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America and the Trump Conundrum

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Trump is patently semi-fascist. His devouring ethnocentrism (American Greatness) and xenophobia (Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Muslim) confirms a structural-ideological process at work of social Nazification underpinned by his dedication to wealth and amorphous quest for power. In this respect he is the easy target of liberals and progressives, both Democrats as a whole and a moderate segment of Republicans, as well as the “responsible” media like The New York Times.

No argument there. If it were possible to stand alone, abstracting all circumstances and reality, the foregoing would hold, true in and of itself, without qualification. Yet I do not detract from this indictment of Trump, an absolute menace to democratic thought and practice, when I say it is only half the story. The other half is America itself, particularly those who portray him as a monster. They do not have clean hands, Obama and Clinton on down, including most of what we commonly think of as the Left.

Trump is America. I am not a social scientist, i.e., one who, as Barrington Moore pointed out, could carry societal propositions through to the fourth decimal place and certify their validity. I am frankly impressionistic here, but I estimate that between half and two-thirds of all Americans deep down think as Trump does—and the record of American history since World War II tends to confirm that. The leopard cannot change its spots, except at election time, when it behooves one side to appear more enlightened than the other, submerging gut (and thought out) positions to the smug declaration of liberalism and human rights.

Every position he has thus far announced, as so many nails in his political coffin and immediately pounced on for disclosure and condemnation, is actually what the vast majority of Americans believe. It is not simply that Trump is semi-fascist traveling the path to a fulsome actualization, but that America also is: ethnocentric, xenophobic, and worse, blood-thirsty in its pursuit of National Security and the triumphalism of monopoly capital. Anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, of course, though not admitted for public consumption. Deference to wealth and the wealthy—so what else is new? Patriotism as code for conformity to racial principles (to which blacks under Obama have submitted, surrendering any potential radicalism that would result in dignity and equality), hierarchical social structuring, and the all-pervasive poisons of militarism—ditto.

In other words, criticism of Trump is misleading and self-serving. No one really cares about his fascistic policy stands, his insults, his broad-based defamations of character, because they are ours as well, the Mighty Fortress of Purity nicknamed, Exceptionalism. What we care about are his references to Putin and Russia. There he goes too far. Every think-tank intellectual and defense “expert” is up-in-arms (literally) at this manifest betrayal of Cold War moral truths about America’s place in the world. If Trump had played it straight, as expected by both parties and the general electorate, Pentagon jargon at the ready, anticommunism in tow, Free World rhetoric freshly minted for the occasion, we would have a very different presidential contest.

Hypocrisy is running rampant (which he may or may not sense). Clinton is just as ideologically and politically rotten as he, rotten—a strong term I use unapologetically (it signifies putridity, moral corruption)—on both domestic and foreign policy. The Putin/Russian invocation is a convenience when we mean something else—a fear of exposure to the whole policy drift that America and its leadership have taken. If anything, Trump and Clinton are a step behind the nation’s fascist tendencies, which is why they have been thrust up to the political roles they now enjoy. Is Clinton any better than Trump on Wall Street, on privatization, on financial concentration, market penetration, corporate taxation, even recipient of business largesse and friendship? From Goldwater Girl to the present, she hasn’t changed an iota, if anything, under Bill’s example and tutelage, more extreme in supporting and benefiting from a militarized, brutal mode of capitalism than could have been foreseen at Wellesley.

But it is her foreign-policy baggage, an undeniable record, that marks her stride-for-stride with Trump, or in fact ahead of him in the high art of intervention, regime change, political murder—for what else is approval of armed drone targeted assassination, but that? Clinton, the Lincoln Great Emancipator of Children, is responsible for the murder of more children as Secretary of State and before and after, as in recommending the Afghan surge, and in her coziness with Flournoy and Panetta (destined for Cabinet posts if she should win) that beckons America to a war-footing posture of permanent war. Trump is grade-school material compared with Clinton in harnessing the War Establishment for purposes of military-ideological confrontation with both Russia and China, a simultaneous unilateral push for uncontested world dominance.

Conclusion: Not that Trump is Debs, Heywood, or Dr. King. He is as close to the incarnation of evil as they come. But so is Clinton. So is practically every liberal and progressive who for too long have kept their rancid antiradicalism beneath the surface as they have countenanced or actively supported domestic repression and foreign aggression. Criticizing Trump and not in equal measure and with equal conviction Clinton is to stand awash in false consciousness, making one complicit in the continued fascistization of America.

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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