Trump: a New Face On the Same Old System

 In modern times, the wealthy and powerful need some level of consent from the majority for the system that protects and enhances their wealth. As long as individual citizens believe in the system consent can be engineered, “by an elite of experts and professional politicians[1].” This is an apt description for the current alliance between the mainstream media (mostly owned by five conglomerates[2]) and the political/business/military elites. Between the mid-1940’s and mid-1970’s, enough ‘crumbs’ were allowed to trickle down to the non-rich, especially the white non-rich, to bind them to the system. With the onset of neoliberalism in the late 1970’s, the flow of crumbs stopped and vast amounts of the non-rich were left behind.

The reaction of the elites was to offer false hope while blaming anyone but themselves. Ronald Reagan brought his new “Morning In America” that would set Yankee ingenuity free once it had broken the shackles of pesky regulations, trade restrictions and taxes. Bill Clinton offered to feel the pain of the crumbling middle class, while carrying out an orgy of deregulation, free trade deals and social safety net destruction. Followed by eight years of the Bush Jr.’s war on terror (and regulations, taxes, and the middle class). Followed by the “hope and change” of Obama, the president that bailed out the rich from the consequences of their own crazy risk taking rather than help the shrinking middle class. Although there may be cultural differences between the Democrats and Republicans, on such things as gay and women’s rights, on the economic front neoliberalism is the joint orthodoxy. President Obama’s recent pushing of yet another free trade/corporate rights deal being a case in point. If in the old U.S.S.R. a person could only vote for anyone as long as they were official communists, in modern America a person is free to vote for any neoliberal they feel like. After more than forty years of being left behind, the game is wearing thin for the non-rich and non-affluent. A new face and messaging is required to redirect attention away from real change.

In the 1930’s, the U.S. answer to the disconnection of the majority from the system was the New Deal. The provision of enough economic crumbs to stop open revolt until World War 2 brought full employment and a focus on external enemies. These social democratic policies were the minimum that was required given the large-scale labour movements and social unrest that the rich faced. In Germany and Italy, where working class organizations were much weaker, the answer was right-wing populism and the scapegoating of minority groups to divide and conquer the majority. In today’s USA, the labour and other progressive movements have been mostly destroyed or thoroughly co-opted by the neoliberal Democratic Party. Not even a lukewarm social democrat such as Bernie Saunders is allowed to gain the Democratic Party’s nomination. With the left cowed and co-opted, the only alternative for those that have suffered from decades of falling behind is right wing populism.

Onto the stage steps the fake revolutionary Trump, a fully paid up member of the billionaire class. To assuage the majority he will throw some of those that serve the elites under the bus, such as political functionaries and journalists. Selected courtiers will be sacrificed to save the privileges of their masters, in a modern twisted media version of the sacrifices in the Roman Coliseum. In addition, he will scapegoat illegal immigrants, Muslims and others to redirect attention away from the rich. He will not deal with the employers who exploit foreign labour to reduce wage rates, just like he did. He will remove the corporate socialism of Obamacare but not provide the “single-payer” solution required to tame the rapaciously parasitic healthcare corporations. He will not break up the monopolistic banks, nor put their executives in jail for their repeated felonies. He will deliver tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, and lots of infrastructure spending to drive corporate profits. Reaganomics with a nastier face, perhaps with less of a penchant for meddling with other countries?

This is not to say that many of the elites find Trump truly distasteful from a cultural standpoint, but they will learn to hold their noses and accept that he is required to maintain the engineering of consent that allows them to govern while not providing even crumbs from their table for the majority. Rather a Trump than a Bernie, for now anyway. After four years of Trump who knows? Fascism or luke-warm social democracy? His greatest legacy is already known; yet more wasted years in the fight against climate change.

More articles by:

December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front