FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Beyond Anti-Trump

Photo by Jamelle Bouie | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Jamelle Bouie | CC BY 2.0

Let’s be careful about the phrase “anti-Trump coalition.”  The phrase leaves the door open for everything being about the Big Bad Donald and for progressives to get sucked/suckered once again into the ruling class politics of the Democrats. We need to take on the unelected deep state dictatorships of money, class, race, empire, militarism, sexism, and ecocide – the reigning oppression structures that have ruled under Barack Obama as under previous presidents. As the activist-artist Brian Carlson recently wrote me from Buenos Aires, Donald Trump is the latest “bobble head doll on the dashboard of real [U.S.] power.”  The thin-skinned tyrant Trump is the most terrifying and noxious such doll yet, perhaps, but the point stands.

And dreary corporate-Democratic presidents like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Obama are no small part of the explanation for the ever more right-wing Republican presidencies of the long neoliberal era. Their serial populism-manipulating betrayals of the working-class majority in service to the wealthy Few open the door for Republicans to sweep in and take over for a term or two (2001-2009) or three (1981-1993). (Please see my forthcoming Truthdig essay “Obama’s Neoliberal Legacy”) for a discussion of how Obama begat Trump.)

We must not let Trump become a great red cape in the hands of the ruling class matadors. We charge screaming “Down with Trump” while the owners plunge their weapons into our passing hides. We must learn to head for the masters who hold the swords and spears behind the cloak. Resist him we must, but we cannot afford obsession with Trump.

One of the drawbacks of having Democrats Obama in the White House is the way they put so many folks to sleep on terrible policies and actions people would resist if only they were being carried out by Republican presidents. It’s amazing how many liberals and progressives find things like drone war and Wall Street bailouts and mass deportations strangely acceptable when conducted by supposedly liberal and sophisticated Democrats like Barack Obama. It’s like the matador keeps a special blue (Democratic) cape with the power to render citizen bulls listless in the face of their own slaughter.

But the disease doesn’t go away just because a Republican comes in. The upside of a Democratic presidency is that it provides young folks (and others) with a useful object lesson on the very basic fact that life still sucks when the (not-so) leftmost of the two dominant capitalist parties holds nominal power.  It demonstrates the bipartisan nature of the American System and the persistence of the aforementioned deep state structures when Democrats occupy the White House.  But, conversely, one of the big downsides of Republican presidencies is that they tend to reinforce the idea that’s what’s wrong with the America is that the rightmost of the two reigning parties holds the executive branch. By that logic, the solution is a big get-out-the-vote campaign to put someone from the other party in the oval office – a dismal dollar Dem who just greases the skids for the next and ever more right-wing Republican president.

I’m not saying that leftists shouldn’t participate in anti-Trump coalitions.  I think they ought to but that they must work in (and beyond) such coalitions to create a movement that is about much more than fighting the Deplorable One. The real prize is still the democratic transformation of society. That’s no less true with Trump in the White House than it would have been under a second Clinton presidency. And that means resisting the Democrats’ relentless efforts to hijack and drown everything in the dark, dollar-drenched, and binary swamp of major party electoralism.

The change we need cannot be limited to evicting the next bobble-head from the dashboard of power. It must aim higher, or, really, deeper.  It’s not just about replacing a Bush or a Reagan or a Trump with a more outwardly kinder and gentler symbol atop the visible state. We need more than another ostensibly multicultural re-branding of the American System that keeps the same basic oppression structures intact and sets us up for the next right-wing white-nationalist backlash.  That whole trip goes just back and forth, along with the standard intra- leftist bloodletting over whether to practice “lesser evil voting.” It’s a self-fulfilling vicious circle: rinse, re-cyle, repeat. I’ve seen it all my politically sentient life.

We are timing out of that recurrent game. Trump is an especially awful and eco-cidal Republican president-elect. His ascendancy to the White House is a catastrophe on multiple levels.  But surely it is understood by serious and honest thinkers that the world has been hurtling toward environmental catastrophe with Obama in the White House.  Certainly, it is known that we would have continued speeding over the environmental cliff (and towards global war and economic disaster) with horrid Hillary Clinton in “power” – yes, perhaps at a slightly slower rate than under the openly geocidal Trump but not with enough difference to change the basic trajectory.  The ultimate enemies are systemic and institutional: the rapacious and imperial profits system and its numerous allied and overlapping oppression structures.  Along with these we must confront related behavioral and cultural patterns of cynicism, addiction (including computer- and smartphone-addiction), narcissism/egotism, atomization, fatalism, hopelessness, despair, and apathy.

Let 2017 be a year of radical awakening in the United States. Imagine the following scenario: sparked into organization and action by the kleptocratic corruption and multiply egregious polices of the geocidal Trump administration but mindful of the Wall Street-captive nothingness of the Obama and Clinton administrations, millions of U.S. citizens  rise not only to oppose an appalling right-wing presidency but more fundamentally to confront the unelected capitalist and imperial deep state that controls the nation beneath and beyond the childish, candidate-centered  marionette theater of its quadrennial major-party electoral carnivals. Workers and citizens organize against what activists call (updating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the 21st century) “the 10 evils that are interrelated”: the profit system, militarism, imperialism, racism, sexism, classism, police-state-ism, atomization, cynicism and (last but not at all least) ecocide. The new resistance movement insist on merging numerous struggles previously fought on a dysfunctional single-issue basis. A many-sided peoples’ revolution begins, building on Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock and the lessons of great people’s movement across history.

Fantastic?  Perhaps.  In his brilliant and important (perhaps even indispensable) book The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (Penguin, 2016), Mike Lofgren sadly proclaims that “The idea of a revolution from below, still conceivable in 1933, is almost preposterously unthinkable now” (p.139). The problem with that declaration is that a decent future for homo sapiens and other living things is likely impossible without some version of such a revolution in the next few decades. Given the ecological catastrophe that deep state capital is bringing to bear, “the uncomfortable truth,” as Istvan Meszaros rightly argued 15 years ago, “is that if there is no future for a radical mass movement in our time, there can be no future for humanity itself.” It’s not about the crystal ball. We don’t really have any choice but to try to bring about the “almost preposterously unthinkable now” – and to try to use the present maddening and potentially catastrophic Trump moment as a clarifying silver-lining catalyst for the creation of such a movement.

More articles by:

Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

August 16, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
“Don’t Be Stupid, Be a Smarty”: Why Anti-Authoritarian Doctors Are So Rare
W. T. Whitney
New Facebook Alliance Endangers Access to News about Latin America
Sam Husseini
The Trump-Media Logrolling
Ramzy Baroud
Mission Accomplished: Why Solidarity Boats to Gaza Succeed Despite Failing to Break the Siege
Larry Atkins
Why Parkland Students, Not Trump, Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize
William Hartung
Donald Trump, Gunrunner for Hire
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Morality Tales in US Public Life?
Yves Engler
Will Trudeau Stand Up to Mohammad bin Salman?
Vijay Prashad
Samir Amin: Death of a Marxist
Binoy Kampmark
Boris Johnson and the Exploding Burka
Eric Toussaint
Nicaragua: The Evolution of the Government of President Daniel Ortega Since 2007 
Adolf Alzuphar
Days of Sagebrush, Nights of Jasmine in LA
Robert J. Burrowes
A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival
August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omarosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail