If the notion that Donald Trump’s family “will be a dynasty that lasts for decades” sends shivers down your spine, welcome to the party. The fact that this prediction was made by Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale suggests the likelihood a familial succession will, at least, be attempted.
The reason this idea is so demoralizing is that it speaks to the futility of opposing Trump. There may be a Trump running for president for the next...gulp...24 years.
Despite the havoc Trump has unleashed, he still has a decent chance of re-election. And even if he loses (and actually leaves the White House), he won’t go away. He’ll still be on Twitter, he’ll probably still hold rallies, and the mainstream media will probably still elevate all of his mockery and musings.
Even death wouldn’t end his grip on the Republican Party and America. Like Meet Joe Black or Chucky, Trumpism can simply reanimate in the form of a younger host body.
Like bad breath, it keeps coming back.
The scariest version of a Trump dynasty would be the election of a puppet successor—namely, one of his children.
Just as Lurleen Wallace succeeded her husband as governor of Alabama (to avoid the state’s constitutional prohibition on consecutive terms), this version has Donald Trump continuing to pull the strings. It is ironic that populists might even like dynasties more than the dreaded “elites.” Trump apologist Lou Dobbs thinks this is “one of the dumbest things a campaign manager for a populist candidate ever said.” But it’s unclear whether Dobbs thinks the mistake is wanting a dynasty, or just copping to it.
But even if Trump is defeated, dies, and/or falls out of favor, Trumpism can mutate!
If a rebranding effort is called for, then “a kinder, gentler,”—daresay, more attractive—Trump can be called in from the bullpen.
Forget Nikki Haley. If you want a more cosmopolitan Republican who can win back those white, college-educated soccer moms, Ivanka’s coronation can be arranged. “I think she’d be very, very hard to beat,” Trump has said of Ivanka, his favorite child (and most likely heir apparent).
If this happens, Trumpism could become like Peronism, inasmuch as it would remain an ill-defined, often contradictory ideology.
You say Evita, I say Ivanka.
But let’s not forget Don, Jr. Aside from his name (think of the money they’d save on signs and stickers!), Junior, it turns out, is wildly popular with Trump’s base. If exciting rally-goers and trolling the libs on Twitter are the keys to success, then Junior has a fighting chance to succeed his old man.
Of course, at this point, it’s only fair to point out that America has always loved dynasties. Trump didn’t invite this. Just ask John Adams. Or John F. Kennedy.
Heck, if it wasn’t for Donald Trump, we very well could have seen a Bush vs. Clinton rematch in 2016.
Let’s not pretend America doesn’t love dynasties. Even now, we live in a world where Trump is frequently defended by Jerry Falwell’s son, Ron Paul’s son, and (sometimes) Dick Cheney’s daughter. Trump’s greatest Republican rival is arguably the son of Irving Kristol—though the son of Lucianne Goldberg does it in a much more humorous manner. And if Ivanka decides to run, her rebranding effort will probably start start on The View, where she can try to charm John McCain’s (or Jon Huntsman’s) daughter.
That’s not to impugn the idea of a family business. To be sure, these scions are all talented in their own right—just as Ivanka is an impressive young woman. It’s just that having the right connections—having the right name—goes a long way.
This speaks to the power of brands—something Trump knows a little bit about. You know who else realizes this? Hollywood. That’s why I watched Creed II—which is really Rocky VIII—on my last flight. If you haven’t seen it, Apollo Creed’s son fights Ivan Drago’s son—proving that there’s nothing new under the, er, sun.
Still, I’m not sure I have expressed how ubiquitous this is. To do so, it’s important to look past the main plots for the subplots that play out mostly on political Twitter. Last week’s news included Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson tattling about a liberal writer to her famous feminist writer mom (Beast contributor Molly Jong-Fast and famous mom Erica). It also featured a story about the daughter of a prominent conservative blogger losing her cable news contributorship upon leaving Politico for the Washington Free Beacon.
These mini-dramas will soon be forgotten. I only mention them because their recency demonstrates how pervasive these things are.
But I don’t want to go too far with this.
Although a mostly-benign form of nepotism is rampant in our political and media circles; I am not attempting to downplay the unique dangers a Trump dynasty would pose.
While a George P. Bush or Chelsea Clinton presidency would certainly speak to privilege, a lack of imagination, and (in the case of the Clintons) a sort of low-grade corruption, Bush and Clinton didn’t go around joking about being president for life. In my book, that makes a big difference.
Like so many of our other vices, Trump didn’t invent political dynasties in America, he just takes them to a much eerier—creepier—place.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.