Insurgency Record: How Trump Gained Control of the Republican Party | Books

After the Iraq War and the Great Recession, public trust in government plummeted as flashpoints of race, religion and education came to the fore. Barack Obama’s mantra of hope and change has left many unsatisfied, even seething. On Election Day 2016, Donald Trump lit a match. But the kindling was already there, decades of preparation.

Watching the mess is Jeremy Peters of The New York Times, with Insurgency, his first book. A veteran national political reporter and MSNBC talking head, Peters chronicles how Lincoln and Reagan’s party turned into a Trump fiefdom. He writes with a keen eye and a sharp pen. Beyond that, he listens.

It captures the grievance of the Republican base, its devotion to the 45th president, and its varied voices. He repeatedly provides quoted quotes, carefully sourced. It is a very readable report.

Initially, Peters acknowledges Trump’s understanding of human nature, the media and resentment. Messaging and visuals are important to Trump, as is cementing a bond with his crowds. Fittingly, one chapter is titled “Give them what they want…”

For many, Trump did. As president, he kept his campaign promises. He remodeled the Supreme Court, moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and fought Isis.

Above all, he stuck a barbed middle finger to political correctness. Its jagged edges made his heart throb as they elicited revulsion elsewhere – just as he wanted. Her character was Melania’s problem, not theirs.

Trump entered the White House on hostility to immigration, the dormant issue of our time, over which Democrats continue to stumble. Chants of “build this wall” got significantly more votes than “defund the police”.

Trump’s attitude also mattered, as Peters notes. He was related to American workers. He knew where the alarm clock creaked, that what passes for orthodoxy in the halls of the university is not applauded by the kitchen table or the American bar stool.

“Latino support for Trump more widespread than expected, report says,” a Times headline read. It was Bernie Sanders, not Joe Biden, who led among those voters in the 2020 Democratic primaries. Currently, polls show Trump ahead of Biden in that bloc. Biden’s position has also slipped among young black voters.

From Peters’ perspective, Trump’s description of himself as a “popularist” — an unwitting malapropism — comes close to the mark. Trump can measure an audience, meet expectations and receive their adulation. For everyone involved, it’s a win-win proposition.

Peters is having people check in. As usual, Steve Bannon is right there on the page, where he ranks his former boss among the worst presidents along with James Buchanan and Millard Filmore. These two failed to stop the march towards civil war.

Bannon also compares Trump’s historic escalator ride to Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi propaganda film. “It’s Hitler, thought Bannon,” as Trump walked down to a bank of cameras and microphones. Peters memorizes these words in italics as another chapter heading.

Elsewhere, Bannon posits that for Trump, it’s all about him, and he’d be happy to see a Republican successor fail.

“Trump doesn’t care,” Bannon says. “He does not seek to feed. He fucks Donald Trump, the only one who could do it.

As for Trump, he talks to Peters and his observations are often accurate. Above all, he internalized that Republican success rested on the base of the white working class, a reality that most other GOP politicians pretended to.

Offering tax cuts to the wealthy while plundering entitlements hasn’t quite succeeded. Of course, race and culture were part of Trump’s equation. But so is the preservation of Social Security and Medicare. Voters could not be expected to support candidates who took away things they had won.

The priorities of the Republican donor class did not match those of the swing voters who seized on Trump. In the heartland, businesses are definitely not considered “people” – a lesson Mitt Romney failed to learn in 2012.

A country club nominee who looked and sounded like a country club nominee could win the nomination, but stood to lose in November. George HW Bush, remember, completed a single term after eight years as Ronald Reagan’s vice president.

Peters says Trump pushed back hard when Paul Ryan, the former House speaker and Romney’s running mate, suggested cutting government-funded pension spending.

“You tried four years ago,” Trump told her. ” How did that happen ?

For good measure, Trump snapped, “No thanks.”

Tear gas is fired into a crowd of protesters, one of whom is waving a Confederate battle flag, at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The uprising also documents the surrender of Republicans who stood ready to confront the mob as it stormed the Capitol on January 6, but hours later voted against certification of the election.

Peters talks about Ronny Jackson, a retired Navy rear admiral who was a White House physician to Trump and Barack Obama. When the glass started to shatter, Jackson took off his tie – so it would be that much harder to strangle him. But Jackson’s loyalty to Trump remained. He voted to discard the results, despite everything he saw. Now Jackson is calling for Biden’s mental fitness to be tested.

Trump is stoking the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. It doesn’t matter, in the Republican ranks at least. Loyalty to Trump and his false claims are a “must have” for the foreseeable future. Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell, at odds with Trump this week, run some political risk.

Pence refused to challenge his legal mandate and reject the Electoral College results. He sticks to his decision. Of January 6, deemed “legitimate political speech” by the Republican National Committee, McConnell said bluntly, “It was a violent insurgency for the purpose of trying to prevent a peaceful transfer of power.”

Peters sees the dark clouds. His book sends chills down my spine.

Comments are closed.