Like any political speech, Trump’s July 21, 2016 acceptance speech was full of figures and percentages that mean nothing. He told his supplicants that homicides had increased by 17%. What he didn’t tell them was the exact number has been going down for years and that 17% increase meant there were still a lot fewer homicides than there used to be. His statement that 180 000 illegal immigrants with criminal records are “roaming” the country left out the important distinction that a good number of those convictions were for crimes that were nonviolent and often victimless.
More importantly, however, was his take on history, which went no further back then 2008, at best. By pretending that history began when Barack Obama was elected president, all the decades of jobs being sent overseas because corporations want cheap labor became the fault of more recent free trade agreements. While these agreements certainly expedited the desire/need of the capitalist overlords to go for the cheap labor, this process was taking place before such agreements were passed. Furthermore, Trump and his businesses benefited from them and he did nothing to oppose them then. In short, it is how monopoly capitalism works: capital goes to where it can accumulate greater profits, utilizing the military and “free” trade to cajole and force its will on nations and peoples around the world.
Continuing his litany of America wronged, Trump referred to the Iran nuclear agreement. He related the FoxNews version of some US sailors being held by Iranian military after their ship sailed into Iranian waters. According to this version, the sailors were humiliated hostages who were wrongly held. In actuality, the sailors were treated well and were in the wrong. Their captain surely knew this when he sailed where he sailed. Leaping from this incident to the Iranian nuclear agreement that has essentially decreased the likelihood of Iran ever building nuclear weapons, Trump continued his litany of lies by portraying the agreement as virtual surrender to unnamed dark forces.
Of course, the presence of “dark” forces and the threat they represent to Trump and his followers are essential to understanding his appeal. Indeed, the local Gannett broadsheet here in Vermont, introduced Trump’s acceptance speech in the next day’s paper with this quote from the speech “safety will be restored.” I first noted this emphasis on safety while listening to an argument between a young anti-Trump protester and an even younger Trump supporter at the end of a Vermont anti-Trump action. Besides the obvious fact that his proposed policies based on fear, hate, and US triumphalism are no more likely to restore safety than Clinton’s policies of brinksmanship and subterfuge, this statement begs the question about whose safety Mr. Trump is referring to.
It is not the safety of African-American men, whose lives are threatened every time they are confronted by a police officer. It is not the safety of US women and girls, whose lives are threatened by the anti-women policies supported and pushed by Trump’s running mate Mike Pence. It is not the safety of the elderly, who barely get by on a Social Security pension Mr. Trump wants to privatize. It is not the safety of those who can barely pay their bills on minimum wage jobs, when Trump and his staffers have openly questioned the concept of a minimum wage. It is not the safety of immigrants looking for a better life in the United States.
Mr. Trump has fired his opening salvo in what looks like what will be one of the most right-wing US triumphalist campaigns since Ronald Reagan. Ms. Clinton will provide her opening response next week in Philadelphia. Neither candidate has anything new to offer. While Trump pretends that his millennarianist rhetoric will bring the US back to a time my father grew up in—when father knew best and was whiter than Ivory Snow soap, Hillary Clinton’s campaign promises more of the same corporatist politics in the service of the Goldman-Sachs of the nation. The primary difference may be found in her social stances, which are more liberal and tolerant than those expressed by Trump’s ticket.
In short, we are witnessing a serious split in the US ruling class. Both elements recognize capitalism is in crisis and has been for decades. The two main solutions to this crisis as represented by the campaigns will not solve this crisis, because it is essentially unsolvable. Trump’s approach hopes to move the capitalist economy back to a time before World War One, when production of goods was almost as important as the financial manipulation of monies for profit and national economies were the primary and dominant macro economy. Clinton’s approach would continue the trend of the last few decades that has seen capital move beyond national boundaries to create what Lenin called “the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves.” This latter phenomenon is what the so-called free trade agreements are about. Trump’s belief that he can buck this trend runs counter to history, although he seems to think that he is beyond history, except for that which he makes.
Militarily, there is also a split between the rulers. Neither Trump’s combination of fear-ridden America First bluster nor the corporate world order represented by Clinton’s campaign will prevent war or terrorism. Both will guarantee the continued waste of monies that the permanent war economy is. Both will also guarantee the continued domination of the US economy by the war industry. Donald Trump knows this and so does Hilary Clinton.
Neither Donald Trump nor Hilary Clinton represents the people. Don’t pretend that they do. Instead, get ready for the streets when one of them wins in November. When there is a split in the ruling class, it is the task of the Left not to take one side or the other, but to use that split to organize resistance to the system of capitalism itself.