WHO WILL LEAD TRUMP’S MOVEMENT NEXT?
It is an axiom that the inevitable problem for charismatic leadership is a crisis of succession. I suggest that Donald Trump became a charismatic leader of a movement of diverse parts which came to include the majority of the Republican Party.
It seems, in the immediate aftermath of his historic second impeachment, as support crumbles and he fumbles his way into political exile, that “the movement” is essentially leaderless. The GOP cannot pretend (and does not want to pretend) to be leading the white nationalist groups that Trump coalesced. The GOP itself will retreat a few steps and regroup under someone.
Meanwhile, in addition to a basic division between “right and left”, “red and blue”, “progressives and conservatives”, “the movement” is fragmenting. Evangelical Christians are pulling away from Trump, sensing they made a mistake, hard as that is to admit. Big businesses are lining up to disengage their “brands” from Trump’s. Republican Party leaders are just waiting for Inauguration Day to get over-with to move on. The Proud Boys aren’t going to be able to hail Trump anymore.
Great blocs of Trump loyalists back home are taking deep breaths and coming to terms with life without Trump. Oh, there are still a lot of supporters who hope for a miracle, something to save the movement and Trump himself. They refuse to admit the riot was an insurrection and that anyone in “the movement” had anything to do with it. Trump is taking that line. But their ranks are thinning as they get used to the new reality.
Even those who made it back home from the Capitol are mostly explaining how they saw nothing riotous, no breaking glass and murdering a policeman. Finding they need distance from all that is not the outcome from their trip to Washington they expected.
Continuing the campaign to Make America Great Again is going to be harder. It’s not going to be easy to repeat their “walk to the Capitol … and show strength.” The police are not going to be as cooperative as they have been. There are thousands of troops in battle readiness to oppose the plans for keeping the campaign alive by another march on Inauguration Day or even protests in “all 50 state capitals”.
The movement is leaderless. Not all movements brought to their peak by a charismatic leader recover from a crisis of succession.
[The picture of Trump leaving the White House on January 12 is from a “Breaking News” article by Joe Walsh in Forbes.]
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.