I started writing this piece around midday CET on 9 January, as the world waited for the result of the second Senatorial run-off to be called in the US state of Georgia. The Democrats had already won the first of the state's two seats, leaving majority control of the Senate and the success of Joe Biden's Presidency precariously in the balance. By the time you read this, God and the Scottish Review willing, these momentous issues will have been resolved.
As I opened my laptop, Andrew Neil had just tweeted a comment the gist of which was that Donald Trump may have cost the Republican Party the Senate. That may, of course, be true but when you see a political leader so obviously acting against his party's interests, you really have to try harder to figure out why.
I have a theory…
As we know, the USA is now an extremely fragmented political culture. Migration to North America did not stop after the various waves of white Europeans. Economic growth and territorial expansion has pulled significant numbers of people from every part of the globe since then. This adds to the pressure already felt by the Europeans to open their economic and political power structures to the descendents of African slaves. Pressure that many continue to resist.
As we can see from ongoing media footage and the general 'by-state' maps drawn after the last two Presidential elections, the Republican Party, once of Lincoln, now firmly represents a Conservative white European USA deeply grounded in the culture of the first few waves of settlement and established by settlement in the vast interior of the country, Texas and Florida. The Democrats uneasily represent most of those who share a broader more contemporary view of what America is. Donald Trump is not responsible for this dynamic but he does know how to manipulate it to his own and his family's advantage.
Until now, sitting Presidents defeated in an election retired gracefully under the terms of precedent and the constitution. They got to work on building their Presidential Libraries and (ghost) writing their political memoirs at their ranch or country retreats. They lived quietly, eschewing public life in general and politics in particular. I doubt that Trump has any intention of doing any of these things.
During the four years of his presidency, up to and including his re-election campaign, Trump made little or no attempt to create the broad electoral coalition that previous candidates from both main parties had always done. This has been considered necessary to win in a political culture that had, until recently, possessed a reasonably fluid centre ground.
Instead, Trump has continued to speak only to his 'Base' through continued use of the campaign rally, the short but high impact tweet, a constant highly controversial media presence and a loud refusal to engage constructively with traditional US institutions of government and public policy-making. In all of this he has constructed a narrative that validated the culture, emotions and opinions of his core support; appealing to their sense of unshakeable unreason and often raising their rapture to fever pitch.
Watching the evolution of Trump's behaviour and vocal output over the period, I have come to believe that he gave up on the idea of winning a second Presidential term around the time it became clear that COVID-19 was not a hoax. He saw that it would very likely ruin his original strategy based on a restored economy, with jobs galore for the depressed areas in his core constituency. Before COVID-19, Trump seemed assured of a second term in office.
His subsequent plan B, in my opinion, was to launch a massive branding campaign that simply ignored the dangerous issues facing the country. Instead, it was designed to tie his base support, estimated to be around 70 million loyal souls, closer to him. To create a powerful and committed market, an audience, for whatever he and his family decide to do once Joe Biden is inaugurated. Being a business man, we should not be surprised that Trump decided to use the office of President of the United States of America to his maximum commercial advantage. It is, after all, the greatest business opportunity that anyone can enjoy.
There is talk of a new Trump TV station to carry his message to and share his perspective with a very significant demographic range. Imagine the power of 70 million subscribers who consider Fox News to be shamefully liberal. Consider the revenue to be gleaned from nationwide rally tours, commenting on the evils of the Biden Presidency, with a professional merchandising operation thrown in. Then we have the Trump political/ business network that can lift America's notorious lobbying industry to new heights at State and Federal level. We are looking at billions of dollars in revenue for the Trump brand and the creation of a dynasty more sustainable than those of the Clintons and the Bushes.
Already we've seen Senator Ted Cruz and other Republican politicians claiming their seats on the gravy train by promoting the 'stolen election' narrative. This will continue because nothing binds a cult closer together than a shared sense of outrage at injustice – just check any social media platform to look at the nature of Trumps supporters' posts and you will see what I mean.
As I wind this up, a lot has happened since I started writing and the consequences of the storming of the Capitol in Washington DC are only starting to be understood. However, I think I can say with some certainty that, to paraphrase the legendary villain Fu Manchu: 'The world shall hear from Trump again'.