The Hat Tip's Inaugural Issue

What did President Biden do; Trump's Patriot Party

Welcome to the inaugural issue of the Hat Tip.

I’m still figuring out what to put in a newsletter, so bear with me. This issue really focuses on the US.

In this issue

  1. The Big News: Inauguration

  2. Considering: Trump’s “Patriots Party”

  3. Curious: Portland Anarchists smash Dem HQ

The Big News: Inauguration

Joe Biden was sworn in as President of the United States. You probably watched it, or saw a clip. Well, unless you were watching the One America News Network (OANN), which devoted the entire day to a Trump retrospective and ignored the inauguration altogether. Fine, but not a particularly viable business model. How is OANN going to fill airtime next week?

Two small but noteworthy things Biden has already done:

  1. He fired Michael Pack, CEO of the US Agency for Global Media. The USAGM, which oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other US Government owned media channels, is supposed to be non-partisan and allow full journalistic independence to its media channels. Pack became CEO just last June, and ripped the agency apart, trying to turn it into a Government-run Trumpist propaganda network. Hopefully, it can be saved now — though Pack made some appointments that might be harder to reverse.

  2. He signed nominations for Cabinet and sub-Cabinet positions. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, true. But consider that Trump didn’t nominate, say, a Deputy Education Secretary until October 2017, and he didn’t get confirmed until May 2018! Getting these sub-Cabinet roles nominated and filled as soon as possible is vital for a successful early Presidency. Biden’s already nominated most deputy-secretary roles. Of course, there are still hundreds of Senate-confirmable positions without nominees, but this is a strong start.

One thing Biden hasn’t done – yet – is fire Michael Ellis, a Trump loyalist who became general counsel of the National Security Agency just yesterday. Ellis was involved in sharing classified information with Devin Nunes in the “midnight run”, and reportedly retaliated illegally against Alexander Vindman’s brother after Vindman testified at Trump’s impeachment. The appointment would always have been controversial, but starting one day before Biden was sworn in made it downright sinister.

Firing Ellis is sticky, because technically it’s a career position, but, as Susan Hennessey says, Biden can legally fire him and then deal with any other legal consequences later.

UPDATE: CNN is now reporting that Ellis was put on administrative leave and his appointment is now under investigation by the Defense Department’s Inspector-General. Fast work!

Considering: Trump’s “Patriots Party”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday night that Donald Trump was considering founding his own political party, the “Patriots Party”.

I first touched on this topic in 2019, but the idea of a Trump Party of some sort has been popular in certain MAGA circles since before he was even elected.

Trump, of course, has been a registered Democrat, a registered Republican, an Independence Party member, an independent, and a prospective Reform Party candidate. Nobody ever thought Trump was committed to the GOP; the party forced him to sign a pledge not to run as a third-party candidate if he lost the 2016 nomination, a pledge he backed away from a few months later.

After the Republicans’ victory in the 2016 election, Trump’s main initial opposition was from GOP majorities in Congress who didn’t support Trump’s big-government nativist agenda. Some speculated that Trump could do deals with the Democrats to get big spending passed. And that almost happened, but Trump ultimately buckled to the criticism from the Republican Right.

Meanwhile in MAGA-land

Trump’s deep MAGA base was sceptical of the Republican Party from the beginning. These were Trump’s early supporters in the chans and Reddit, who loved his rhetoric about smashing powerful elites. Trump’s 2016 campaign attacked Hillary Clinton as being too close to business, in the pocket of bankers and not tough enough on Saudi Arabia, while also opposing immigration and using racism and Islamophobia as weapons.

The chan-dwellers thought Trump was a bit of a joke at first, but the joke was at the expense of the elites, and they loved it. But, as is often the way in these edgy online communities, eventually the people who are roleplaying as hardcore Trump supporters who thought he was a perfect genius metamorphosed into people who really believed it.

In mid-2017, they’d had it with the GOP criticising Trump’s tweets and blocking his plans in Congress. They wanted a party that was loyal to Trump and Trump alone: the Lion Party.

The earliest Lion Party references I found were in December 2016, but by late 2017 it was all the rage on The_Donald, the main pro-Trump subreddit at that time, and 4chan’s /pol/.

It was a way of breaking with the ‘traitorous’ GOP and also expressing the principles they believed in: nativism, border walls, immigration limits, rolling back cultural liberalism, but also government spending, healthcare and fighting big business.

Ultimately, the Lion Party faded away as the entire GOP pretty much fell into line with Trump after the 2018 mid-terms, and Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic House majority could be the new enemy. The Republican and MAGA factions more or less merged, and it seemed like there was no need for a new Trump Party because there already was one.

Almost immediately after Trump lost the 2020 election, though, the MAGA faction reasserted itself. The forums filled up with references to the “Uniparty” and claims that there are only two real parties in America: Patriots (i.e. Trump supporters) and Traitors (everyone else).

And now the idea has reached Trump himself.

Third Positionism

What would the Patriot Party look like, politically? Looking at the MAGA base and Trump himself, it would be hyper-nationalist, mercantilist on trade, culturally conservative and reactionary. It’d be tough on immigration, but in favour of healthcare. It would oppose foreign intervention unless America gets to “take the oil”. It’d feel that Government should be more powerful than big corporations.

It would be neither Capitalist or Socialist, but Patriotic, seeking a national renewal that could Make America Great Again. And it would be devoted to the figure of a single, strong leader in Trump.

Ringing any bells yet? Yup, this is basically Third Positionism, or Neo-Fascism. The Patriots Party, at least as it’s seen in the MAGA forums, would be a fascist party.

Will it Happen?

America’s constitution and electoral setup tend to produce a two-party system. The winner-takes-all allocation of Electoral Votes and the contingent election procedure mean that things get very messy otherwise. The Patriots Party can’t really win nationally, and I don’t see Trump leading the charge in city council elections.

But I’m not sure that’s the point. Trump has two strong motivations right now apart from winning:

  1. He wants to punish Republicans who wouldn’t help his attempted coup. A third party is a way to burn it all down and split the conservative vote

  2. He doesn’t want to be convicted in the Senate. The threat of a third party could scare some Republicans into backing off.

Of course, if Trump does go down this route, there’s also the possibility of defections in the House, in particular, and of local GOP branches.

Ultimately, I don’t think this is going to happen. But it is a vision of a possible future of Trumpism untethered from the Republican Party, reforming into a truly independent political force.

Curious: Portland Anarchists smash Dem HQ

Something to keep an eye on: Black Bloc anarchosocialist types smashed up the local Democratic party office in Portland, broke windows and spray-painted “Fuck Biden” on the building in protest against police violence.

No, this doesn’t appear to be Trump supporters or a false flag. I’ll be keeping an eye on this sort of thing, too.

Thanks for reading the first issue of the Hat Tip. This is a work in progress. If you have any feedback, comments, or segments I should add, let me know!