With all of the handwringing over neo-fascist buffoon and likely next President of the United States Donald Trump, very little of value is being written about the circumstances that are fueling his candidacy. America has long been the land of rich, white, racist, xenophobic cranks. They are even referred to on occasion as the Founding Fathers. In normal times, whatever that might mean, the constituency for explicit cranks like Mr. Trump is limited because people are busy with their lives. Following four decades of economic evisceration of the American middle and working classes through engineered competition with low-wage overseas labor, large numbers of likely voters don’t appear to have much of their former lives left to be busy with.
While it is wholly appropriate to call Mr. Trump and his minions out for their racism and xenophobia, the American political establishment has at least as much to answer for in this regard as Mr. Trump. A more nuanced explanation for ascendant xenophobia can be found in the economic competition that this establishment has inflicted from above. Sequential ‘free-trade’ agreements were intended to lower middle and working class wages. The predictable result is widespread economic disenfranchisement in former high wage countries. Mexican peasants displaced by NAFTA have been at least as victimized as displaced American workers, but this hardly finds the real malefactors in the American political establishment placing blame where it lies— with themselves.
Pitting the victims of imperial policies against one-another to preclude organized rebellion is as old as capitalism. It is important to note that Donald Trump isn’t talking about resurrecting a vibrant labor movement when he (correctly) argues that economic disenfranchisement explains much of the popular disillusion with the political establishment. His call for ‘better’ trade negotiators is to redirect exploitation, not to end it. Passage of NAFTA led to the hostile takeover of the indigenous Mexican economy by heavily subsidized U.S. based multi-nationals sending millions of economic refugees fleeing north— the entire program was cynical bullshit from the start. ‘Better’ cynical bullshit is the only thing that Donald Trump is offering.
Much has been made of the cover given the Clintons by the Black misleadership class for their punishingly racist and classist policies like ‘three strikes, you’re out,’ mandatory prison sentences for minor drug offenses, deregulating Wall Street to let it engage in predatory finance, welfare ‘reform’ and the wanton murder of hundreds of thousands of Brown children in Iraq through sanctions. Mr. Trump’s most potent xenophobic rhetoric comes via Hillary Clinton’s creation of around ten million refugees from Syria, Libya and Iraq— all wars directly or indirectly supported by Mrs. Clinton in her own right as a prominent American politician. Mrs. Clinton has hardly stepped forward to claim credit for this human destruction and misery. But the refugees exist to be demonized by Mr. Trump thanks to specific policies that are her handiwork.
One of the points made when Barack Obama refused to prosecute the (George W.) Bush administration’s war crimes was that ‘we,’ the humans that inhabit the planet, were only a few short years away from having someone else assume the role of President of the U.S. With Mr. Trump in ascendance, that particular chicken is coming home to roost. To be clear, Donald Trump needs a body count in the high hundreds of thousands to begin to compete with Mrs. Clinton in terms of creating human death and misery. Might it have been a good idea for Mr. Obama to have re-criminalized war crimes for humanity’s sake? And might it have been a good idea for him to have worried a bit more about the tens of millions of people being tossed onto the economic garbage heap and less about restoring the bankers who put them there?
The American politics of Immaculate Conception, of placing these carefully engineered economic and political outcomes in a distant past so that ideological differences can be put forward as substance, is central to the modern political process. The proverbial fly-in-the-ointment for this program is that now long displaced autoworkers in Detroit and furniture makers in North Carolina understood by the late 1980s that ‘free-trade’ was shorthand for policies to screw them to benefit their bosses and Wall Street. That it took mainstream economists (Krugman, Reich) until last week to understand what most moderately educated workers understood a quarter-of-a-century ago gets filed under the triumph of the obvious.
Related were the myriad ‘mortgage relief’ programs put forward by the Obama administration under the ‘you-people-are-too-stupid-to-know-that-you-are-being-screwed’ philosophy of public policy. “Foaming the runway” with twenty-seven million human lives (nine-million foreclosures X three family members affected by each) is good for engendering enthusiastic disillusion from those directly affected and their friends and extended families. While most foreclosures were resolved long ago in areas where housing has been successfully commodified, some of America’s less populated areas like Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Birmingham, Jackson, Buffalo, Baltimore, Washington, Bridgeport, Hartford, Springfield, Cincinnati, Cleveland and a few hundred other small and medium sized cities are still working through foreclosure nightmares in their city ‘cores.’
Related also is the point made by pundit Tavis Smiley that Black and Brown citizens have seen their lots diminished in both relative and absolute terms under America’s first Black President. The ‘setup,’ the broad policies that led to dispossession, preceded Mr. Obama. The question then is whether Mr. Obama used the tools at his disposal to benefit the people who perceive their lots to be more than tangentially related to his political ascendance. Here the economic fraud that the Clinton’s perpetrated against their nominal constituents comes to bear— Black conservatives across the South raise the issue of the national debt to explain Mr. Obama’s reluctance to better the circumstance of the poorer half of the country when no such constraint exists. As was demonstrated when the Federal government committed tens of trillions of dollars to save Wall Street, the money is always there— for the rich and connected.
A question for the erstwhile feminists who support Hillary Clinton is: which slice of the social ontology is the relevant consideration: class, gender or race? Through her pre-campaign support for the TPP and her husband’s passage of NAFTA, Mrs. Clinton is a dedicated imperialist. From her willingness to destroy entire nations on a whim, Mrs. Clinton is a dedicated militarist. From her campaign funds and personal fortune Mrs. Clinton is a very good friend of Wall Street. From her carceral policies Mrs. Clinton is a racial opportunist who used the lives of millions of Black and Brown people as so much detritus—as a political stepping stone, to benefit her own ‘career.’ A quick guess is that around half of Mrs. Clinton’s victims have been women.
Donald Trump is as frightening as his opinions are poorly considered. His life has been lived around people whose livelihoods depend on not telling him to shut the fuck up. His nominal constituency by-and-large has no context for this— what to them appears as ‘speaking truth to power’ is in fact a privileged bully enamored with the sound of his own voice. Mr. Trump was born into the class that establishment Democrats and Republicans have spent the last four decades making so wealthy that it separates them from the consequences of their socially destructive actions. Donald Trump is an inheritance-baby insider who plays an outsider on television. It is hardly an accident then that Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton have been friends for over twenty years.
The Democratic establishment is in the process of shoving Bernie Sanders out of the way to put Hillary Clinton forward as the candidate to beat Donald Trump. The term too-clever-by-half comes to mind. The ‘missed opportunities’ of the last seven years are in the process of asserting themselves. Mrs. Clinton is a war-monger, free-trade-agreement loving friend of Wall Street at a time when a fair portion of the conscious public would just as soon burn the whole mess to the ground with Mr. Trump. The question for those who would vote for Mrs. Clinton to ‘stop’ Donald trump is: who are you going to vote for to stop Hillary Clinton? And to the bourgeois turd-ocracy channeling George H. W. Bush’s ‘why don’t the peasants go shopping;’ if things look alright where you are— if people have jobs, health care, enough food to eat and their teeth, you aren’t looking hard enough.
Note to regular readers: I’ve been busy trying to get my family resettled, hence the sparse postings. I’ll make Zen Economics available, along with a number of other projects, once I have current personal and community commitments out of the way.