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Who’s the Better Neoliberal?

In the eyes of Republicans, the looming battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for the Presidency of the United States is a looming nightmare. But which nightmare is the darkest and scariest to them?

Probably Trump because at some point, probably not too far into the term, President Trump would be facing impeachment.

This is not a crystal ball reading but an application of logic. You can expect future behavior to be causally connected to past behavior. Trump will not de-Trump himself. Would that impeachment glorify the Republican Party under whose banner he became president? Worse yet is the possibility that Trump escapes impeachment until he has already done a great deal of damage, in the Neoliberal ideological view, to that monument of “pure Conservatism” that Paul Ryan is building slowly, like Cheops’ Great Pyramid was built.

At this moment, the Republican Party and its fully financialized elite are marching toward the GOP Convention to meet head on Donald Trump and his fully irate populist army.

Hillary is not as frightening to Neoliberals as president as Trump is because the Clintonian Third Way approach in which Democrats acquiesce to the inevitability of Market Rule is what is observable in Hillary’s causal chain. It would be as illogical to assume here that as president she would de-Hillary herself, that she would break that chain and attach herself elsewhere (Sanders? Or Warren?) as it would be to assume that Trump could de-Trump himself. It makes no sense to believe that Trump as president would be something different from a willful force for stochastic change or that Hillary’s tenure would be anything other than both predictable and manageable within the existing plutocratic Market Rule.

Hillary’s Neoliberal collaborationist approach is not appealing to the followers of Bernie Sanders. They would be wiser to vote for Trump, thus sending a bomb-o-gram to the Republican Party, than to vote for Hillary whose Vichy-like compliance to the Neoliberals will end in contempt all round rather that the impeachment that is sure to follow a Trump presidency. The forces of both Trump’s populist uprising and the fully financialized elite would be aligned against Hillary in full display of Twitter vitriol. Whether a woman president incites more prejudice and vitriol than a black president is an experience looming on the horizon.

It is difficult to see how a Hillary presidency would do something other than damage the Democratic Party while setting Republicans up for another reign of power. It is also difficult to see how that damage would lead to the creation of any form of Bernie Sanders-like “revolutionary” party. Unfortunately, a Bernie-like socialism would go down with Hillary, a kind of guilt by Democratic Party affiliation.

The worst that Wall Street and Market Rule can expect from a Hillary presidency is some triage to staunch the bleeding of some 80% of the population. And this bleeding is now occurring due to the inevitable plutocracy forming forces of the kind of financialized capitalism now in play. While Sanders wants to go after the injuring party here, Hillary band aids the wound, believing that those wounding forces cannot be stopped.

I leave the Republican Party and their quixotic mission to institutionalize”pure Neoliberal ideology” in Paul Ryan’s hands, predicting only that the longtime ravaging of others will probably visit the ravagers themselves at the GOP Convention in Cleveland in July.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, which of course, logic prevailing, should be our paramount consideration in this presidential election, what we have in the Democratic Party is a class warfare that parallels that of the Republican Party. What we see in the Hillary/Bernie confrontation has roots deeper than differences in regard to minimum wage, college tuition, gun manufacturers, black affiliation, and the banks.

What we see on Hillary’s side is a privileged class who do not see themselves as Mr. Merdle, Dickens’s money grubbing financier, but as the compassionate fortunate, the daringly radical gentry. Let us not talk crass money but rather social and cultural issues, which somehow are never traced back to a defense at all costs of their own investments. Let us not talk about who is profiting on health care and pharmaceuticals, education, warfare, imprisonment but who is being prevented from self-identification, or marriage or day care or bathrooms of their choice.

The top 20% professional and meritocratic class is bound by comparable wealth and income status and comparable social and cultural attachments. The professional/meritocratic family has expanded from one such salary to two as the result of what Christopher Lasch described as “assortative mating.” Wealth and income, which would previously have attached a family to the middle class, has now doubled and sprung them into a bonus/dividend/compound interest wealth domain. The interests, fears and ambitions of this new Gentry class connect with political and economic ideologies in ways that protect their elite positions. Such concerns do not lead to fingering a wealth divide as a problem or the cause of problems. Plutocratic inequities as cited by Bernie Sanders do not register as harmful or dangerous but rather as the inevitable by products of democracy and free enterprise.

Democrats for Hillary divide from Democrats for Bernie along class lines. There is as little damage done to the regime of financialized capitalism by wealthy Liberals who are zealous about identity politics as by wealthy Neoliberals who are zealous in their defense of a financialized capitalism they own. When you consider that all the issues that attract Hillary’s followers are also the issues that Neoliberals use to infuriate, scapegoat and distract, it seems clear that Hillary is fueling the plutocratic regime, not taking it down. We should be troubled by our love affair with guns, but we should be more troubled by a recalibrating of the scales of equality to fit a feudal order. Neither Liberals nor Neoliberals help us in seeing clearly what troubles our democracy and what the hierarchy of out troubles might be.

“Catastrophizing or making catastrophes out of every small matter that threatens the privilege lifestyle of the gentrified family forms its own politics, one in which Democrats and Republicans join hand in hand. We live now in a confusion of identification. What is troubling is not an illegal alien taking your job, but the failure to find good help, nannies, gardeners, drivers, house cleaners, protective security and so on. What is troubling is not that Detroit public schools have no funding but whether the pre-kindergarten private academy will accept their child. Bullying is of greater concern than Trump’s “no contest” approach to white supremacy; the homeless wandering into a gentrified neighborhood is of greater concern than Clintonian politics dismantling welfare.

What we see on Sanders’s side are those who want to do only one thing: follow the money and when it takes them to 20 individuals who have as much wealth as 50% of the population, all other conversation becomes peripheral, subordinate. A house on fire can’t be repaired until the fire is first put out. The young flock to Bernie because already having money, which propels the Republican elite to defend it and the Liberal elite not to mention it, is not a factor in their political calculus. They know nothing of money beyond knowing they don’t have it or they owe it. The “bern” they feel is an offering of tuition-free university education paid for by the nabobs who right now are making a profit on student financial aid. These same nabobs of globalized capitalism are outsourcing the future of these same students while leading us all to a robotic AI future in which leisure preposterously becomes the goal of education. Hillary type patchwork will not prevent this.

Bernie Sanders has attracted the angry but these are the angry whose reading of politics in the U.S. has not been deflected by attacks on the victims of a plutocratic rule. The discontent of Sanders’ followers began with Occupy Wall Street, although it cannot be said that all OWS protesters are in Sanders’ camp. They were angry with the 1% but anxious to join the top 20% professional/meritocracy who serve that 1%. The OWS protest held back from the sort of critique of Market Rule that Sanders makes. They held back in the naïve belief that they could represent a post-partisan politics.

Once Sanders pointed to root causes of so much that was debasing 80% of the population, once he got to a public pulpit and made transparent the ways in which egalitarian democracy was being undermined by plutocratic forces, he organized discontent, frustration, hardship and anger within clear purpose. He has corralled the inchoate rebelliousness that typifies Trump’s supporters and directed it toward upending plutocratic rule rather than targeting the myriad victims of that rule.

The young here are populist in the sense that they are not of the elite but they are not populist in the way Trump’s supporters are. Trump represents the uprising at an explosive, rancorous level, gathering all those around him that want to punch through the obfuscating spins of politicians and the protocols of politics, which have done them little good. The level of anger here is unstoppable. Think of Madame DeFarge in Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities: “Then tell Wind and Fire where to stop. . .but don’t tell me.”

What complies with this wind and fire that pauses for no more words, are the “from the gut” and guttural sounds of Trump. His impatience with the arguments of others, with pressing issues that need a response, with the need for a coherent platform and so on mirrors the impatience of his supporters. Words launched against him support an order they reject pre-reflectively, reject from a place where a true, tacit grasp of things is beleaguered by words.

Both this angry mob reaction and Trump’s rise to power are the logical products of the Neoliberal campaign to stoke the fires of visceral, atavistic response in voters. That longtime strategy has deflected attention from what might be the real causes of increasing immiseration and resulting anger. Bonded totally to a zero sum game of economics in which one only wins if someone else loses, an inhumane “war of all against all,” Republicans in power could not themselves legislate any curtailment, regulation or destruction of any of this. The only strategy open to them was to build fires of resentment against all attempts to regulate or annihilate the Market Order of Things.

Without anything other than offering the view that making the rich even richer would benefit those who are in reality being drained to make the rich richer, Republicans have needed and continue to need to set sparks igniting “the worst angels of our nature” in order to win elections. The appeal they have made most strenuously as economics begun with Reagan tore down the middle class and brought the working class to their knees was to the Caliban in our natures. It is not surprising then that the Calibans they fashioned have found a Caliban to lead them. The fires they’ve played with have ignited them.

Hillary’s followers are more likely to vote, not for Trump, but for any other Republican candidate than for Bernie because Bernie threatens not only the top Wall Street 1% but the 20% who serve them. His socialism, more somewhere on the Social Democratic continuum and nowhere near Democratic Socialism, which rejects capitalism outright, is hostile to the plutocratic status quo. The “meritocratic” mechanisms, clearly racist, that maintain and reinforce such privilege are also destined for investigation.

In short, a President Bernie Sanders may de-gentrify those locales of elite life in Brooklyn and San Francisco and in all major American cities with a rich cultural centre ville. The top 20% mix of Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents and so on would all “feel the bern” but not in the positive way millennials do. If Bernie Sanders had ever managed to create the revolutionary politics he aspires to and become the Democratic candidate for the presidency, logic tells us that not only would all Republicans vote against him but also many in the top 20% who identify as Democrats, perhaps because they are supporters of choice, political correctness, identity politics and all matters that do not upend a present comfortable niche which wealthy Liberals and Neoliberals equally share.

On the bedrock, crucial issue of who and who will not destroy that comfortable niche, Sanders is a greater risk to a greater number than is the wealthy Trump. Polls cannot in any way represent that final moment when fear of Sanders’ attack on their stock portfolio will dismiss all Miss Manners’ objections to Trump. The same wealth protective forces would move the gentry, Democrat and Republicans to vote for Hillary and not Trump, the choice we are now almost sure to face, because ironically she is the better Neoliberal.

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Joseph Natoli has published books and articles, on and off line, on literature and literary theory, philosophy, postmodernity, politics, education, psychology, cultural studies, popular culture, including film, TV, music, sports, and food and farming. His most recent book is Travels of a New Gulliver.

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