The Trump Revolution - Part 1

The Trump Revolution - Part 1

In the first two linked posts, Alfredo Toro Hardy analyses why Trump’s chaotic first term could look steady and composed compared to what comes in his second. In his next column, Alfredo will explore what foreign policy may look like during Trump’s next chapter.

All the necessary conditions for a populist Republican candidate were in place when Donald Trump competed for the presidential election of 2016. A Pew Research Center poll referred that 81 percent of those who voted for Trump, thought that life for people like them had gotten worse. Trump supporters were indeed deeply pessimistic about the future, with 68 percent of them believing that the lives of the next generation would only get worse. This was correlated to the fact that, of the 20 poorest states by median household income, 18 went to Trump, while of the 10 richest states, nine voted for Hillary Clinton. Districts that voted for Democrats represented two-thirds of the country’s GDP, while whose votes went to Republicans accounted for the rest (King, 2017, p. 241; Westover and Goldberg, 2019, p. 39-40).

Pluto-populism and the hostile takeover of the Republican party

Nonetheless, it was not Trump who brought populism into the Republican party. On the contrary, it had been promoted for several years before his appearance in the political scene by a wealthy donor class. Powerful donors within the GOP party, like the Koch brothers and their group of akin billionaires, had been incurring in the worst populist sins: Unleashing wild political obstructionism, demonizing political institutions, filtrating with bigotry and racially tinging sentiments. Their motives were utterly selfish: Conquering the foot soldiers that they needed to win elections and put in place policies favourable to their patrimonial interests. Meaning, slashing taxes and shrinking government. Theirs, was a pluto-populism: The marriage of plutocracy with right-wing populism (Wolf, 2016; Meyer, 2016).

Donald Trump just profited from the conditions that the Koch brothers and their kind had already put in place. Being an expert in reality shows, as well as grandiloquent by nature, he was highly successful in projecting to maximum decibels the language of anger that the plutocrats had been sowing for years. His, was a hostile takeover of the Republican party from the powerful class of donors, whom he out mastered in their own game. Once in power, Trump gave all the necessary steps to transform the plutocrats’ foot soldiers into his own unconditional army of vassals.

Army of vassals

Among Trump’s steps were the following: Engaging with white supremacism and sizzling theories like the white-extinction conspiracy, or the great replacement; lending support to or flirting with all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories, such as Deep State, QAnon, Biden-Ukraine, Obamagate, Osama bin Laden death conspiracy, global warming conspiracy, Trump Tower wiretapping, and the like; encouraging white identity politics at the expense of a broad American identity; advancing a partisan information divide on everything, from the contagiousness of the coronavirus to the reliability of the media. And so on and so forth. In the process, Trump not only created a parallel virtual universe, but stimulated hate, psychological derangement, and social anomie.

And then, came the 2020 Presidential election. One, that he lost in a fair and square manner to Joe Biden. Indeed, he obtained 232 electoral votes and 74.2 million popular votes, versus the 306 electoral votes and 81.2 million popular votes secured by Biden. His ensuing actions, worthy of Belarus’ Lukashenko or Nicaragua’s Ortega, were a travesty of America’s democratic traditions. All along the way, Trump mobilized his army of vassals against the different authorities that rejected his absurd claims or did not implement his fraud. Finally, he convened a rally on the day that the Congress was called to certify the results, where he encouraged his supporters to march on Capitol Hill. This resulted in the infamous storming of Congress. 

Supporting Trump’s actions

As significant as Trump’s actions was the fact that they were underpinned, to an important extent, by a majority of the Republican party in Congress. This proved that one of America’s two main parties was complicit to a significant degree in this dereliction of democracy. Until the Electoral College vote, not more than a couple of dozen Senators and Representatives had recognized Biden’s triumph. Before the storming of Congress, on the January 6 session, Republican Senators raised objections to Biden’s victory, which were supported by a majority of House Republicans, including its leader. Subsequently, came the rejection by an overwhelming majority of the House Republicans to hold an impeachment trial on Donald Trump for the incitement of the insurrection, as well as a vote against the impeachment itself by a majority of Senate Republicans. The defenestration of Liz Cheney from her position of leadership at the House of Representative, for having voted in favor of Trump’s impeachment, followed suit. The rejection by a majority of House Republicans to create a bipartisan Commission to investigate the Capitol riot of January 6, was followed by the blocking of said Commission by the Senate Republicans. And so on. 

Lost in the rabbit hole

But concurrent with the actions of the Republican party in Congress, the mood of the Republican base became increasingly disgruntled and out of touch with reality. A good percentage of that base came to embody a toxic combination of nativism, racism, white supremacy, misogyny, anti-Semitism and conspiracy theorizing. According to former Republican Representative Denver Riggleman, a substantial number of GOP voters have completely lost themselves in the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, disinformation and grievance politics. Indeed, more than 6 in 10 Republicans are convinced that the 2020 election was stolen from them, while 53 percent of them say that Donald Trump is the “true” President of the United States. Even more worrisome, though, is the fact that almost a quarter of GOP voters are QAnon believers. In their mind, the levers of power in the U.S. are controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles, which may have to be violently deposed by American patriots. At the same time, 55 percent of Republicans “mostly” but not entirely disagree with QAnon theories (Nagle, 2021, p. 91; Foran, 2021; Cillizza, 2021; Russonello, 2021).

A major threat

Through its history, the Grand Old Party characterized itself by its bold visions and its strengthening of America’s institutions. Under Lincoln it was responsible for preserving the Union and abolishing slavery; under Theodore Roosevelt it fought monopolies and wild capitalism, while giving rise to environmentalism and projecting the country as a world power; under Eisenhower it bequeathed the nation with modern infrastructures; under Reagan it defeated Soviet Communism. Meanwhile, a highly successful foreign policy Republican President like Nixon, was abandoned by his party for his institutional abuses. Sadly, this pivotal political party has not only lost all vision, but has transformed itself into a selfish and exclusionary tribal tent, deprived of programs and ideals and, even, of a democratic spirit.

Moreover, it has turned into a movement whose sole function seems to be that of guarantying its political space, by playing into the rage, the fears and the estrangement from reality, of a shrinking and economically embattled working-class white population. To such end, it has proved to be ready to suppress the vote of emerging minorities and to trump the electoral process itself. Very sadly so, the Republican party has become a major threat to America’s democracy.

As the presumptive Republican party candidate for the 2024 presidential election, Donald Trump is back in full force. According to the polls he has a good chance of winning, as Joe Biden 2020s coalition has weakened. CNN’s last national poll of registered voters, published in April 28 of this year, places Trump with 49% of the preferences versus 43% for Biden (Agiesta, 2024). If Trump gets back to the White House, things can get significantly worse than during his first term. Notwithstanding his repeated intemperance then, a professional civil service reinforced by the so called “adults in the room”, acted as a contention wall to many of his excesses.

The demolition of the Civil Service

That wouldn’t be the case during a second term. Thousands of career public servants are planned to be “root out” (Trump dixit) and substituted by MAGA followers, in the same manner in which Trump’s unconditional yes men will take the place of the former “adults in the room”. The demolition of the so-called “deep State” would be the aim to be attained during the second term. In Trump’s words: “Either the deep state destroys America or we destroy the deep state”. This translates into seeking to sweep away civil service protections that have been in place for more than 140 years. He also aims at dismantling or remaking entire departments. This would be particularly true in relation to the Justice Department, the FBI, the Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as whole sections of the intelligence community, among others. Even the Federal Reserve Board is to be put under White House direct control. All of this would imply getting rid of almost every one that knows how to get the job done, and who cares about institutions. (Chait, 2024; Oliphant and Slattery, 2024; Ortega, Lah, Gordon and Black, 2024; The Economist, 2023).

Unconstrained power

Moreover, according to Donald P. Moynihan: ‘If government lawyers will not defend norms of Justice Department independence, Mr. Trump will use the department to shield himself from legal accountability and to pursue his enemies”. He has already offered to use the law enforcement agencies to investigate his political foes, and even to appoint a special prosecutor to probe President Joe Biden. Retribution, for the alleged political persecution that he is suffering, seems to be a key word in his campaign. As Steve Bannon has said: “This is expletive revenge”. Meanwhile, he has pledged to embark in the largest deportation of immigrants, whom he has labeled as “animals”, in American history, Unconstrained by the need to win another term, and most probably unconstrained as well by a submissive Republican party who has a good chance of winning the Senate in the 2024 election, Trump would be able to give free rein to his worst instincts. Quoting Moynihan again: “Democratic values would be eviscerated if Mr. Trump returns to power with an army of loyalists…”. (Moynihan, 2023; Gold and Huynh, 2024, Homans, 2024; The Economist, 2024).

As things stand, Trump’s chaotic first term might even look steady and composed when compared to what a second one could look like.



Alfredo Toro Hardy, PhD, is a retired Venezuelan career diplomat, scholar and author. Former Ambassador to the U.S., U.K., Spain, Brazil, Ireland, Chile and Singapore. Author or co-author of thirty-six books on international affairs. Former Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Professor at Princeton and Brasilia universities. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations and a member of the Review Panel of the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center.

Photo by Carlos Herrero




Agiesta, J. (2024) "CNN Poll: Trump maintains lead over Biden", CNN, April 28th.

Chait, J. (2024). “Trump Second-Term Plan Includes Federal Reserve Coup”, The New York Magazine, April 26th.

Cillizza, C. (2021). “A majority of Republicans are living in a fantasy world built around the Big Lie”. CNN, May 25th.

Foran, C. (2021). “An existential threat”, CNN, April 10th.

Gold, M. and Huynh, A. (2024). “Trump Invokes ‘Blood Bath’ and Dehumanizes Migrants in Border Remarks”, The New York Times, April 2nd.

Homans, C. (2024). “Donald Trump Has Never Sound Like This”, The New York Times, April 27th.

King, S.D. (2017). Grave New World. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Meyer, J. (2016). Dark Money. New York: Doubleday.

Moynihan, D. P. (2023) “Trump Has a Master Plan for Destroying the ‘Deep State’”, The New York Times, November 27th.

Nagle, A. (2021). “Brotherhood of losers” in Goldberg J. (Edit.) The American Crisis. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Oliphant, J. and Slattery, G. (2024). “Trump’s second-term agenda: Deportations, trade wars, drug dealer death penalty”, Reuters, April 24th.

Russonello, G. (2021). “QAnon now as popular in the U.S. as some major religions: Poll suggests”, The New York Times, May 27th.

The Economist (2023). “Preparing the Way: The alarming plans for Trump’s second term”, July, 15th.

The Economist (2024). “Both chambers of America’s Congress may flip in November”, March 24th.

Westover, T. and Goldberg, J. (2021). “Left Behind” in Goldberg J. (Edit.) The American Crisis. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Wolf, M. (2016). “Donald Trump embodies how great republics meet their end”, Financial Times, March 1st.

Ortega, B., Lah, K., Gordon, A. and Black, N. (2024). “What Trump’s war of the ‘Deep State’ could mean: ‘An army of suck-ups’, CNN, April 27th.


Disqus comments