With Oedipal drama never far from America’s political consciousness, it was only a matter of a time before Donald Trump’s youngest son, Barron, was thrust under the spotlight. Would he, the nation’s pundits speculated last week, at the tender age of 18, assume his first political position: that of a Florida delegate to the upcoming Republican Party convention?

In the end, no less than his mother Melania was forced to step in, clarifying that young Barron “regretfully declines to participate due to prior commitments”. Yet her assurances will have done little to dispel the notion that, as it starts to wane, the MAGA movement will be little more than a family affair.

Donald Trump Jr has, after all, been active politically since the 2016 election, spending time campaigning for several republican candidates during the 2018 midterms, and again taking an active role in the electoral campaign of 2020. His sister, Ivanka, meanwhile, was rumoured to be angling for Marco Rubio’s senatorial seat in Florida, before eventually denying such plans. Her husband, Jared Kushner, is arguably even more central: in the mythology around the Trump presidency — that of the hapless but well-intentioned monarch surrounded by devious, conniving viziers and ministers — Kushner figures prominently as one of the villains.

From the start, the extended Trump clan and their role in US politics has had something of a “dog catches car” quality to it, in at least two respects. First, many of the attempts to get the family involved have been either abortive — Ivanka’s senatorial trial balloon, Barron Trump’s potential role as a GOP conference delegate — or fairly ill-received in practice. Second, the way in which Trump has tried to make politics a “family business” increasingly gives the impression of a political movement that fundamentally doesn’t know where it is going, nor what it intends to do once it gets there.

One can here make a comparison with a figure like Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Bill and Hillary. There was never really the sense that the various no-show, well-paid sinecures Chelsea was handed were part of some nascent movement to revive America, drain the swamp, or take back control: this was pure trading favours for access. A grift, in other words, but an honest grift: one that was never confused about what the point of it all was. The talk about nominating Barron Trump as a GOP delegate, however, came at a moment of profound confusion within both the US Right in general and the MAGA movement in particular. The American Right is increasingly losing its cohesion, and it’s starting to manifest in haphazard attempts to create a political family dynasty.

Just recently, the America First Policy Institute — a Trump-affiliated think tank — released a report detailing proposals for a more robust and solid foreign policy for Trump’s second term in office. The suggestions are revealing, because they are essentially far more belligerent on the question of Ukraine — including a desire to keep arming the country even though the US is facing its own huge financial woes and cannot adequately restock its own arms inventories — than MAGA voters themselves. Far from being radical or shocking, “America First” policy initiatives increasingly seem like the same old Washington consensus that Trump supposedly set out to destroy.

But the issues surrounding the various idiosyncrasies of the extended Trump universe now appear fairly irrelevant, at least when compared with the troubles closer to home. Trump’s decision to team up with Republican speaker Mike Johnson — a man who is widely viewed as a traitor on the Right, and has been claimed by the Democratic Party as de facto “their” man in the house of representatives — in order to bury the issue of the American border while shunting a hundred billion dollars into foreign hands might very well be seen by future historians as the moment that he destroyed his own political career.

“The issues surrounding the various idiosyncrasies of the extended Trump universe now appear fairly irrelevant.”

The severity of this self-inflicted blow to his own credibility and political legacy is easy to underestimate, for the simple reason that people have been conditioned to think of Trump as a snake charmer, and his voters as fundamentally irrational; when Trump says he could shoot a man on the street in New York in broad daylight and still be as loved as before, his liberal opponents all too often make the mistake of taking him both seriously and literally.

In truth, however, Trump is hardly immortal. History is full of political figures who rise to prominence relatively quickly, only to be abandoned and cast aside just as fast. In early 20th-century Russia, the orthodox priest Father Gapon became by far the most popular leader for the nascent Russian worker’s movement, easily outcompeting the more radical socialist and communist actors for that role. It did him very little good in the long run: after Russian soldiers opened fire on a demonstration he led in 1905, it’s as if all of Russia simply forgot he ever existed and moved on to more radical politics. But even in America the time between victory and disgrace can be very, very short. Richard Nixon’s 1972 electoral victory was one of the greatest landslides in American history; two years later his political career was destroyed.

Such an outcome for Donald Trump is not just possible, it is actually very likely. He is now backtracking across a range of areas — mostly to do with foreign policy — away from an earlier posture of trying to avoid foreign adventurism. He is trying to score points by stressing his willingness to support Israel hand over fist at precisely the moment that support for Israel inside the US Right is starting to be called into question, and opposition to foreign aid in the face of a looming bankruptcy crisis is rising to record highs. Moreover, signs from the American banking sector are becoming increasingly worrying, even as the US population is carrying record amounts of credit card debt — and debt defaults are spiking. The combination of weakened enthusiasm from his own base, a chaotic and messy personnel and policy situation, and finally the very real possibility that the majority of the next presidential term will be defined by very serious domestic economic crisis — perhaps even a Liz Truss-style scare in the bond markets — has the makings of a political crisis from which not even Trump will be able to extricate himself.

In this context, the emptiness of those seeking to create a political dynasty out of Trump’s family becomes plain to see: those who seek its warm embrace exude political helplessness, just as a child crawls to his mother when he’s scared. Rather than Prince Barron riding to its rescue, the Trump clan, like the MAGA movement itself, is likely to be viewed by future historians as a political failure: unable to deal with its own contradictions or idiosyncrasies, nor able to keep up with the rising tide of discontent sweeping across America, it turns in on itself like a black hole — until, eventually, it implodes.

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Source: UnHerd Read the original article here: https://unherd.com/