his poor handling of the pandemic in terms of both public health and the economic repercussions. But even the serious criminal charges he faces for various acts of corruption don’t budge his base of support. Generals and knowledgeable sources can reveal as many details about the submarines affair as they like. Where the Bibi-ist camp is concerned, it will all fall on deaf ears.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump wave from the White House balcony after a signing ceremony for the Abraham Accords.Credit: TOM BRENNER/ REUTERS

Once upon a time, there were different views and different camps within Likud. In today’s Likud, even when Netanyahu retreated from his promises of annexation, barely a peep of disagreement is heard. And those who still venture to express their displeasure – like Benny Begin, whose family’s status in the Herut movement is akin to that of the Bush family in Texas – make no impression on Bibi-ism.

Yes, Trumpism and Bibi-ism are not completely monolithic. Among their voters, there are still some who are more open to the influence of circumstances and events. But we ought to recognize that in Israel and America the battle is not being waged against the past incarnations of political parties that had known ups and downs. The battle being fought by champions of democracy and human rights is now being waged against parties that are loyal to one man and that are completely defined by this loyalty.

This is the real menace to democracy.

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