Who knows where Donald J. Trump will be this time next year? Campaigning for a 2024 return to the Oval Office? Barnstorming America with his weekly MAGA rallies? Managing his own TV network, outfoxing Fox? Maxing out NewsMax?
Perhaps he’ll retire peacefully to the golden comforts of one of his many golf resorts, warm in the embrace of his doting family and the adoration of his club members? Or, will he be in various courts, fending off a battery of touchy lawsuits?
Whatever happens to Trump, one thing is certain: Trumpism is here to stay. The millions of Americans who proudly wave his banner and don his red MAGA uniform cannot be ignored. Having heard the Trump siren song and been transformed by his Circe-like powers, they are not “going gentle into that good night.”
Trumpists have imbibed the elixir of their leader’s far-right policies: his closed borders; his denunciations of Muslims, Blacks, Mexicans; his caging of immigrant children and their separation from their families; his “owning the libs”; his denunciation of unwelcome news as “fake” and antagonistic messengers as “enemies of the people;” his support of violent white supremacists groups; his denial of climate change; his support for the fossil fuel industries; his defiant pardons of criminal cronies; his knowingly false proclamation that COVID-19 would simply disappear (while Nero-like he fiddled as hundreds of thousands of Americans died).
The last draught of this elixir has them violently supporting his frenzied attempts to overthrow the results of the presidential election.
So the Trumpists are here to stay. What, however, becomes of the legions of traditional conservatives who left the Republican Party, vocally rejecting Trump’s harsh rhetoric, odd behavior, and his unconservative agenda?
To them, Trump abandoned conservative ideals: fiscal restraint, balanced budgets, small government, personal and political accountability, strong and coherent foreign policy, free trade, strict adherence to the Constitution and simple decency.
These “Never Trumpers” also denounced the undemocratic, Trump-inspired spectacle of 125 House members and 27 states’ attorneys general who joined the Texas lawsuit to discard millions of votes in four states not named Texas. They cried “Shame!” “Madness!”
We need a way out of this mess. One hypothetical path would be to celebrate and incorporate our differences (“Vive la difference!”). A multi-party system would provide such a path.
For example, Never Trumpers might form a new party — a center right party, say, the “Federalist Party.” At the same time, those who favor significant reform but feel it would be foolish to defund the police, do away with all private health insurance, dismantle our capitalist economy should stand pat with the incoming Biden administration, the center left party — the present “Democrats.”
To be consistent with the symmetry of this hypothesis, a far-left party (the “Progressives”) would counter-balance the far-right “Trumpists.” Their policies espousing universal health care, guaranteed living wage, free tuition for public universities, enshrinement of labor unions, should be on the table for debate. The focus should be on establishing more, not less, democracy.
Our present system is dysfunctional and virtually moribund. Hobbled by their zero-sum governing principle, figures like Republican Senate and House leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy have routinely killed or suppressed legislation that addresses the broader, desperate needs of the nation in favor of a narrow right-wing, mostly Trumpist agenda.
These unattended needs, though long deemed urgent by the scientific community, have been ignored by Republican legislators and their corporate owners, especially since the advent of Citizens United. These ignored needs have worsened in the last decade: more polluted air and water, climate deterioration, increasingly violent storms and forest fires, crumbling infrastructure, growing wealth gap, a shrinking middle class, overcrowded prisons and massive homelessness, degraded immigration policy, systemic racism, rampant gun violence, and more.
In short, our present two-party political system is failing. Multi-party restructuring would more accurately reflect the practical and philosophical divisions in the country and give their representatives a seat at the table, while diminishing as well the oligarchic tendencies of the Trumpist faction.
All the nation’s dominant factions deserve a chance (a) to articulate and advance their causes, (b) to form governments where all constituencies, proportionately represented, share power, debate their priorities and (c) work to forge legislative compromises that reflect the diverse interests and needs of this divided country.
The present bloated and sclerotic two-party system has proven ill-equipped to negotiate, never mind solve, the complex issues of a nation dogged by regional and ideological conflict. We need a return to first principles: to take stock of who we are as American citizens, to determine if there any elemental truths that bind us, and if any of them remain self evident. A multi-party system might give substance to the notion that out of many we are still … one.
William Shaw, of Pinehurst, is the author of “Fellowship of Dust: Retracing the WWII Journey of Sergeant Frank Shaw.”