For Trump and DeSantis, different paths, the same destination
But in truth, it’s not the policymaking that Donald Trump truly longs for. Above all, he clearly misses the corruption, cruelty, and sense of power that came with his presidency. His dream of an authoritarian state in which he can punish his enemies endlessly without accountability (while enriching himself and his family) was thwarted in 2020 when voters rejected his candidacy. The bitterness of that loss still eats at his very being and drives his current presidential bid. As he himself stated, in a second term he seeks “retribution” against one and all.
Yet, in a number of ways, as the Republican Party continues to move ever more to the right, MAGA has already evolved beyond him. Despite the media oxygen he continues to consume, the current moment is less about him than most of us believe. Just as Cleveland reflected the growing racial retrenchment of the white South in the late 1800s, Trump embodies the growing entrenchment of an ever more extremist wing of American politics.
Once committed, Trump leaned fully into the politics of white supremacy and white Christian nationalism that still animate the base of the party and its most prominent leaders at the local, state, and federal levels. Before, during, and since his presidency, he’s hurled racist invective at every category of black Americans — black women, black women journalists, black athletes, black elected officials, black appointed officials, black law-enforcement officers, black election workers, black prosecutors, black youth, black countries, black historic figures, black activists, black-dominated cities, and black political leaders. In rallies and speeches, he regularly refers to any black person who holds him to account as a “racist,” tapping into the prejudices of his base, a crew who nominally contend that racism no longer exists.