I have paid close attention since June 16, 2015, when Donald J. Trump used an escalator inside his Trump Tower in New York City to get on a stage to announce he was running for President of the United States of America. Literally, within two minutes of his announcement speech, he said the following, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” A month later he proposed that Mexico will pay for a great wall between the US/Mexico border. This was his first and specific campaign promise that never got accomplished.
I spent the next year and a half from June 2015 to December 2016 writing my undergraduate senior thesis titled, Our Education System’s Role in the Rise of the Trump Era. At that time in 2015/2016 people laughed at me and thought I was exaggerating by calling those years the Rise of the Trump Era. They didn’t realize that we would then spend 4 years in the actual Trump Era during his presidency. Having all this total to 6 years of Trump impacting every aspect of our lives.
The best and most reliable predictor of being a Trump supporter was how high you ranked in the authoritarian scale.
We witnessed the peak and fall of the Trump Era on January 6, 2021. Trump spoke in person at the Save America March where his campaign paid more than $2.7 million over two years to individuals and firms that organized that rally, which led to the rioters storming the U.S. Capitol. Trump supporters are an important element to the rise and fall. In my thesis, I finished writing 4 years ago, I stated that:
Dissertation research by Matthew MacWilliams focusing on the correlation between support for Trump and views aligned with authoritarianism brought to light what many political scientists did not expect. The best and most reliable predictor of being a Trump supporter was how high you ranked in the authoritarian scale (MacWilliams, 2016). Yet, some people have “latent authoritarian tendencies” that can be “triggered” with the perception of social threats (Taub, 2016). However, knowing that Trump’s rise through his supporters is because of the activation of authoritarians is the baseline of understanding why we are where we are with a very undemocratic society.
My thesis focused on the role of the education system in producing prime individuals that crave an authoritarian white supremacist rich man like Trump to be the “leader”. Here’s my 2016 thesis outline:
So, how much of a Trump supporter is the United States Education System? This thesis will examine the vital role the US Education System has on the rise of the Trump Era. First, there will be a review of what the rise of the Trump Era means by an in depth view of how Donald Trump is both not Republican and is un-American, how he is a fascist, and how his rise is correlated to the worldwide anti-globalization energy. Second, the reframing of authoritarianism from psychological to sociocultural will guide the analysis of the rise of the Trump Era. Third, the role of the US Education System in the rise of the Trump Era will be examined within the context of the closing eras of both colorblindness and neoliberalism hegemony. The education system’s role in producing authoritarians and the activation of authoritarians will show clearly how deep the levels of appropriated oppression and appropriated domination are in society. Lastly, these implications reinforce the vital role education for liberation has using democratic, anti-oppressive, and anti-hegemonic education through various critical pedagogy.
The following is a reflection of the rise and fall of the Trump Era.
Rise of the Trump Era 2015–2016
Every year since 2016 I have made a scrapbook with what’s happening in my life and in society. You can see pictures and screenshots from my scrapbooks throughout this article. You can also get a sense of the way things have been building since then. I was not personally surprised with the capital events because things have been happening for over 6 years because words and lies Trump shares do matter.
Trump supporters during the Trump campaign trail from 2015–2016 attacked Black Lives Matter activist and would yell “All Lives Matter”. They started to be aggressive to the media too. Trump bullied his way to the GOP nomination. The day after Trump won the election in 2016, hate crimes spiked.
Trump Era Beginnings 2017
The day Trump got inaugurated in 2017, I was in an airplane and it was impossible to not see the inauguration of Trump because it was broadcast on all our screens. Trump established his administration with cabinet members and policies like the Muslium Ban. He spent a historic ⅓ of time vacationing at his own properties just in his first year in office. He didn’t accomplish within his first 100 days things he promised he would do.
The summer of his first presidency white supremacists rallied in support for him and killed a counter protester. Trump didn’t denounce them. Even though the GOP controlled Congress and the White House, the only major legislation the GOP passed was the Tax Plan and no relief to the people in Puerto Rico devastated by hurricane Maria.
Trump continued to stroke lies about the media and his supporters continued to go deeper and deeper into conspiracy theories. There’s a long list of people that departed his own administration because he fired them or they resigned.
Stormy Year 2018
He continued to blame racial/ethnic groups, Obama, the media, democrats, and other countries for the problems he put himself in. Things started to be exposed. World leaders literally laughed out loud at him during his United Nations address. Tear gas was used against child migrants. The double standard of “freedom of speech” widens as white supremacists students praise Nazism with no consequences, while punishing students kneeling during the national anthem. The GOP loses control of the House. At the end of the year, the list lengthens with those that have left the Trump administration and a new list with 17 known investigations on him.
Deep in the Trump Era 2019
In the first month going into 2019, a teenage Trump supporters smirks at a Native American elder while other youth Trump supporters yelled “Build That Wall” at him. Trump went against international law to shut off asylum and restrict immigration. In August of 2019, a Trump supporter drove 10 hours to El Paso, Texas and killed 22 people and injured 23. In his manifesto he describes Hispanics as “invaders”.
There’s been a love hate relationship the established GOP has had with Trump during his presidency. The numbers show that even just in 2019 alone over 100 Republicans left Congress driven more by retirements and resignations. There are dozens of judges the GOP appoints that are not qualified. Trump is impeached for the first time by the end of his third year in his presidency.
Trump Era’s Last Year 2020
My Senator from Utah, Mitt Romney was the only Republican to vote to remove Trump during Impeachment trials in January 2020. That same month the first COVID-19 case was reported in the US. There is a detailed timeline of ways Trump failed to respond to the pandemic. America witnessed the killing of George Floyd in May. Trump has opposite responses to when White armed people protest at government buildings to “reopen the economy” and People of Color protesting the killing of innocent People of Color. ICE is caught forcing sterilization. During a debate Trump refuses to denounce White supremacists and tells them to “stand back and stand by”. Trump loses his election and all the court cases to overturn the results. He raises the idea of imposing martial law to keep power. Trump supporters follow their leader Trump to “Stop the Steal” that have clear intentions of organizing for violence. It’s truly a year of Trump’s actions leading to violence in 2021.
The Fall of the Trump Era 2021
On January 6, 2021 is the day Congress was scheduled to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities to ratify the electoral college results. A series of actions Trump did that day only sunk him deeper and deeper. He attacks his own Vice President, Mike Pence and enables the attack on all Congressional members. This wakes up lots of the members to reconsider their last effort to overturn the election. Trump is blocked from social media platforms and loses allies quickly. History is made again when Trump is impeached for the second time in the most bipartisan in US history.
We are days away now to having the second impeachment trial of Trump start in the Senate. This time though, there are hints that the Republican establishment might move forward with allowing consequences for Trump. This comes from knowing that if there aren’t any consequences, Trump as the authoritarian he is, will continue to move to ground himself to be the Republican party.
He spent 4 years moving the political values and positions of the GOP with impulsive tweets and self gratifying behavior. He did get come checks and balances through the justice system sometimes, but likewise played his role in the GOP to shape for generations the court system too. Whatever Trump said was the GOP’s position, but now the GOP has the opportunity to stop Trump that.
My final thoughts after reflecting on the past 6 years comes down to inviting everyone to do two things. First, ditch Trump! Republicans, ditch him because he has been bullying your political party and leaders. He has a clear track record to care only for himself. He doesn’t care if your political party dies and has talked about starting his own anyways.
Second, keep him accountable. He has caused so much damage in the GOP, the country, government, and lives of people across the world. All his supporters must witness how he is held accountable and they should also be held accountable for any violence and crimes they commit. From the older white supremacists attending his first rallies in 2015 yelling “build that wall”. To the Trump supporters committing hate crimes when Trump won. To the middle aged men with guns and tiki torches in the 2017 yelling “you will not replace us!” To the rising generation of hate filled youth embracing white supremacy. To the individuals planning and following through their plans to commit mass shootings that are racially charged like the El Paso killer in 2019. To the Trump supporters that perpetuated the “stop the steal” and insurrection.
It’s the start of a new era. The era post Trump.