Burton: The Will of Trump Still Lingers

Photo by Gage Skidmore, courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo by Gage Skidmore, courtesy of Creative Commons

By Logan Burton, Opinion Writer


To say the presidential election was tense and surprising would be an understatement. After days of waiting for results from swing states like Pennsylvania, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are slated to become this nation’s next president and vice president. Still, Donald Trump’s influence will linger well beyond the 2021 inauguration. Compare polls and forecasts leading up to the election and the actual results. The forecasts predicted an easy win for Biden. Instead, the election turned out to be a nail-biting affair, which — at the end of that Tuesday night — seemed to point to another four years of Trump. This close race indicated that many people still look to Trump as a leader, with “Stop the Count” rallies as their most recent demonstration of devotion. The rest of the nation is likely relieved to know that Donald J. Trump will no longer be president as of January 20. But make no mistake, Trump’s influence will remain a powerful force in American politics and culture for years to come.

Sowing Distrust

The most immediate influence Trump has on his electorate after his loss of the election is his unwillingness to accept to defeat. Of course, that wasn’t much of a surprise — Trump hinted at his opposition to conceding if he lost in September and all the way back in 2016. In both cases, Trump expressed the feeling that the political system was somehow unfair to him. And when the recent election did not appear “fair” to him, Trump demanded election officials stop counting ballots in some states and continue in others, depending on where he was losing and winning. Following suit, supporters began to protest in states where Trump was falling behind, demanding that local officials “stop the count.”

Many Americans have dismissed Trump’s twisted electoral narrative, as they should. But based on the election results and the subsequent protests, many others have accepted it. The danger of accepting this narrative is that, despite the proper functioning of the election system, millions believe the system is “rigged.” This belief sows further anger and division among Americans — and unfortunately, it may continue long beyond Trump’s removal from office.

“You Are Fake News!”

Trump has been circulating the infamous phrase “fake news” since early in his presidency, and it has come to be used in a variety of ways. The phrase has been used to identify stories with falsified facts, but it has also been used to dismiss reputable mainstream media as biased misreporting.

Trump’s most ardent supporters have been constantly crying “fake news” over the past four years. And given the coverage of the election, these supporters have even more reason — though flawed reason — to be galvanized against mainstream media. For supporters, Trump has come to be portrayed as an underdog against the Washingtonian and media elites, whom he calls “swamp creatures.” Supporters kept their hopes up as months of coverage from mainstream sources predicted a landslide loss for Trump. When the election’s much tighter results came in, these supporters had once again gained ammunition — though, again, illegitimate ammunition — for their crusade against mainstream media. While “Stop the Count” protests and bizarre mass migrations to the “free speech” social media app Parler will likely remain a fad among the most hardcore of the MAGA army, the frustration and dissatisfaction against mainstream media will likely remain widely persistent throughout Biden’s presidency.

Learning from Trump’s Ongoing Influence

Biden’s win does not mean the Democratic Party can finally write Trump off. There’s a lot to be learned from his continued impact. First, it’s important to realize that while Trump and his supporters may be easy to satirize or dismiss, that response is not helpful in creating a productive national dialogue. This fact doesn’t mean Trump should go uncriticized, but when supporters see the hate lobbied against Trump as cases of “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” it’s no wonder they revolt against the mainstream and even propagate fake news themselves. Second, Trump was elected for his anti-elitism, and while it is a deeply flawed anti-elitism, it does show that Washington has a problem with aloofness. Politicians need to be genuine with their constituents — otherwise, another populist movement may occur.

Many people, including myself, are glad that Donald Trump will no longer be president. But it’s important to realize that his will still lingers — and it remains powerful. Americans shouldn’t ignore this force, but rather we should learn from it. As the oft-cited quotation dictates, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”


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