Get used to it: Trumpism without Trump

Political Theater, Episode 82

From left, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna S. Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib conduct a news conference Monday to respond to attacks made on them by President Donald Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Political scientist Shadi Hamid remembers growing up in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the son of Egyptian immigrants. In what was then a solidly Republican enclave of the Philadelphia suburbs, his parents and many of his Muslim neighbors voted for George W. Bush.

That seems like a long time ago, as that critical swing area of Philly has swung increasingly Democratic, along with most of America’s Muslims. So why would President Donald Trump spend so much time attacking Muslims and, in particular, a high-profile group of Democratic congresswomen, a.k.a. “the squad,” that has two Muslim members, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan? Well, because attacking your opponents across racial lines and defining them as a sinister other is a basic tenet of Trumpism, and the president and many of his Republican allies are all in. 

“I think our initial instinct sometimes is to look at that and say, ‘Well, why would he do that? This seems crazy. … But the more I thought about it, there seemed to be a logic to it. And this is where I think Trump, to his discredit — but also, in a political sense, to his credit because he knows something about politics — has a sense of this darker side of the human psyche, and he knows how to tap into that at key moments,” Hamid says in the latest Political Theater podcast

This is also why Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing editor at The Atlantic, thinks that Trumpism likely isn’t going away in our politics. There will be no going back to a “normal” life afterward, as some Democratic presidential candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden say is possible.

“The Republican Party, I think, is just becoming more Trumpy, and it’s being Trump-defined. And I think you’ll have Trumpism without Trump to some extent at least, even if Trump is voted out of office in 2020. Why? Because Trumpism is effective. And Republicans see that,” Hamid says. 

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