Protesters holding 'anti trump flags' at a large demonstration against Donald Trump's policies.

Unraveling Trump’s Legacy: Social Media, Civil Leadership, and National Identity

Table Of Contents

    Donald Trump's presidency and its aftermath have left an indelible mark on American society, weaving through various sectors and sparking intense debate and polarization. His controversial tenure ignited significant discussions surrounding nationalism, foreign policy, civil-military relations, and the role of media in politics. One of the most vivid expressions of the public's response to his political influence is captured by the phenomenon of the 'anti-Trump flag.' This symbol, often seen at protests and on social media, serves not just as a political stance but as a barometer of the broader resistance against what many perceive as a divisive leadership style.

    The relevance of the 'anti-Trump flag' in today's discourse extends beyond a mere opposition symbol. It encapsulates a larger narrative of resistance and critique, mirroring the nation's grappling with Trump's complex legacy. This flag, and what it represents, have become a pivotal point for discussions on identity, patriotism, and dissent in the Trump era, reflecting deep societal rifts that continue to influence American politics and culture.

    In this blog post, we will delve into recent academic research that explores various aspects of Trump’s influence. These studies offer insights into how his presidency has reshaped nationalism, affected civil-military relations, highlighted issues of corruption in foreign investments, and exacerbated domestic polarization. For instance, Saif Shahin's research on social media's role at Trump-related protests reveals how digital platforms have become arenas for ideological battles. Similarly, Burke and Matisek's analysis provides a critical look at the challenges to apolitical military leadership under Trump’s command, while Chaisse’s and Pitas’ works further dissect the legal and societal implications of his policies. Together, these scholarly works provide a structured framework to understand the sprawling impact of Trump’s administration, guiding us through a nuanced exploration of a presidency that continues to stir vigorous debate and analysis.

    Screen capture of social media posts featuring 'anti trump flags' and related political hashtags.

    How Does Social Media Shape Nationalism at Trump-Related Protests?

    In the landscape of modern political discourse, social media platforms have become pivotal battlegrounds where ideologies are both challenged and reinforced. The study conducted by Saif Shahin in 2023, titled "Tweeting the flag: User-generated nationalism at a pro-Trump protest and counter-protest", provides a profound exploration into how social media not only reflects but also shapes the currents of nationalism in the context of Trump-related protests. This analysis will delve into the role of user-generated content and its significant impact on identity politics, drawing on specific examples from Shahin's findings.

    The Amplification of Nationalist Sentiments

    Shahin's research highlights how social media acts as a powerful amplifier of nationalist sentiments, particularly in the heated environment of political protests. Platforms like Twitter become arenas where symbols, such as flags and slogans, are not just shared but are imbued with deep political and cultural significance. The study carefully examines how various groups use these symbols to promote and assert their identity and political stance.

    • Symbolic Representation: The American flag, for instance, is often depicted in various forms—sometimes adorned with Trump's image—serving as a potent symbol of loyalty to the Trump ideology among his supporters.
    • Hashtags as Rallying Calls: Hashtags such as #MAGA or #Trump2024 are used to organize and mobilize supporters, creating a sense of community and shared purpose.

    The Role of User-Generated Content in Shaping Perceptions

    User-generated content on social media does more than just spread information; it shapes perceptions and influences public discourse. Shahin's study points out that during Trump-related protests, supporters and detractors of Trump use social media to craft narratives that support their views.

    • Narrative Control: Participants in these protests actively engage in shaping the narrative around Trump’s policies and presidency. For example, pro-Trump content often highlights themes of patriotism and national strength, while counter-protests focus on issues of inclusivity and tolerance.
    • Echo Chambers: Social media platforms can often become echo chambers, where users are exposed primarily to information that reinforces their pre-existing beliefs and biases. This phenomenon is evident in the way content is shared within these communities, intensifying divisions and solidifying group identities.

    Examples from Shahin's Study

    Shahin's research provides concrete examples of how social media interactions at Trump-related protests encapsulate and propel the discourse around nationalism:

    • Pro-Trump Protest: At a pro-Trump protest, social media was flooded with images and videos that highlighted signs and banners proclaiming America’s greatness and Trump’s role in that perceived renaissance. These posts were often accompanied by captions that framed the protest as a stand against what they termed as 'un-American' values, which were attributed to the political left.
    • Counter-protest: Conversely, the counter-protesters used social media to document their advocacy for diversity and social justice, posting content that highlighted inclusivity and criticized Trump’s policies. In an effort to counter the nationalism that Trump supporters promote, this content frequently included personal narratives and calls for broader societal change.


    The interplay between social media and nationalism at Trump-related protests, as detailed by Shahin's study, reveals a complex picture of how digital platforms are used as tools for political expression and mobilization. The user-generated content not only serves as a reflection of the prevailing political sentiments but also as a mechanism for influencing public opinion and reinforcing group identities. This dynamic underscores the transformative power of social media in modern political protests, where it acts not just as a passive medium of communication but as an active participant in the shaping of national discourse.

    High-ranking military officials in a serious discussion during Donald Trump's presidency.

    What Are the Implications of Trump's Presidency on Civil-Military Relations?

    The presidency of Donald Trump marked a period of unprecedented strain and scrutiny in the realms of civil-military relations. The comprehensive analysis by R. Burke and J. Matisek in their study, "Trump (ing) Tradition: Old Laws, New Norms, and the Danger to Civil–Military Relations", published in 2024, delves into how Trump's tenure impacted these vital relationships. This section examines the challenges of maintaining an apolitical military leadership under Trump and the impacts on old laws and traditional norms, revealing the complexities and potential dangers associated with the politicization of military leadership.

    The Challenge of Apolitical Military Leadership

    Under Trump’s administration, the traditional apolitical stance of the United States military was tested as never before. Burke and Matisek outline several instances where Trump’s direct interactions and public statements put significant pressure on military leaders to either align with his political agenda or resist and uphold the nonpartisan nature of the military.

    • Pressure on Leadership: Military leaders frequently faced situations where they had to balance obedience to civilian leadership against the ethos of military neutrality in politics. This was particularly evident in situations like the handling of protests in Washington, D.C., where military involvement in civil unrest was demanded by Trump, sparking widespread debate about the role of the military in domestic policing.
    • Public Statements: Trump’s use of social media to announce military policies or criticize military leaders and decisions publicly undermined traditional military protocols and communication channels, leading to confusion and conflict within the ranks.

    Impact on Laws and Norms

    Trump’s presidency also brought unprecedented challenges to the established legal and normative frameworks that govern civil-military relations. Burke and Matisek highlight several areas where Trump’s actions prompted a reevaluation of long-standing military doctrines and legal boundaries.

    • Testing Legal Boundaries: The use of military funding for the construction of a border wall, diverted from Pentagon budgets intended for other purposes, tested constitutional limits and raised questions about the executive's control over military resources.
    • Challenging Traditional Norms: The expectation that military advice should remain confidential was repeatedly breached during Trump's tenure. Public disagreements between Trump and high-ranking military officials, which were often aired on social media, disrupted the expected decorum and operational secrecy typically maintained within military circles.

    Examples from Burke and Matisek’s Study

    Burke and Matisek provide detailed case studies and examples that illustrate the tensions between Trump and the military establishment:

    • Intervention in Military Justice: One notable example was Trump’s intervention in military justice cases, where he pardoned military personnel convicted or accused of war crimes, which was widely seen as an erosion of military judicial independence and a dismissal of established military ethics.
    • Deployment Decisions: Their analysis also covers the abrupt decision to withdraw troops from Syria, a move that was reportedly made without full consultation with military advisors, showcasing a disregard for strategic military planning and the advice of experienced military leaders.


    The implications of Trump's approach to civil-military relations extend beyond his term in office. They pose serious questions about the resilience of military policies and practices in the face of politicization. Burke and Matisek's study serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of maintaining a clear separation between military operations and political influence to preserve the strength and integrity of the nation’s military institutions. Their research underscores the necessity for ongoing vigilance and potential legislative or policy changes to safeguard these principles against future challenges.

    anti Trump flag

    How Does the 'Red Flag' Concept Apply to International Investment and Trump's Policies?

    In the realm of international investments, the term 'red flag' is often used to denote warning signs that may indicate potential corruption or unethical practices. Julian Chaisse's 2023 study, "Tackling corruption in foreign investment: Insights from investment arbitration cases", provides a critical analysis of how these indicators are addressed within the legal framework of investment arbitration, and how these mechanisms were influenced during Donald Trump's administration. This section will explore Chaisse’s insights into corruption in foreign investments, the application of 'red flag' warnings in the context of Trump’s foreign policy, and the legal strategies employed to combat corruption.

    Understanding 'Red Flag' Warnings in Investments

    The 'red flag' concept serves as a crucial tool for identifying potential corruption in international investments. Chaisse’s study outlines how these warnings help regulators, investors, and legal professionals to preemptively address issues that might compromise the integrity of investment transactions. These indicators include unusual payment patterns, unexplained preferences for certain contractors or suppliers, and the involvement of politically exposed persons (PEPs) in business dealings.

    • Significance of Vigilance: Regular audits and enhanced due diligence are recommended practices in the fight against corruption, aimed at detecting these red flags early in the investment process.

    Trump’s Foreign Policy and Its Impact on Red Flags

    The foreign policy strategies under Donald Trump notably impacted the dynamics of international investment, particularly with regards to how 'red flag' warnings were perceived and acted upon. Trump's approach, often characterized by unpredictability and unilateral decision-making, had significant implications for international economic relations and investment policies.

    • Influence on Global Practices: Trump’s aggressive trade policies and sanctions regimes raised new red flags in international investments, particularly involving countries like China and Russia. These policies necessitated a reevaluation of risk assessments by international investors and legal experts.
    • Reactions to Political Decisions: The Trump administration's withdrawal from international agreements and renegotiation of trade deals, such as NAFTA into USMCA, introduced new complexities into the legal and regulatory environments governing foreign investments.

    Legal Strategies to Combat Corruption

    Chaisse's research further delves into the legal strategies that have been developed and utilized to address corruption in the sphere of international investments during and after the Trump era. The effectiveness of these strategies often hinges on the robustness of international legal frameworks and the cooperation between nations in enforcement.

    • Strengthening Legal Frameworks: The study highlights the role of international treaties and conventions in providing a legal basis for action against corruption. For example, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention play critical roles.
    • Case Studies and Legal Precedents: Chaisse discusses specific investment arbitration cases where 'red flag' warnings led to significant legal battles. These cases demonstrate the practical challenges and successes in combating corruption, providing lessons on the importance of transparency and accountability.


    The intersection of Trump's foreign policy decisions with the management of red flag warnings in international investments offers a complex view of how national policies can influence global economic practices and legal norms. Chaisse's study not only sheds light on the ongoing challenges in tackling corruption but also emphasizes the critical need for vigilant legal strategies that adapt to the rapidly changing geopolitical landscape. Through detailed analysis and case studies, the research underscores the importance of a coordinated international effort to ensure that investments are conducted ethically and transparently, safeguarding the economic interests of nations and investors alike.

    How Does Domestic Polarization Reflect Larger Conflicts as Viewed by a War Correspondent?

    The intense domestic polarization observed during Donald Trump's presidency has often been described in terms akin to a conflict zone. In his compelling analysis, J.M. Pitas, drawing on his experience as a war correspondent, provides a unique perspective on the internal divisions within the United States. His 2023 article, "A war correspondent's view of conflict in the US: Luke Mogelson turns his keen powers of observation on the worsening polarization in this country," equates the political and social unrest in the U.S. with the dynamics typically found in war-torn regions. This section explores Pitas’ insights into domestic polarization, its comparison to conflict zones, and reflections on the interaction between political factions.

    Domestic Polarization as a Mirror of Global Conflicts

    Pitas’ observations draw a direct line between the methods and consequences of polarization in the U.S. and those in international conflict zones. Political leaders frequently use rhetoric and strategies similar to those of those in unstable or authoritarian regimes, particularly under Trump's administration.

    • Rhetorical Escalation: Just as warlords or sectarian leaders exploit divisions, Trump’s rhetoric often deepened the divides, framing political discourse in terms of loyalty and betrayal, insiders and outsiders.
    • Mobilization of Supporters: Similar to conflict zones where factions mobilize based on ethnic or religious lines, Trump’s approach was to rally support along ideological lines, creating an 'us versus them' mentality that is highly reminiscent of sectarian strife.

    Implications for American Society

    The war correspondent’s viewpoint emphasizes the grave implications of such polarization for American society. By comparing domestic political strife to international conflicts, Pitas highlights the potential long-term consequences of entrenched divisions.

    • Erosion of Social Cohesion: Just as in conflict zones, where societal trust is broken down along factional lines, America saw an erosion of trust in key institutions and among different segments of the population.
    • Violence and Confrontation: The rhetoric and polarization can lead to actual violence, as seen in various incidents during Trump's presidency, where political confrontations sometimes escalated into physical altercations, mirroring the sectarian violence observed in war zones.

    Reflections on the Interactions Between Political Factions

    Pitas provides an in-depth look at the interactions between various political factions within the United States, reflecting on how these interactions contribute to a broader narrative of conflict.

    • Amplification Through Media: Just as conflict reporters highlight the role of media in war zones, Pitas notes how American media outlets played a significant role in amplifying divisive messages, further entrenching each side’s viewpoints.
    • Feedback Loop of Hostility: The continuous clash between factions creates a feedback loop, where each incident of conflict or violence serves to justify further entrenchment and radicalization, similar to cycles of retaliation seen in war zones.


    Through the lens of a war correspondent, the domestic polarization under Trump’s presidency reflects deeper, more intractable conflicts that threaten the very fabric of American society. Pitas' comparison to global conflict zones serves as a stark warning: without efforts to bridge these deep divides, the U.S. risks a deterioration in social cohesion that could mimic the instability seen in countries long plagued by conflict. This perspective is not only a reflection on past events but also a cautionary tale for future political discourse in the United States.


    Throughout this exploration, we've delved into the multifaceted impact of Donald Trump's presidency on American society, as detailed through recent academic research. From the dynamics of social media in shaping nationalist sentiments at Trump-related protests to the challenges of maintaining an apolitical military amidst political pressures, each study offers a deep dive into the complexities introduced or exacerbated by Trump's administrative approach.

    The articles analyzed reveal a common theme: Trump's presidency has had a lasting effect on the norms and structures of various societal sectors, including civil-military relations, international investment strategies, and domestic polarization. This exploration has illuminated how, under Trump's influence, traditional norms were often challenged or disregarded, leading to a reevaluation of established practices across multiple domains.

    Reflecting on these insights emphasizes the ongoing importance of dialogue and scholarly research in understanding the broader implications of such a contentious period in American politics. As we move forward, it is crucial to continue examining these themes, to learn from past experiences and to better navigate the challenges of a rapidly evolving political landscape. This discourse is not only essential for academic and political analysts but also for the general public, as it aids in fostering a more informed and engaged citizenry. Thus, the exploration of Trump's legacy, through both critique and analysis, remains a vital part of understanding and shaping the future of American democracy.

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