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Political System: Bottom Fishing/Opaque Shield

In this election, Trump and Clinton were both extrapolations from Obama, who in turn dates back to Truman-Kennedy and all points in between to the present, a unified structural-ideological expression of corporatist fascism characterized by successively incremental growth. 1945-2016: hermetically sealed, locked in, undeviating Cold-War nourished military-market expansion, this has been a pathway to feel-good, patriotic, liberal totalitarianism in which the business system (aka, advanced, financially-empowered capitalism) has done its work in merging war abroad with alienation at home, a desensitization to the means of achieving permanent hegemonic status in a world no longer ripe for American conquest.

The failure is manifest, not for want of trying, nor habituation to global dominance for much of the period. Slippage breeds desperation and the perception of disaster. Anything goes, for remaining on top. “Establishment” is bandied about, yet the term is accurate and aptly descriptive. America has, in practice, a ruling class, the integration of wealth, power, and legitimacy, once economically-derived, but since at least 1980 dependent for its suasion and effectiveness on military strength, sufficiently distorting the overall mix as to bear out the fascistic designation. Clinton-Obama-Trump, a tightly coiled triumvirate, despite efforts at propagandistic exaggeration and deception, reawakens the spirit of the 1930s and Axis globalization, where only FDR and the New Deal, and its world coalition, staved off aggression, defeat, mind-numbing conformity, regimentation, and subordination.

But for America, that was only an historical blip, as its own twentieth-century march to monopoly capital, an antilabor ethos, and the thrusting forward of anticommunism has been to create homogeneity and silence dissent. Backgrounds do not lie. The heavy-handed application of nuclear “diplomacy” cast a pall (a coffin-like overspreading element that produces debilitation and gloom—here though harnessed to an air of superiority and self-righteousness for those bringing it about) on the policy framework from war’s aftermath, which made possible an unchallenged internal rightward direction with HUAC and McCarthyism, themselves the logical inheritance of the persecution and prosecution of the Wobblies and the Palmer Raids, pointing the way to unrelieved pressures on, if not pulverization of, a traditional Left sensibility focused on economic democratization, civil liberties, and world peace—all, by now, held in disdain and the pretext for unfolding counterrevolution.

For radicalism, we now have the titillation of cultural politics, people out on the street, while ruling groups laugh up their sleeves. Transgender bathrooms will not stop Goldman Sachs, Boeing, Monsanto, General Electric, themselves not the most powerful banking and corporate interests necessarily, as the loop of power tightens and becomes more cohesive. Obama has just let a $1B contract to the leading private prison builder for housing undocumented immigrant families, all the while Trump getting the rhetorical attention on the immigration issue, with Clinton , never far behind, wanting her own version of The Fence. And so it goes, consensus among the three, the two major parties, and much of the American public as an harmonious sounding board, with divisiveness not on militarism and war, intervention and regime change, coups and drone assassination, but abortion, glass ceilings, and cultural politics in general, “demands” utterly absorbable so long as they do not interfere with capital accumulation, class stratification, and international confrontation and combativeness.

The world is slowly beginning to withstand the pressures of United States entitlement and delusions of grandeur, both related to a system of capitalism determined at all costs on continued growth and influence when in reality the international scene has become infinitely complex. America, Russia, China, a three-legged stool, with indigenous forces and lesser “majors” crying for a seat at the table—and in time, perhaps ultimately succeeding, to the, I think, rightful diminution of US expansionism and aggrandizement (enhancement of power, wealth, position, and reputation). Totalitarian societies do not like complexity; it makes them itchy, they cannot abide by anything less than domination. American has entered that cycle, presently alone, as the two other members of the stool have more in common with each other than either has with the US.

The Trump presidency will change little, except, and importantly, if we believe he seeks a rapprochement (establishment of cordial relations) with Putin and Russia, although thus far not thought extensible to Xi and China. If so, Trump would be deemed dispensable, a betrayal of American interests, ejected from and marginalized by the Establishment. Peaceful coexistence is ridiculed today, the inner binding force for sustainment of the Cold War and militarism pure and simple, every bit as much—even the stakes seem higher—than in the 1960s-70s. We take it for granted, “free world” et. al., having been given a good head start with the enunciation of Exceptionalism since the country’s founding. Ideological cornerstones are difficult to shake loose. Always a sign of moral weakness, dressed as strength, American can expect growing resistance in a changing world, particularly since, as the election testifies, it refuses itself to change.

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Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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