When Donald Trump descended the escalator in 2015 to announce his candidacy for president, he immediately captured the support of white supremacists by viciously attacking immigrants as rapists and murderers. Then, with a blizzard of lies and misinformation, he quickly gathered in the remaining right-wing outliers until he had a formattable legion of enthusiastic, raucous followers. They aren’t necessarily conservative Republicans, however, they are the anti-government, anti-gun control, anti-abortion, and anti-vaccination people who love Trump because they believe he is one of them. Trump may be a narcissistic bastard – Right? – but he’s their bastard.
They don’t care if he flaunts the rule of law; hell, they don’t like laws anyway. These Trumpers hate the civil rights acts, Roe v. Wade abortion rights, gun restrictions and any other laws that prevent them from doing exactly what they want to do and living the way they want to live in a society dominated by White males. They only care about “their freedom!”
It’s these millions of voters that Republican politicians fear, not Trump. Yet, his fiercely loyal base has given the former president total control of the Grand Old Party.
Supplementing Trump’s hardcore, grassroots supporters are ultra-conservative Republicans who simply hate the “left” and would never vote for a Democrat. For decades, they have been fed a steady diet of anti-liberal misinformation and fear mongering. This may have started in the late 1950s with Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) and his vicious crusade against communism. But hate of liberals certainly became a mantra of the GOP in 1995 when Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) became Speaker of the U.S. House. His scurrilous strategy of viciously attacking Democrats and liberals as corrupt, radical, traitors, etc. is still being employed by Republicans to this day.
Needless to say, Trump is also supported by wealthy libertarians and corporate executives who want the government out of their lives. Some just don’t like to pay taxes; others desire a “free market” capitalistic economy without government regulation where they can do whatever provides the most profit for their businesses. In fact, some 80 billionaires and their spouses – with a combined wealth of $210 billion – made huge donations to Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, according to a Forbes review of Federal Election Commission filings.
One of these Trump benefactors was libertarian, megadonor Peter Thiel, who made his fortune by founding PayPal, the online payments system. He recently resigned from the Meta (Facebook parent) Board so he could focus on electing Trump aligned Republicans to Congress in 2022. No doubt, he has the financial resources to influence numerous congressional contests.
Thiel wrote an article in 2009 for a libertarian publication entitled “The Education of a Libertarian.” It provides a peek inside his head and it looks very dark and scary in there. In it, Thiel touted “authentic human freedom as a precondition for the highest good.” But what followed that statement is a total shocker; he no longer believes that freedom and democracy are compatible.
This piece shows that Thiel pines for the limited government of the 1920s. He wrote that the economic depression of 1920-21 was the last one in the U.S. that did not involve massive government intervention. The result, he implied, was the economic boom of the “roaring 20s.” You know, if government stays out of the way, everything will be great. Thiel went on to state, that the 1920s was “the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics.”
But following quote, I believe, is the heart of Thiel’s philosophy and why he opposes democracy: “Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women – two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians – have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.” I highlighted his phrase about women’s suffrage because I believe it reveals Thiel’s illiberal, anti-feminist mindset. No doubt, many of Trump’s wealthy, male supporters totally agree with him.
You see, they are still angry about the election of Democratic president Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 and his New Deal of the 1930s, which is an anathema to wealthy, ultra-conservative Republicans. I suspect many of them, including Thiel, would repeal the laws that gave Americans Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid if they could. Fortunately, the democracy that Thiel abhors – with its free and fair elections – has so far given Americans sufficient power to preserve these critical social safety net programs.
I believe, however, that Thiel’s hero – his main man Trump – is simply a figurehead in the right-wing attack on democracy. The former president has become a caricature of himself, consumed by grievances over his 2020 election defeat and much less useful for their purposes. That may open the door in 2024 for Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who I believe the GOP base would support if Trump falters and who I see as a more dangerous politician.
In the meantime, base supporters in Trump’s “cult” are forcing Republican politicians to join them, far-right conservatives in the middle are clamoring for them to “own the libs” and ultra-wealthy donors at the top, like Thiel, are controlling GOP candidates with their hefty campaign contributions. Together, they are a potent force that cannot be ignored.
Clearly, these zealots are attempting to subvert American democracy. The major question today is, will democracy-loving Americans come to realize what they’re doing and cast enough votes to stop them?