Opinion | It doesn’t end with Trump’s arrest


Courtesy of Dan Keck / Flickr

Trump flag is flown next to an American flag at a home in Logan, Ohio. Columnist Dan Kibler argues that Trump’s arrest won’t stop the rise of the far-right movement in the US — which has since grown beyond Trump himself. Rather, solving systemic issues in society will.

By Dan Kibler, Columnist

It might indeed be the end of the road for Donald Trump.

After years of speculation into his business dealings shortly before and during his presidency, Trump was indicted by a New York grand jury due to hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign. 

This, of course, comes in the greater context of the January 6th Committee’s investigations into how Trump may have been responsible for the riots that occurred at the Capitol. 

Now, what to do here is simple. If Trump broke the law, he should be punished. That is how laws should apply to everybody, in a completely equal manner. Nobody, even former presidents, should be above the law. However, there is much more to unpack and be said in the upcoming fallout of an unprecedented event such as a former president facing serious charges. 

Given the political polarity that such a figure inherently possesses, Trump’s arrest is perceived by some to be a political event, regardless of the apolitical charges he is facing. 

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Democrats will probably take the upcoming arrest of Trump as a “victory for Democracy” and declare the supremacy of their ideology over Trump’s. Republicans will probably see it as they have for the past two years — a politically motivated witch hunt — and dig in their heels. 

It’s the way of the world, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

What I’m trying to say is: Do not expect anybody to be apolitical on this topic. The media agenda will double down on partisan propaganda, from Rachel Maddow on one side to Tucker Carlson on the other.

Therefore, in the upcoming media firestorm, there is something that everybody involved should remember: Trump is just a guy. He’s not Darth Vader. This isn’t a “blowing up the Death Star” moment. 

By that, I mean that there is a misconception that Trump is this dictatorial mastermind figure that once you get rid of, the entire societal force will wither away. This is a fallacy that stems from many real dictatorial figures such as Hitler or Mao that had so much personal control over their movements that erasing the head would render the movement inoperable.

If Trump is in jail, don’t expect “MAGA” to just magically go away and for the whole world to go back to 2014. MAGA is here for good, and the past cannot be undone. This can already be seen with people like Ron DeSantis posing to take Trump’s place as its figurehead.

Consider where MAGA comes from. It comes from majority white, rural and rust belt communities that have been gutted by deindustrialization and the mismanagement of things like the Opioid epidemic and economic stagnation. 

Declining communities scarred by drug abuse and poverty are perfect environments for nativist and sometimes outright reactionary or racist politics to thrive.

Whether these problems are just the fault of “illegal aliens” or “globalist elites” is just a partisan argument. However, many people simply default to these explanations because the problems aren’t being dealt with and are often ignored completely. 

There is much talk about the rise of “democratic backsliding” by academics in the Western world, pointing to people like Trump and figures like Italy’s Giorgia Meloni and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro as “demagogues.”

If we are to believe that Trump is a “demagogue” as they say, and that’s why he’s so dangerous, we have to logically follow through with that assumption. 

Demagogues feed on angry and unsatisfied people. In the context of Trump, he might be going, but the people and environment are still there. Trump being gone arguably makes the situation worse. His base has, in theory, “warrant” — given their “political witch hunt” theory — to believe that the government is out to get them by attacking their figurehead. This could lead to additional radicalization.

Think of the “MAGA” base as a sword. The man wielding it might be leaving, but the weapon is still there, waiting for someone much more competent to pick it back up. As long as the issues plaguing those same rural and rust belt communities exist, all it takes is someone else to pick up right where Trump left off. Trump was just the first to wield this environment for his own political benefit.

Therefore, those in power have to get to the source of Trump, per se. They must answer why this is actually happening and try to defuse the underlying environment. They must offer solutions, instead of pretending it isn’t there or gaslighting those afflicted communities into believing they actually deserve it.

Without making deindustrialized America more livable and helping those dissatisfied people out, Trump is not the conclusion of the American demagogue: He’s the prelude. 


Dan is a senior in LAS.

[email protected]