The Trump candidacy has mildly amused as well as horrified me in the past year. On the one hand, the man is an outright bigot and blowhard loudmouth whose delusional slogans rather than policy suggestions have led to the total collapse of the Republican Party, best embodied recently by Mary Matalin changing her registration to the Libertarian Party, while on the other hand his broadly populist appeal has, according to my sources in the financial sector, left Wall Street terrified.
But as with all things, the devil is always in the details. Recently The Donald appointed to his economic team Steven Mnuchin. Zero Hedge reported:
Mnuchin [is] a long-time business associate, chairman and CEO of the hedge fund Dune Capital. More importantly, however, he spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs where he was most recently a Partner, having built a fortung of $46 million before launching his own hedge fund.
That signals to me that the Street has finally gotten its handle on The Donald. We are now dealing with a candidate who is a tool of Wall Street and will be acceptable to its vetting team for the Presidency. Hell, Mnuchin’s connection to the hedge fund industry could result in a Trump presidency investing federal pensions in so-called “alternatives” that Clinton super-delegate Gov. Gina Raimondo invested the Rhode Island pension system in at the behest of Enron alumnus John Arnold!
It is regretful to see Trump sell out but this is not a sudden thing. For example, as Eric Draitser pointed out recently:
Walid Phares [is] perhaps the most well known of Trump’s foreign policy team. Phares is a regular commentator on FOX News where he generally espouses more or less the same policies as any typical Washington neoconservative. Indeed, his pedigree and history place him squarely in the aggressive neocon camp, including as one of the main advisers (along with notable neocons Robert Kagan, Eliot Cohen, Eric Edelman, et al) to Mitt Romney in his failed 2012 presidential campaign. Phares spent a decade as a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a well known neoconservative think tank long since understood as pro-Israel, and widely regarded as part of the influential Israel Lobby. In fact, FDD president and founder Clifford May described the group’s mission as being “to enhance Israel’s image in North America and the public’s understanding of issues affecting Israeli-Arab relations.”… Indeed, as respected foreign policy analyst Jim Lobe noted, Phares is “controversial for his past ties to the militant Phalange movement in Lebanon.” For the uninitiated, the Phalange movement is responsible for brutal repression of Palestinians and has been deeply connected to the Israeli state going back to the founding of Israel in 1948. As the New York Times wrote in July 1983 in the aftermath of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, “The Maronite Christians of Lebanon and their Phalangist Party became Israel’s key allies during the war in Lebanon that began when Israeli troops invaded Lebanon in June 1982… the Phalangist militias [showed] ruthlessness in massacring hundreds of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut last September.”
Yes, this is totally an America First cabinet!
Ultimately I am not surprised. Electoral politics is a tool for radicalization if used properly and not a means to such an end in and of itself. Fredric Jameson’s forthcoming book An American Utopia: Dual Power and the Universal Army, edited by Slavoj Zizek, is an anthology of his 2014 talk of the same name and responses to it. In that talk, he and Stanley Aronowitz laid out in a very clear and cohesive fashion an argument for the reinstatement of the military draft and the idea that to achieve a socialist society, due to the ecological cataclysm, the farce of elections, the collapse of the labor movement, and other old venues of socialist action, that we must return to the Old Left concept of dual power and create a radicalized military force within the armed forces that would take the place of American government. It is a stunning concept that has been in front of our faces for decades but it does have some level of tenability. Using a quote from that old socialist tactician Dwight Eisenhower wherein he quipped that, if you wanted universal healthcare, you should have joined the Army as he did, Jameson and Aronowitz lay out an analysis of reality and its potential opportunities for a socialist revolution.
Does this mean we are all supposed to go enlist en masse and begin trying to convince the troops of the labor theory of value? Am I going to be passing around secretive copies of Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts after taps is blown? “I don’t know but I’ve been told, 1 quarter corn = 2 ounces gold!”
Jameson’s proposition is the dialectical antithesis of Robert Heinlein’s unbearably preachy quasi-fascist Starship Troopers wherein citizenship and franchise is only attained via military service. But then again, there are some ways to argue that, unless a Left radicalization in the ranks were to take place, we are already there. Aronowitz laid out in his response to Jameson that Nixon’s ending the draft did lay the groundwork of such a fascist potential because the Vietnam war was not ended as much by domestic protests as insubordination in the ranks up to and including fragging of officers in the field while on patrol.
I agree with what Jameson is saying here in more than one sense. One instance is financial. While I deeply value the work of Ellen Brown, her recent discussions of the siege of credit unions has missed a vital point, the existence of Navy Federal Credit Union. Founded in 1933, its membership is open to all service members and their dependents. My dad, a graduate of the Naval Academy, set me up a basic checking/savings account shortly after I was born and I have never closed it. If you are a member, you are the most privileged person in America in financial terms. They offer free financial planning to members over the phone, one can start an IRA with as little as $50, and they have savings bonds for sale at an opening rate of the same amount.
Hypothetically speaking, it is not guaranteed that the destruction of credit unions would not include an exemption for Navy Federal. But there are enough members of the military community with financial acumen who would know enough to raise alarm bells should someone try to convert Navy Federal to a traditional bank, particularly considering how they offer members small business loans and other products that would be substantially impacted by such a conversion. Ergo only a complete dope would try to completely abolish credit unions and create a mass revolt in the ranks. How ironic then that we can say that the military might be one of our strongest defenses against neoliberalism as opposed to its enforcers.
Jameson’s thesis and the antithesis in Trump demonstrate hypotheticals that can give one a moment for contemplation. Our political discourse has moved in a phenomenal direction over the past eight years. When Obama came around, calling him a socialist was a slur, now most mainstream voters born after the end of the Vietnam War who remember the end of the USSR as a childhood news item are willing to describe their politics as social democratic. Mainstream Republicans like Matalin are now embracing an isolationist platform. The collapse of these insurgent populist candidacies could give the opening for a midterm election wherein Greens and Libertarians would have an honest shot at Congress, though I think the Libertarians are for too trusting of Gary Johnson. Nevertheless, the Vote Pact Sam Husseini advocates for is a step towards a true parliamentary order.