Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic by David Frum

    In “Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic” the author, David Frum, expands on a previous column from March 2017 titled “How to Build Autocracy” in The Atlantic. The book argues that Donald Trump has intentionally weakened crucial American institutions in order to establish an authoritarian government. Frum suggests that Trump’s actions are not openly defying the law, but rather subverting established norms. The book narrates the individuals who played a role in enabling, empowering, supporting, and working together with Donald Trump. According to Frum, the Trump presidency, also known as Trumpocracy, has had negative effects on American safety against foreign threats, misused public funds, influenced law enforcement to favour those in power, and attempted to silence the media from reporting important information to the public. in this write-up, I will cogently discuss the most significant points of the book.

    Mr. Trump leveraged negativity for personal gains. Many voters who were dissatisfied with the status quo helped Trump win the presidency. They felt that the current system was no longer effective for them. The group of voters who showed the most loyalty and size were men who felt undervalued in the economy and culture. Trump identified such disgruntled people and vulnerabilities in the American political system and culture. He took a calculated risk by assuming that Americans prioritise their differences over their shared democratic values, and that this strategy proved successful.

    Furthermore, the concept of “negative partisanship” gained popularity during the 2016 election. It suggests that although a person may not align with a particular political party, they tend to strongly dislike one party more than the other. The author suggests that Trump was able to gain political support by taking advantage of negative partisanship, rather than by promoting his own agenda or merits.

    Apart form capitalizing on negative partisanship, Trump prioritized his family in the statecraft, and his slogan “America First” sounded like family first. The Trump family benefitted financially from the presidency, despite the high cost associated with their involvement. According to the author, he was the first to run a family business corporation while in office since Lyndon Johnson. Additionally, he appointed a relative to a senior government position, which has not been done since John F. Kennedy named his brother Robert attorney general. Trump also appointed a son or daughter to a senior White House position, which has not been done since F.D. Roosevelt’s son James. Furthermore, he used presidential patronage to enrich his family, which had not been done since Ulysses S. Grant. Finally, Trump spent more money on himself than any other president in American history.

    Jared Kushner, who is President Trump’s son-in-law, was given a seat on the principals’ committee of the National Security Council. This committee is considered to be the most important and influential group within the American government. Kushner was responsible for tasks such as restructuring the federal government, leading efforts to defeat ISIS, and facilitating negotiations for peace between Israel and Palestine. According to the author, Kushner tried to establish a secret communication channel with Russian leaders by utilising the Russian embassy’s resources to avoid being detected by US security agencies. During the G20 summit in Hamburg, there was an incident where President Trump left the room and his daughter was asked to take his place in his absence. In American government, official roles are determined by merit and not by family ties. In the event of the president’s death while in office, the vice president would assume the role of president. It is not the first lady who would take on this position. The title “first daughter” does not exist, even though Ivanka Trump has used it on occasion. During a visit to Hamburg, Ivanka Trump took group photos with her father and various world leaders, including the chancellor of Germany and the prime minister of Canada. None of the leaders were accompanied by their spouses or children in the photos.

    Apart from nepotism, Trump was a megalomaniac who disliked criticism and valued flattery. According to the author, engaging in such behaviour is considered deeply shameful and people with integrity would not partake in it. A president who values flattery and dislikes criticism is likely to appoint unethical individuals and put ethical individuals in situations where they cannot maintain their integrity. The Trump administration chose to undermine the state by either neglecting to hire qualified individuals or appointing individuals who were not competent or had personal agendas. They also disregarded ethical guidelines and failed to take responsibility for setting and enforcing policies. according to the book, once the government was completely shut down for 24 hours, and there was a possibility of another shutdown in the future. Under his administration, there was a lack of confidence that the president wsa appointing qualified individuals based on merit rather than prioritising personal gain for himself and his family.

    Furthermore, Trump did not fulfil his campaign promises and election pledges, which seen as a betrayal. Some individuals who support isolationism and oppose intervention in foreign conflicts praised Trump during his campaign, believing that he would avoid involvement in the Syrian Civil War and reduce America’s involvement in international affairs. In reality, Trump’s actions in the Syrian conflict were more aggressive than those of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump ordered the firing of cruise missiles at Syrian government airfields and the shooting down of Syrian government aircraft. He increased the level of violence in Yemen and authorized an increase in the number of troops in Afghanistan. The US military buildup in Poland and Romania continued and President Trump discussed the possibility of military intervention in Venezuela. He even made statements indicating a willingness to engage in preemptive war with North Korea and appeared to be moving towards a potential military conflict with Iran. In addition, President Trump made a commitment to launch airstrikes against ISIS and provide a comprehensive strategy within the first month of his presidency to eliminate the terrorist organization completely.

    Besides, in May 2017, following an ISIS-inspired terror attack that resulted in the death of seven people and injury of forty-eight others, President Trump engaged in a Twitter feud with Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London. He made a promise to urge his allies to increase their defence contributions. Prior to the 2017 South Korean presidential election, President Trump withdrew from an agreement to deploy missile defence systems in South Korea. He requested an extra $1 billion from Seoul to cover the expenses of the system. In an interview conducted a week before the election, he stated that he would consider tearing up the US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.

    Apart from going back on his word, the highest priority for President Trump was to defame those who accurately and responsibly reported his tenure in high office, more than any other issue such as taxes, health care, immigration, or anything else he supposedly cared about. According to the author, the intention of Trump and his supporters was to eliminate independent media entirely. Trump’s criticism of the media went beyond just expressing disapproval and actually encouraged violent behaviour. During his campaign rallies, Trump’s audience often directed their anger towards members of the media. This tactic of mobilising anti-media sentiment continued throughout his presidency and became a defining characteristic of his leadership. In the 2016 presidential campaign, fake news was used as a tool of power and gained attention from Americans. The term “fake news” was used by Trump as a weapon to discredit both honest mistakes that were quickly corrected and well-documented truths. Trump did not seek objectivity from the media, but rather complicity. According to the book, Trump was receiving complicity from those who held right-of-centre political views.The institutional Republican Party was allowing Donald Trump to carry out his actions, and he was receiving support from conservatives throughout the United States.

    In addition to discrediting genuine media, the Trump presidency had a negative impact on American ideals and power, which in turn emboldened dictatorships around the world. Frum argues that the United States government has aligned itself with corrupt and authoritarian leaders around the world, betraying its own values. He suggests that this behaviour has even infiltrated the highest levels of the American government. Donald Trump and Steve Bannon joined forces with populist nationalists who aimed to dismantle the European Union. Before meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, the president-elect met with Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party. Before Bannon joined the Trump campaign, he promoted Dutch politician Geert Wilders and France’s Marine Le Pen. According to reports, Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban stated that he had a phone call with President-elect Trump in November, prior to the President of France. Orban has been criticised for his authoritarian leadership style in Hungary. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Turkey on July 15, 2017, which marked the one-year anniversary of an attempted coup. The Erdogan regime had used this event as a justification for the mass detention of political opponents and journalists. Some dictatorships were looking to form new friendships, while some democracies were experiencing tension and conflict in their existing friendships.

    After having discussed all the weakness in the Trump presidential term, the book also provides some of the positive sides of his presidency.

    The book primarily focuses on the negative impact caused by the Trump presidency and those who supported it. Frum suggests that although the United States is currently experiencing difficult times, there are still some positive aspects that shine through.

    The Trump moment provided an opportunity to broaden one’s perspective. Donald Trump was able to effectively address issues that other politicians had neglected. He spoke about the risks of drug addiction, the costs of immigration, and the cultural and economic decline of the industrial working class. While some may view his approach as cynical, it resonated with many voters. Donald Trump was able to connect with and represent large portions of the American electorate that other politicians only discussed. The individual identified overlooked and disgruntled regions of the United States. He was able to channel their hurts, grievances, and resentments through his own.

Trump is the producer, writer, and star of an extravaganza performance of the theater of resentment

-David Frum

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