Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Fearful Ascendency: the Rise of Trump

What began as a joke is now no laughing matter. Donald Trump will most likely be the Republican nominee for the President of the United States. Given the deep uncertainty of this presidential campaign, there is a sense that he could even win the presidency. The headquarters of the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C., teeters in fearful anticipation. No one would like to speak openly about the presumptive nominee, but most of the party faithful fear his ascendency.

Trump, the real estate baron, is truly an outside candidate. He says anything he wants, including dismissing the formidable pieties of the Republican Party on trade and foreign policy, and is therefore out of the party establishment’s control. Each of the mainstream candidates (Jeb Bush and Chris Christie) fell before Trump’s withering attacks and the massive support these attacks generated. Christie fell and then joined Trump’s juggernaut. Along New York City’s western highway are a series of buildings that bear—in large letters—Trump’s name. He was the real estate developer of these Trump Place Apartments. The Republican Party fears that it has been transformed into the Trump Party. He has done a hostile buyout under their noses.

The last Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, went to the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah to deliver a major address against Trump. Robert Hinckley created this institute in 1965 to “encourage the youngest and best minds to enter politics”. Neither Trump nor Romney fits the bill. Barack Obama defeated Romney in 2012. Trump seized the irony of a failed candidate taking the podium to attack his own party’s leading candidate. “Mitt is a choke artist,” said Trump in his inimitably harsh style. “He choked like I’ve never seen anyone choke.” Romney, in the same gutter style, called Trump “a phony, a fraud”. Trump’s “promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University”, said Romney. “He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.” Romney was referring to the red hats that are now commonplace at Trump rallies. They bear the slogan: “Make America Great Again”. This is the sum total of Trump’s message. He has said little else.

An indicator of how removed Romney and the Republican establishment are from the mood of the electorate of the Right was that several people in the Utah audience of 700 wore these Trump hats. When Romney said, “Donald Trump tells us he is very, very smart,” a heckler yelled, “Smarter than you!”

Ted Cruz, deeply disliked

On many issues, Trump is not as harsh as his rival Ted Cruz. Cruz comes from the extreme right-wing Tea Party section of the Republicans. He is an uncompromising religious zealot, who believes in much the same kind of programme as Trump on issues of immigration and war-making. (It was Cruz, after all, who said that he would bomb Iraq and Syria to “make the desert glow”.) Cruz is deeply disliked by his Republican colleagues. At a Washington Press Club meeting in late February, the party leader Lindsey Graham said: “If you kill Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you.” Beneath Senator Graham’s joke is an edge of what is widely believed. Cruz is no better than Trump and yet is the only other viable candidate in the Republican primary.

Romney urged his party to block Trump, not at the elections, where his warning has been irrelevant. A few days after Romney made his speech, Trump handily triumphed in the primary elections in Kentucky and Louisiana (Cruz won in Kansas and Maine) and is now well ahead to become the presidential nominee. What Romney wants is for the party leaders at their convention to create rules that circumvent Trump’s election victories and deliver the candidacy to an acceptable person. He did not say who this should be. This is for the better since the two establishment candidates (Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Governor John Kasich of Ohio) are anaemic.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 6.05.40 PM-1

A “brokered convention” has its perils since it would likely turn off those people who are loyal Trump voters and who might boycott the general election in November. This would deliver a landslide to the Democratic Party, not only in the presidential election but mainly in the concurrent elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives. In anticipation of that prospect, the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (a State that voted for Trump), will release his members so that they can attack Trump as they run for their own elections. This is pandemonium.

Why do the Republicans fear Trump so much? Romney evoked the racism and misogyny of the Trump campaign. Romney even said the word “misogyny”, something of historical proportions for a party that has systematically gone after women’s reproductive health and women’s rights. The “gender gap” in the 2012 presidential election was the largest in U.S. history, with the Democrats winning the women vote by 20 points.

On racism, the Republican coalition has relied upon Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” of 1968, which evoked issues of “law and order” and “States’ rights” to send a message—blow dog whistles—to whites in the South that the Republicans would not honour the victories of the civil rights movement. The idea of “cutting taxes” and “stopping welfare” suggested that whites would not have to provide compensation for the years of slavery and apartheid. It was a not-so-subtle way to reproduce racism in the Republican coalition. What Trump has done is merely shout out loudly what the Republican Party wants whispered. His fulminations against Mexicans and Muslims—dangerous as they are—emerged directly out of the coded racism of the Republican establishment. Trump is the outcome of the Southern Strategy, of the anti-immigrant sentiment in the party and the deep wells of Islamophobia that have been cultivated since the 1990s. In this, Trump’s danger is his nakedness.

What worries the establishment is more than this surely. Trump’s erratic political positions whip from condemnation of the Iraq War of 2003 to denunciation of the trade agreements from the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 to the current Trans-Pacific Partnership. There is fear among the business elite that Trump will not honour the carefully crafted consensus between the two parties to protect the global interests of what is now called the 1%. The sum total of Trump’s platform was enunciated clearly in 2015 at a rally in Jacksonville, Florida: “We’re going to make our country great again. Remember this: the American dream will be back, bigger and stronger, I promise, than ever before. Ever.” With wages flat since 1973 for workers, that dream has been unattainable for at least two generations. It is the distance from that dream that draws disgruntled white rural voters to Trump and college students and urban multi-ethnic voters to the socialist barnstorming candidacy of Bernie Sanders.

Both Sanders and Trump have rattled the cages of the consensus. Sanders, the establishment believes, will eventually be undone by Hillary Clinton, who will loyally protect the interests of the 1%—unlike both Sanders and Trump. While Sanders could enliven the politics of unions and community organisations, Trump has merely enflamed the politics of his stature. One opens the door to a conversation about socialism, while the other opens the door to Trump. The establishment recognises the choice these men place before the electorate. It is socialism or—dare one say the word—fascism.

This essay originally appeared in Frontline (India).

More articles by:

Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2015).

October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
Ramzy Baroud
That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah
Zhivko Illeieff
Addiction and Microtargeting: How “Social” Networks Expose us to Manipulation
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What is Truth?
Michael Doliner
Were the Constitution and the Bill of Rights a Mistake?
Victor Grossman
Cassandra Calls
Ralph E. Shaffer
Could Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Hearing Ended Differently?
Vanessa Cid
Our Everyday Family Separations
Walaa Al Ghussein
The Risks of Being a Journalist in Gaza
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal and Treachery—The Extremism of Moderates
James Munson
Identity Politics and the Ruling Class
P. Sainath
The Floods of Kerala: the Bank That Went Under…Almost
Ariel Dorfman
How We Roasted Donald Duck, Disney’s Agent of Imperialism
Joe Emersberger
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s Assault on Human Rights and Judicial Independence
Ed Meek
White Victimhood: Brett Kavanaugh and the New GOP Brand
Andrew McLean, MD
A Call for “Open Space”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail