How the Right Reacts to Trump's Loss
They're going to cope so much, you're going to be so sick and tired of coping
On Nov. 7, 2020, major news networks projected what is now all but inevitable: former Vice President Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States and Sen. Kamala Harris will be his vice president. President Donald Trump has failed to secure reelection, meaning Republicans have lost control of the executive branch of government.
In the previous edition of the SH!TPOST newsletter, I asked a handful of folks for their thoughts about the future of pro-Trump and anti-Trump digital grifters. In this one, I asked more smart people about the state of affairs after the election was called.
(We’ll get into all of this in even more detail with my dear friends Michael E. Hayden, a senior investigative reporter for the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Brendan Karet, a researcher at Media Matters for America, on the next episode of the podcast.)
Even if some right-wing media figures accept that Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, will their audiences follow along? Can I get a vibe-check on the state of affairs in the broader right-wing zeitgeist?
Tony Boswell, co-host of the Minion Death Cult podcast, which examines and scrutinizes hyper-partisan and right-wing social media: “In the wake of the Biden victory or, arguably more importantly, Trumps defeat, many are wondering what will become of the countless chuds and grifters who have constructed their entire being around MAGA KAG. Presidential fandom is not really something that we have seen before in American history. The occasional Obama ‘HOPE’ shirt or Reagan portrait hanging in the foyer never quite reached the current level of commitment from their constituents. The cult-like following that 45 had built up is beyond impressive, it has gone beyond just the red hat. A commitment to ‘God king Trump,’ as many affectionately call him, is a defining part of so many people’s identity now. Having a leader who is a winner is the corner stone of this phenomenon. Trump conceding would truly wreck that narrative. “
“The cultural effects of the Trump presidency reach far beyond just the notorious red hat. Donald Trump has ushered in a golden era of conservative consumerism. The popularity of conservative clothing brands, Grunt Style, the normalization of armed militias, The Three Percenters, and a plague of angry men yelling into their front facing cameras in their truck cabs are all largely thanks to the popularity of MAGA. What makes this so interesting and even scary is the amount of solidarity you see amongst these seemingly fringe groups of people, all of whom claim to be ready to go to war with their own neighbors, for this man. In this world, where Donald is often literally portrayed as Superman, concession is not an option. The only way a loss is possible is if the Marxist democrats are up to something dubious. I assure you even if DJT does get up at the podium and admits defeat his speech would be riddled with nods to the copy-pasta posts that litter Facebook pages of boomers across the country talking about the deep state’s involvement in his ousting from the White House.”
“Its important to remember the age old adage ‘ you can not kill an idea’ includes the bad ideas as well. With that being said, I don’t see these people going anywhere any time soon. Make America Great Again will continue to define people for years to come. The Grifters will make the slight pivot from simple Trump worship and clever quips about the ‘demon rats’ Democrats to restoring old-time values and eradicating this country of communist Democrats. Much like the confederate flag, the MAGA hat will continue to be a symbol for those who identify as the silent majority for years to come. I worry that because they will not have a talking head anymore that most of America will go about their business and not take these people seriously.”
“I was recently sent a threat from a local Tea Party leader who of course has adopted all of the MAGA talking points but still largely identifies as a Tea Party member. This is nearly 12 years later and I’m still dealing with these people and the Tea Party was not nearly as impactful as what we are seeing today. MAGA accomplished what the Tea Party never could. It became more than a political stance. It became who you are. You can’t just throw away your entire identity, your belief system, your moral compass. These folks aren't going anywhere. We cannot let them get comfortable.”
Fox News has called the race for Biden. After that, a lot of Trump supporters expressed anger at the network and some even threatened a boycott. But if they don't have Fox News, where will they go? Do you think we might see growth in the MAGA digital media front?
Becca Lewis, PhD candidate at Stanford University and researcher of online extremism: “This isn’t the first time that Fox News has felt threatened by the MAGA movement. Throughout the 2016 election, Breitbart was consistently closer to, and more enthusiastic about, the Trump campaign than Fox. The cable network had to specifically shift its coverage to remain relevant among conservative viewers.”
“Now, Fox is on thin ice with pro-Trump viewers again, and outlets like One America News Network and websites like Newsmax are positioning themselves as the most enthusiastic Trump defenders. Fox viewers have shown that they’re absolutely willing to turn against the network if it’s not telling them the narrative they want to hear. So even though Fox has been a huge player in shaping pro-Trump media narratives for the past four years, they also have to grapple with the fact that MAGA has a life of its own that they can’t fully contain.”
“There’s also a world of individual online content creators who have made it clear that they are fully behind Trump’s claims - from Steven Crowder to James O’Keefe to Candace Owens. They may keep growing in popularity and prominence if people do keep turning away from Fox News. That said, Fox has been able to maneuver these challenges before, so it may be able to do that again. In particular, primetime pundits like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson are already doing their best to speak to MAGA audiences in the days since the election.”
How is the QAnon crowd coping with the Biden victory? They've been relatively unfazed by other world events. Is this any different?
Travis View, co-host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast: “The majority of QAnon followers are still convinced that Trump will take the oath office again on January 20th. The most popular narrative is that Democrats committed massive voter fraud and they Trump allowed this cheating in order to expose how his enemies corrupt elections. This fantasy will obviously be more difficult to maintain if Trump concedes or when Biden is inaugurated, so we'll have to see how they react in the coming months.”
In a post-Trump world, what role to you anticipate extremists will play in the digital sphere? Do you believe it will change?
Talia Lavin, author of Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy: “I think extremists thrive in opposition and fracture, and we are headed into bitterly fractured times, with a divided executive and legislative branch and a restive, cacophonous minority—Trump voters—many of whom believe themselves to have been cheated. Trump may have been a galvanizing force to extremism online and off, but it didn't begin with him and won't end with him. He will perhaps cease to be a figurehead for some movements—QAnon, militias—but the larger forces behind those movements—alienation, disparate realities and information spheres, a will to violence, a desire to be part of something bigger—are lasting, even intractable problems that give rise to these movements. And white power accelerationists are galvanized in their nihilism by this outcome.”
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