How Does Trumpism Survive Without Trump? Look No Further Than Megyn Kelly’s Twitter Tirade Against Democrats
In a series of Twitter posts shooting down Democratic calls for unity in the wake of the presidential election, President Trump’s most famous TV nemesis proves that resentment is the engine of conservative politics.
While states continue to count ballots in some of the biggest population centers around the country, one result that is clear from the November 3rd presidential election (other than who is going to be the next president) is that President Trump is something of a turn out machine for the GOP. He received at least 7 million more raw votes this year than in 2016, all but sealing the party’s Senate majority and gains in the House and state-level races.
Still, Democrats managed to overcome a huge upswing in turnout among Republicans with one of their own, delivering a decisive (though smaller than expected) victory to President-elect Joe Biden in the electoral college. President Trump has not conceded the race however, choosing instead to cling to the fantasy that the U.S. Supreme Court will grant him a second term with spurious claims of voter fraud.
Even in his defeat, Republican lawmakers cannot bring themselves to buck Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted there is “no reason for alarm” while the president files lawsuits across the country to contest the vote. Georgia Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who failed to avoid run-offs to retain their seats, have even called for the resignation of the Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, over his supposed failure to “deliver honest and transparent elections”. According to the AJC, Loeffler and Perdue were pressured by the White House to release the statement calling for Raffensperger to resign ahead of the January run-off. It seems that in spite of their gains down the ballot, Republicans have rationalized that it is in their best interest to delegitimize the election so that Trump and his loyal supporters won’t turn on them.
But Republican lawmakers aren’t the only ones to show fealty to Trump in the face of his electoral defeat. With the notable exception of Fox News, conservative news outlets have refused to declare Joe Biden the winner of last week’s presidential election. Reliably pro-Trump provocateurs have also heeded the message from the White House and rallied around the president’s feckless legal fight to get tens of thousands of ballots discarded in multiple states, citing fraud.
Still, no one reflects Trump’s firm grip on the party quite like former Fox News host and Trump nemesis Megyn Kelly. Over the weekend, Kelly posted a tweet in response to President-elect Joe Biden’s tweet calling America a “united” and “healed” nation in the aftermath of his election.
Several people took issue with what appeared to be a mean-spirited attack on Biden over a tweet, and Kelly soon followed up to explain that Biden’s calls for unity rang hollow given how poorly the left has treated Trump supporters over the past four years.
Kelly’s decision to center the feelings of Trump supporters who made disregarding others people’s feelings the motto of their movement was very strange — and not just for the hypocrisy on full display.
Kelly had been on the receiving end of Trump’s targeted cruelty toward the media throughout his 2016 presidential run. Most infamously he suggested that Kelly was tough on him in a Republican primary debate because she was menstruating. Why would she now go out of her way to defend people who backed Trump despite his year-long campaign of sexist public attacks against her?
According to The Daily Beast, Kelly has been in talks with multiple news outlets about a possible return to television. Specifically, The Daily Beast cites Newsmax and One America News Network (OANN), two “aggressively Trumpist” news outlets, as possible homes for Kelly. After a well-publicized exit from NBC in 2018 — where she hosted a decidedly apolitical talk show, only to be fired for comments she made defending blackface as Halloween garb — Kelly could be using her social media platform to regain credibility among conservative audiences.
But it’s just as likely that Kelly genuinely believes Trump supporters are the victims here, even as the president — with the backing of Republican lawmakers and cabinet officials—refuses to accept the outcome of the presidential election. As Kelly made apparent in a follow up tweet to California Rep. Ted Lieu, who pointed out Trump’s racist and xenophobic attacks on immigrants like him, Kelly thinks that calling Trump supporters racist is just as much of an insult as Trump’s racist statements. This false equivalence is then used to justify even more hostility toward Biden— if not more effort to delegitimize him as president-elect.
Kelly, in other words, is offering Trump supporters more than just the validity of their cold feelings toward the Democrats. Like Trump, she is embracing resentment as the engine of conservative politics. As she stipulates to Rep. Lieu, it’s up to Biden to get the left and the media under control first. Until then, conservatives have every right to be angry and dismissive of the new administration.
One does not need to look further than the GOP during the Obama years to know what resentment-as-politics looks like without Trump: obstruction, investigations, and lawsuits with the sole purpose of invalidating democratic elections. Conservatives will quickly point to the Russia investigation or Trump’s impeachment as evidence that Democrats never accepted Trump as president, as though these events were not preceded by Trump’s own actions (like firing the head of the FBI while under federal investigation) and did not have some buy-in from Republicans on Capitol Hill. There is simply no comparison between the Democratic resistance of the Trump years and Republicans during the Obama years deciding that in the middle of a global financial crisis their top priority would be to make President Obama a one-term president.
Megyn Kelly’s ridiculous defense of Trump supporters tracks with how Republicans have always defended the soon-to-be ex-president himself. In their eyes, Trump speaks for the men and women whose fetishization of pain inflicted on their political enemies says nothing about their character and everything about the liberals calling them out.
In other words, the libs had it coming.
Eventually, Trump’s legal efforts to deny his loss will be squashed and he will move out of the White House. There may not be a Republican on the Hill who can match his demagogic appeal, but Megyn Kelly has shown that the best way to keep the Trump legacy alive in the GOP and broader conservative movement is to stay angry. At everything.
Today, Republicans can’t enjoy record turnout for their party and dozens of electoral gains down the ballot because victimization is too wound up in the conservative identity. Instead of working with the new Biden administration, their focus will turn to inventing more ways to make voting harder and Congress less responsive to the public’s need for pandemic relief, among other pressing issues.
Trump will soon be gone, but the cultural resentments that powered his unlikely campaign to the White House four years ago will keep the GOP fueled up for the foreseeable future.