Carnage and Cooptation Under Trump’s Reign

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0


Trump’s declamation in his inaugural address that he would end the “carnage” produced by poverty, deindustrialization, crime, drugs, and gangs is another egregious example of his frenzied rhetoric that obliterates causality while telegraphing his own demented posturing.  While one could hardly expect Trump to denounce the structural inequalities embedded in capitalism and racism, Trump’s brand of authoritarian and right wing populism was an attempt to summon the masses to embrace his agenda of nationalist salvation.  Of course, hidden behind this populist gloss were the snarling politics of a vengeful brand of a Trumpian admixture of reactionary Republicanism and Nixonian calculation.

That reactionary Republican agenda, cultivated over decades and represented by Trump’s VP, Mike Pence, was immediately evident in a number of executive orders signed by Trump.  Among these was the re-institution of the so-called “gag rule” which would eliminate any funding for international agencies and NGO’s that include among their family services abortion, even if only as an option.  According to the World Health Organization the prior funding policy saved an estimated 289,000 women from pregnancy or childbirth related ills.  One NGO dealing with family planning projected that the loss of income would result in 2.1 million unsafe abortions.  Apparently, carnage that impacts poor women in the underdeveloped world does not register with Trump and his misogynistic minions!

Another example of this misogyny can be found in Trump’s effort to eliminate the Violence Against Women programs in the Department of Justice.  Programs ranging from funding for local rape crisis centers to the National Domestic Violence Hotline to educational seminars on sexual assault for hundreds of thousands of police are now in the crosshairs of a Republican dominated Congress as a consequence of this initiative by the Predator-in-Chief.

In keeping with the Republican obsession to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Trump signed another executive order that has little more than symbolic significance at this time.  Perhaps, fiddling with regulations and cutting back on some provisions of the act may emerge in the next few weeks, especially with Rep. Tom Price as head of Health and Human Services.  Certainly, there is no consensus even among Republicans about what would replace the ACA.  Without any replacement and maybe even with a market-based one (that is more market-based than Obamacare), close to 30 million could lose any health care coverage, leading to the possibility of 30-45 thousand deaths annually.

On the labor front, Trump’s executive order freezing hiring of federal workers contains a nod towards the neoliberalism represented by corporate Democrats like former President Bill Clinton who tried to triangulate Reagan’s critique of “big government.”  It also reflects the policies adopted by Koch financed Republican Governors and legislatures who have assiduously attacked public sector workers. By scapegoating these workers, made up in large numbers by women and people of color, as feeding at the public trough, they attempt to cover up the corporate handouts promulgated by Republican legislatures and Governors.

What Trump has also undertaken with the termination of the TPP and re-negotiating NAFTA suggests a shrewd populist posturing, albeit within the confines of his white nationalist agenda.  Meeting with certain labor leaders from the building trades to discuss infrastructure investment, albeit mostly of the corporate shill game type, indicates that he has learned the lessons of Nixon’s bargain with construction workers as a wedge into the white working class.  Indeed, with much of labor still wedded to the fossil fuel economy, Trump can further co-opt this segment with his stated objective of backing the Keystone pipeline.  Leading to additional ravages of the land, water, and air, the continued deaths from these toxic policies will silently accumulate.

Beyond the cooptation of what might still be designated as the “aristocracy of labor,” Trump’s nationalist populism eerily harkens back beyond Nixon to the dystopian visions revealed in Jack London’s 1906 novel, The Iron Heel.  London foresaw an Oligarchy relying upon favored unions made up of exclusionary white and skilled workers to create a repressive authoritarian regime called “The Iron Heel.”  Whether insurgent workers and the new resistance of women, youth, and communities of color can forestall Trump’s version of the “Iron Heel” will determine the degree to which his special carnage will take its toll here and around the globe.

Fran Shor is a Michigan-based retired teacher, author, and political activist.