With the ascent of President Elect Biden’s victorious speech, it seems Trump has conclusively lost the 2020 Presidential election. Trump has lost but the fervor of Trumpism stays alive. While some may be ridiculing and enjoying the loss of Trump, truly speaking, Trump lost but Trumpism has emerged.

It is a narrative that cascades from a heady mix of capitalism and democracy. Trumpism is obvious only in so called Democratic countries. Definitely missing in the despotic, dictatorial, totalitarian regimes, military state and those dominated by radical religious ideology.

Rather than a matter of ridicule, I would like to insist that Trumpism needs a closer look. If you are in politics, governance, policy, strategy or social sciences, understanding Trumpism offers an insight into a largely divisive phenomenon. So, finally, what is Trumpism? (Word count 1100 words, reading time 4-5 minutes).

With the ascent of President Elect Biden’s victorious speech, it seems Trump has conclusively lost the 2020 Presidential election. Many are relieved, several cities are into rapturous happiness. Condemnation, ridicule and disparaging remarks against Trump are now a mainstream for those who supported his loss. However, we have to recognize, Trump has lost but the fervor of Trumpism stays alive, very much bubbling since he has secured over 47.5% votes. While some may be ridiculing and enjoying the loss of Trump, truly speaking, Trump lost but Trumpism has emerged and persisted.

Nick Bryant of BBC wrote, “Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016 partly because he was a norm-busting political outsider who was prepared to say what had previously been unsayable. But Donald Trump also lost the presidency in 2020 partly because he was a norm-busting political outsider who was prepared to say what had previously been unsayable”.

Tweetest! President, Mr. Donald Trump

What is Trumpism?

A phenomenon in politics, an expression of anger, resentment and disenchantment, against the mainstream political ideologies by a large swath of population.

Advancing industrialization and technologies, a large swaths of population and their generations were neglected, and left behind, for various reasons. Trumpism is an articulation of the will of these ‘have not’s’, of those lacking education, of advanced skills, opportunities for vertical mobility and a place in this modern evolved society. The after effect of Trumpism are visible – huge and sometimes cataclysmic policy shifts from the ongoing, sensational nationalism, decoupling with globalization and global integration. It is an after effect of boardroom politics, or simply speaking disconnect with the grassroots.

Is Trumpism only in the US?

It would be wrong to construe that Trumpism is a US phenomenon. A similar expression of the common man happened in the UK, Philippines, Turkey, Brazil, etc. In fact, these are very challenging and innovative times, if we see politics and the underlying dynamics with the same old lens; we will be conjured exactly like Nesrine Malik from the Guardian, who see the only rotten part of the US political system. However, as explained earlier, Trumpism as a phenomenon is deep, invigorating, and its encompassing pervasiveness.

We all know, almost a similar phenomenon usurped by Nigel Farage in the UK. He tapped the sentiments of those labor falling behind with the advancement of integration, immigration and the emergence of technology. In a capitalist market, those are the drivers, and unfortunately this system of capitalist leaning democracy is unlikely to provide a succor for the under privileged. However, it is an irony that the capitalist dominated country needs democratic crutches to walk. It is actually, this weird combination that creates an imbalance. Finally, states craft is an art and a science, and keeping all the stakeholders satisfied is a challenging though not difficult task.

Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson (UK), Donald Trump, Bolsonaro (Brazil), Duterte (Phillippines), are the shades of the same chameleon, Trumpism. (Credit, Institute of Policy Studies).

Name calling is fine but that does not resolve the problem. What needs to be done is identifying an innovative solution. Any improvement or innovation comes through an understanding, not through ridicule and disgust. If a problem exists, there is an ill understanding of the problem. A root cause analysis will reveal the potential areas for building the architecture and solution for the issues and the processes can be thereafter used to achieve standardization. It demands changing the lens through which we see the situation. Let us change or lens. If we call democracy as our foundation, let us make best efforts in not leaving anyone behind, let us not indulge in board room politics, if only we want to avoid any future Trumps.

What’s the root cause?

Trumpism is a phenomenon occurring in democratic countries, not in autocratic, totalitarian, despotic or dictatorial countries. A few fundamental erroneous things have caused an emergence of Trumpism. A disconnect with the large swathes of masses, left behind as the world advanced in the last 30-50 years, and  a revulsion to the boardroom politics, an ideology, of any political dispensation, that runs from corporate  political offices to people and not vice versa from the grassroots to strategies. The symptoms encompasses a wide spectrum – from illiteracy, lack of skills, lack of opportunities, lack of adoption to scientific fervor, poverty, crude ways of expression and inability to cope up with the rising disparities due to economics, industry (enterprise), or education.

Do we really stop and understand Trumpism or simple scoff it off as a joke and a political aberration? I think, it is a phenomenon that needs a deeper thought, reflection and change in the mainstream engagement model from the political ideologies that dominate the horizon.

India – Rise of BJP/ Shiv Sena/ BSP /  Bahujan Samaj Parties

In India too, Trumpism is prominently seen. Several social sentiments were not sensed by the erstwhile dispensation, specifically the Congress. It was typical boardroom politics ran by the coterie on behalf of the first family and siblings. The earliest signs were the formation of several local outfits. Andhra, Telangana, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Kashmir, are typical examples. Congress or the ruling elite, degenerated in these states and populism and sensationalism replaced mainstream centrists ideologies. India typically has seen this phenomenon long back since the Congress broke into local clusters, NCP, Rao in Telangana, YSR in Andhra, Mamata in West Bengal, etc. are typical examples. I am sure, digging deeper, we will see a similar pattern emerging in other countries. Thailand is right now, in that spotlight and transition.

These are the different shades of Trumpism in India. The US and India are very different countries. While the US is monolithic, India is very diverse, by ethnicity, culture, language, race and caste (the have not’s). The last is a complex topic that demands a dedicated attention. However, to continue in the T phenomenon, sentiments of common masses were ignored, whereas the resentment grew palpable. Vote bank politics and an independent rise of the identity of the mainstream Hindus self assertion, grew significantly.

Corruption added to the already existing chasm and widened the gap between the Have and Have-Not’s, coupled with the democratization of aspirations, it created a mass sufficient for explosion, like a volcano that spewed magma, to change the political landscape. The tectonic shifts and the intrinsic pressure builds over the years, but it takes a Modi, a Duterte, a Bolsonaro, a Johnson or a Trump to ignite the fire.

Recent political upheavals have also unraveled a distinct sub phenomenon, that the personal idiosyncrasies do not matter, Modi’s 2002 Gujarat riots, Mamata’s tantrums, Mayawati’s dodginess, Pawar’s corruption, Trump’s revulsive personal character, Johnson’s stupidities are examples. People are ready to ignore these fallacies, as long as these leaders are articulating their shrill pent up expression into concrete action. Remember, I emphasized on ‘Shrill’, and these ‘Have-Not’s’ truly cry for shrill expression.

Of note, the leaders of Trumpism have certain characteristics and these leaders, despite their handicaps, yearn and achieve their objectives. With intent, they ignore certain objectives and keep the populist sensationalism; they cater and fire this obnoxious frustration. I will also provide an insight on how Trumpism pervades business and spells downfall. Business is not alone, it pervades nonprofit initiatives as well as most aspects of our social order.

Please visit my next blog to read these pervasive impacts of Trumpism in various aspects, from politics, to business, to nonprofit initiatives to social order.

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