As of this writing, Donald Trump is making his cabinet picks, which aside from conspiracy-monger Steve Bannon, look like the usual rightward Wall Street and D.C. insiders. The Trump regime seems so far like it will promote an uglier and more aggressive version of the standard Republican policies: deregulation, privatization and tax cuts for the wealthy. We can expect to see over the coming years the continued decline of the middle class, a shrinking social safety net, an acceleration of environmental catastrophe, unchecked corporate malfeasance, expanding federal deficits, and a deepening of the surveillance state. There will most likely be diversionary tactics in the form of more warfare abroad and the concomitant curtailing of civil liberties at home. Trump will likely fulfill many of his campaign promises, albeit in scaled-down versions. But don’t expect his followers to abandon him even if he reneges on many key commitments from his electric, nationalistic rallies.
The rallies explain Trump far more than his vague policy prescriptions. His followers view him as a sort of prophet of American triumphalism. The stadium becomes the evangelical circus tent of renewal and transformation: a purgation of America through ecstatic trampling of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. The cult of personality around Trump and his family goes a long way towards explaining his popularity. His followers support him through a maneuver of sympathetic magic: by supporting this bombastic billionaire (a euphemistic phrase, but words fail the sheer scope of his ego), they hope to imbibe some of his Midas touch. Ethics and accountability be damned: his fawning admirers want a slice of the proverbial pie even if it comes at someone else’s expense. They are not bothered by Trump University or the Atlantic City bankruptcies—they just want a piece of the action.