Trump, Trumpism, Twitter and political representation

Trump, Trumpism, Twitter and political representation

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The images of the taking of the US Capitol by protesters trumpist they travel the world and generate a multiplicity of opinions. Most of them sit between the rejoicing of an anti-imperialist perspective and the demonization of the outgoing president as the cause of the crisis. The former highlight the shortcomings of the political system of the northern country and reinforce their arguments against those who, until a month ago, considered it as an example. The latter see in the figure of Trump an anomaly ready to be resolved and, with it, the channeling of a system that they take as a model when they criticize others, supposedly further from that signifier that everything explains, resolves and orders: the republic .

Both views may have some reason, but they are incomplete: The United States (USA) and Trump are nothing more than a variant of a problem whose presence is becoming more and more obvious. The analysis based on the crisis of the North American political system displaces the possibility of understanding these facts in the context of other popular explosions in different parts of the world. At the same time, thinking that the figure of Trump explains the crisis only makes the analysis in the same direction, only that in this case the position is more optimistic regarding the scope of the movement in the future; to resolve this situation, it would be enough to move him out of the system.

If Trump and Trumpism are indications of a broader process, one wonders what similarities can be traced between North American white supremacist groups, religious conservative working class groups (with all the imprecision that the category entails); Or, how are they linked to the different variants of the anti-vaccine, flat-Earther, anarchist, libertarian movements, among others ?; or perhaps go further and look for points of contact with young Chileans who are calling for constitutional reform, the French “yellow vests” and other mobilized groups whose periodic appearances became a “period climate.” Constructing the answers to these questions is complex, problematic and thorny, however, it can bring us closer to glimpse deeper transformations whose opacity is supported by partial looks.

In all these mobilized groups there is a discursive presence that runs across them and takes the form of an indignant cry against the democratically elected representatives: “You don’t represent me!” Thus, the imaginary contract on which the republican political and social edifice is built is transfigured in constant denunciations with analogous content: “distancing from the political class”, “government with its back to the people” and other equivalent phrases, add up to a a heritage that grows and is reinforced in the traditional media and in the networks. Against this background, it seems natural for figures to appear who seek to capture this disenchantment and put themselves at the head of criticism against the political establishment; that operation would not be entirely new. What is new are the procedures that are put in place to articulate apparently distant and contradictory claims – in many cases anti-democratic – and transform them into support for a specific candidate.

Beyond the diverse dynamics that this process shows, an obviousness runs through it with greater prominence as the new generations are incorporated with their participation in the elections: the societies for which the representative system was conceived two centuries ago no longer exist. Nor did they exist a century ago, but the emergence of mass political parties was able to channel the transformations of the first half of the 20th century, giving rise to another type of representation. Thus, the political / party identities sought to structure -with highly debatable success- national systems and tried to respond to different social divisions that, in the best of cases, were channeled through democratic channels.

Now, the question that hovers over my reflection is: how to represent current societies? A phrase immediately appears to cross-examine or question that formulation: “There is no such thing as society, there are men, women and families” (Margaret Tatcher dixit). Beyond the ideological origin of the statement, few intellectuals could deny that if such a thing could be said in the early 80′s –with wide acceptance-, 40 years later social ties (in the West, at least) are even more damaged , cut or mortally wounded. In this framework, the question of representation becomes crucial.

In this context, it is also pertinent to think about what characteristics those who intend to win elections and govern (that is, represent) should or can show: can or should they speak to a society -or people- that has exploded through the air and its splinters are bubbles or groups that form and become strong from their refusal to enter into dialogues with others ?; Should they appeal to speeches of union and, thereby, try to defuse the fierce debates that erupt before each fact, initiative or declaration? If these debates exist, how to interfere, channel or enrich them from an area that “by default” generates distrust and rejection?

The emergence of some leaders proves that one of the solutions found is to address those bubbles directly; taking their complaints as their own and using segmented communication procedures to tell everyone what they want to hear. Trumpism is a great example of these operations, but it is not the only one. In any case, the important thing is to highlight the presence of an increasingly evident process in the construction of candidates and parties that self-perceive as anti-system.

However, if the strategy is successful and elections are won, the articulation of diffuse, heterogeneous and contradictory claims presents notable difficulties when it comes to addressing specific policies. However, the possibility of direct communication through the networks, allows keeping the center of the scene setting a discursive agenda that does not neglect any of the demands (even if it is not with hysterical cataracts of tweets). Of course there are brake, control and counterweight mechanisms that make it very difficult to advance on all the promised trails. Precisely, it will be those obstacles that will allow us to unite our own forces even more in an uprising against the supposed “old structures of politics.”

However, the collateral effect that does not take long to appear is that, once these disruptive figures manage to win elections, they enter into the general rules of the law: now they are “the system” and they are the ones who “do not represent” those who they have not voted. Therefore, these leaderships are, in some cases, so overwhelming when building meteoric campaigns as they coagulate the demands of other groups that are attacked by the policies or bombastic statements necessary to maintain a high-profile leadership. So, polarization and mobilization are two sides of the same and seem to constitute stable and systemic features.

Although each country has its specificity and does not function as a model applicable to all Western democracies, this process seems to become characteristic of an era marked by identities that are built, to a large extent, from permanent and early interaction in social networks . This novel phenomenon is generating transformations in all spheres and political representation is not exempt but, on the contrary, shows one of its most immediate and scandalous faces. In this scenario, the “politically incorrect”, previously reserved for family reunions or for certain “virtual communities”, today enters fully into the open debate and, from this, the involvement of sectors that were self-marginalized takes place. of the system for not feeling represented. Appealing to the disappearance of candidates who seek to capture and take advantage of these situations is, at the very least, innocent or illusory.

Another trend is linked to what has been explained above and in that confluence the current political scene is configured. Both in the campaign and in the exercise of their mandates, the representatives seek to increasingly resemble those represented. To do this, image consultants advise “getting closer to people”, “speaking in their language”, “solving their immediate problems”; and thus escape the much-feared claim of estrangement. In this sense, the performative dimension of political discourse is weakened and any hint of creative action is subsumed in the idea of ​​”I am one of you.” “What the people want” and “what the people are interested in” become mantras that demonstrate the impossibility of governing by making decisions that express a power whose declamation and exercise frightens both sides of the counter.

As a result, concrete and profound actions taken by democratic governments a few decades ago (regardless of their assessment) are now unthinkable; even when these disruptive characters reach important decision-making places. With his appearances, the political scene is more agitated than ever, and yet his effective measures do not show deep breaks or sudden changes of orientation. Conversely, the public debate – whether with them in power or in opposition – plunges into fragmentary, hysterical and conjunctural discussions in which certain parameters and rules of the game – until recently unquestionable – are attacked with arguments of little character. The need to counter-argue in that same muddy terrain, paralyzes or delays the realization of that ideal many times wielded and put into practice: politics is the tool to change reality.

Meanwhile, the instances that do shape real and profound changes in our existence prevail, remain and feed on each shouting match, each disqualification, each scandal and each invasion of the Capitol. The algorithmic culture of the “like”, of the fragmentation of the audiences and of the bubble filters, advances without being questioned. Did any Facebook user choose or know the operation of the algorithms that shape the individual menu in which we move ?; Were the limitations in number of Twitter characters voted by users ?; Is it democratic and republican for two or three companies to establish themselves in ethics courts and censor those they consider “dangerous to democracy”? Despite the controversial panorama, the channeling of public debate through business policies is presented and received as the maximum expression of individual freedom. This is proclaimed as an irrefutable standard of measurement of a scenario that seems to be for everyone and, at the same time, haunts the possibility of building and transforming collectively; that is, to do politics.


Ben Oakley
Ben Oakley is the guy you can really trust when it comes to Mainstream News. Whether it is something happening at the Wall Street of New York City or inside the White House in Washington, D.C., no one can cover mainstream news like Ben. Get a daily dose of Trustworthy News by Ben Oakley, only at Globe Live Media.