One on One: Peronism, Gaullism, Trumpism

Published 6:32 am Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Trump is going to survive.

It is the Republican Party we should be worried about.

Donald Trump may well be impeached by the House of Representatives on the basis of his actions in the Ukraine-Biden matter that we have been reading about in the papers and watching develop on the ubiquitous cable news channels.

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But when it is over, after the Senate fails to convict him, as it almost certainly will fail to do, when all that is done, Trump, like Bill Clinton after his impeachment, will come back strong.

In the words of poet William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus,” Trump’s head may well be “bloody,” but it will be “unbowed” and ready to inspire his adherents for the November 2020 presidential election.

Others may look forward to that election for its opportunity to bury Trump and put him away forever. But he will still be with us after that election. Win or lose, his loyalists will stick to him. They will remain with him whether he stays with the Republican Party or leaves it to form his own party.

More likely, he will stay, and solidify, his takeover, and say goodbye to some of the old-line Republicans who won’t be able to stomach their party’s association with a mass movement based on the personality of the one great leader.

One such group, Republicans for the Rule of Law, recently condemned Trump for his conduct in the Ukraine matter. Its spokesman, Chris Truax, stated, “Republicans in Congress must condemn this behavior without reservation. It is no longer about whether Republicans believe President Trump or whether they support his policies. It’s about whether they support his admitted abuse of power and his efforts to secure a foreign government’s help in an American election. President Trump sees nothing wrong with his behavior. In fact, he’s proud of it. The question now is, are Republicans?”

In the unlikely event that these conservative Republicans prevail over Trump and undo the takeover of their party by the president, America will still have a Trump party, either a new political party or a movement based on the loyalty to a single person, Donald Trump.

Some, not all, will be like the proud “ditto-heads” who adore the popular radio commentator Rush Limbaugh and stand behind him in everything.

What will we call this Trump force, whether it is the Trump-controlled Republican Party or a new formal political party, a loosely formed movement, or simply a group of adherents?

In Argentina, Juan Peron was first elected president in 1946 with strong support from workers and their labor unions and many lower-middle-class citizens. He was overthrown and exiled in 1955, returned to the presidency in 1973, and died in 1974. His movement has endured. As recently as 2011, Fernández de Kirchner, a Peronist, won a landslide victory in the presidential race. The glue that holds that movement together is still the loyalty, come hell or high water, to Peron.

In France, Charles de Gaulle similarly gained support during the post World War II period based on his tough opposition to the regular politicians and the national weakness they created. These supporters were known as Gaullists. They continued their support when de Gaulle became president of the country in 1958 and after he stepped down in 1969.  Gaullism and Gaullists endure and remain powerful politically in France today.

For reasons I cannot understand or explain, Trump has the same sort of appeal as Peron and de Gaulle. It is an appeal that can survive impeachment and election defeat.

So let’s get used to it: Trumpism and Trumpists.

Now can the Republican Party survive as the party of Trumpism?

Could it survive without support of the Trumpists?

Something to worry about.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” Sundays at 11 a.m. and Tuesdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. The program also airs on the North Carolina Channel Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and other times.