“We need to know how to distinguish Trump from Trumpism. The former may well end politically, not the latter. Because Trumpism, that mix that holds together, sometimes in a confused way, true, but precisely for this reason also effective, the opposition to political correctness, the value of the community, of autonomy, the attack on the establishment, which speaks to workers, and playing on the issue of security, even for minorities, represents in these troubled times the only real competitive strategy in the electoral arena for those who are not leftists». Thus Luigi Curini, political scientist at the State University of Milan and visiting professor at the School of Political Sciences of Waseda University in Tokyo. Donald Trump’s announcement that he wants to run again for the US presidential elections in 2024, says Curini, «places the Republican party in a big dilemma. He cannot give up the enthusiasm that Donald Trump wields for an important part of the party base. At the same time, he knows that Trump is, after these years, too divisive a figure for many Americans ». But does the Republican party have a chance of winning? The midterm elections, explains Curini, certified «the good health of the party, which is advancing among the minorities as it has never happened before. Because ultimately the Hispanic living in New York feels closer on many issues to the Kansas redneck than to the 5th Avenue hipster or the Ivy League college student.
Request. Trump does not give up and is determined to run again. But many financiers of the 2016 adventure, and others, are downloading it. What happened to the tycoon and his relationship with the American establishment?
Reply. Well, let’s say that his relations with the establishment, primarily with the Republican one, have never been good. And that is of course an understatement. Let’s remember well the 2016 primaries where at the beginning (and even during, to tell the truth) everyone was against him, conservative media (at least the main ones) included. Then he won and became president. But that hasn’t changed things. There was, true, a rapprochement, but mostly opportunistic. Trump was seen as a panacea capable of winning all elections. And for a while he was undoubtedly like that. But, from the 2018 mid-term elections onwards, the situation slowly begins to change. And it is the perception of the end of the tycoon’s “magic touch” that changes the cards on the table.
Q. Even the last midterm elections didn’t go very well.
A. In the end all the major candidates (except in Ohio) openly supported by Trump were defeated. In short, we have returned to the pre-primary situation of 6 years ago. Trump against everyone (others). With one significant change though.
A. The extraordinary novelty that Trump represented in 2016 is no longer so 6 years later. And let us also remember that in American history a president who decides to run again for president after losing his renewal is a rarity. And in all but one case, Democrat Grover Cleveland, it always went badly.
Q. So is Trump’s decision bad news for Republicans?
A. The Republican party is faced with a great dilemma. He cannot give up the enthusiasm that Donald Trump wields for an important part of the party base. An enthusiasm, moreover, that only he seems to be able to produce. At the same time, he knows that Trump represents, after these years, and in particular the events of January 6, too divisive a figure for Americans, and in particular for independent voters.
Q. So what?
A. In the ideal world for Republicans, Trump would give his “blessing” to another presidential candidate, agreeing to become the party’s reference figure, but from outside. Continuing to make speeches. In the real world, however, there is a risk of bloodshed. And, in the event that Trump loses the Republican primaries, the possibility that he decides to run as an independent cannot be ruled out, reducing the chances of the elephant’s victory to zero (or almost).
Q. Many Republicans are enthusiastic about DeSantis. Could he be Trump’s dolphin?
R. Ron DeSantis has done very well as governor of Florida in recent years. And the results of the last elections prove it. He won not well, more. By making the Sunshine State a safe state for Republicans, which it wasn’t before him at all. Also winning the votes of minorities, beyond those of Cuban exiles, always close to the elephant. DeSantis, also starting from the post-voting statements, always punctual, and without falling into the trap of entering into controversy with Trump, represents the true Republican on the spearhead for Washington DC In a normal world, at least. The one without Trump…
Q. Trump seems to look a lot like Berlusconi, no one after me.
A. The real risk that he does like Samson with the Philistines is by no means trivial. After all, he’s the one who lifted the Republicans out of the morass they were in. Finding a new way out of nowhere to win again. He feels he has wide credit with the party. And on the one hand he is also right to be honest. But time passes for everyone. The point is that people with “big fat” egos hardly realize it, as we know. It is the other side of their – past, present or future – exceptionality.
Q. In Italy there are those on the left who are already anticipating the Donald’s defeat to toast the end of Trumpism considered the father of all sovereignty, of all nations, first and foremost of the old continent. Is that so?
A. I disagree. In fact, it is necessary to know how to distinguish Trump from Trumpism. In fact, I am convinced that the second will be able to survive the first. Because Trumpism, that mix that holds together, sometimes in a confused way, true, but precisely for this reason also effective, the opposition to political correctness, the value of the community, of autonomy, the attack on the establishment, the ability to speak to the “deplorables”, which opens up to workers, and playing on the issue of security, even to minorities, represents in these troubled times the only real competitive strategy in the electoral arena for those who are not left-wingers. A lesson that has also been learned well by Boris Johnson for example, and which if it is forgotten, as it seems, by his successors at the helm of the Conservatives, will produce bitter electoral surprises. Returning to DeSantis: if you will, he definitely represents more of the “clean face” Trumpism that the Bush Republican party has. And that’s definitely good for him.
Q. So will deep America continue to vote Republican?
A. Let’s start with a datum. Undoubtedly, the recent electoral results burn for the Republicans only because they expected an even larger victory than the one that took place, at least in the House. But if you look at the votes, the Republican party outperformed the Democrats by every estimate I’ve read. And this is a very important fact. It certifies the good health of the party (aside from the disputes about Trump), which is advancing among minorities as never before. Because in the end, the Hispanic living in New York feels closer to the Kansas redneck on many issues than to the 5th Avenue hipster or the Ivy League college student.
Q. Looking at Italy, Luca Ricolfi speaks of the Democratic Party as the party of the ZTL and the bourgeoisie, the ideas and values of the left have moved to the right, he says. Are we facing a historical mutation that has extended to all of Europe?
A. It’s a change that started quietly – let’s remember the commentators surprised in the 1990s by the workers of Northern Italy who voted for Umberto Bossi’s League instead of the DS, but which by now seems unstoppable. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall onwards, the left has shed its skin, deciding to give up on economic issues, to concentrate on the battles of values related to civil rights. Some decidedly serious, others that appear to the eyes not only of the housewife of Voghera, but also to the worker of Livorno, just to stay in Italy, as incomprehensible, and this in the best scenario of course.
Q. But the Democratic Party has also won a slice of voters it had never had before.
A. True. After all, radical chic was a minority among the upper middle class in the 1970s. Now it is enough to look at the distribution of votes in central Rome and Milan (or in London or in Paris) to understand that something important has happened. However, as Bertolt Brecht used to say, «first comes the stomach, then comes the moral». A phrase that, between inflation, economic crisis and the rest, someone has forgotten.
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