Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?


The success of Donald J Trump in the US presidential elections is a reflection of a deep crisis in the two-party political system as well as divisions in the American ruling class. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats were able to muster a credible candidate from among mainstream politics who could command the loyalties of the party membership let along convince the great mass of the American public that they had what it takes to be president. The rise of the “Democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders neatly paralleled the rise of the populist “anti-politician” Donald Trump.

But while Sanders arguably destroyed his entire credibility by endorsing Hillary Clinton so fulsomely Trump has continued to be an insurgent inside the White House to the dismay and anger of large swathes of the left and the media, many of whose star pundits have been exposed by WikiLeaks as being close allies of the Clinton campaign. CNN and others have infamously been taunted by Trump as “fake news” and “very fake news”.

A media desperate to dig for dirt and prepared to invent no-holds barred stories designed simply to discredit Trump largely for his alleged Russian connections also provides much fuel for angry protests which have frequently turned violent. The irony is that this vehement opposition works in favour of Trump’s populist ideology as expressed in key campaign pledges about “draining the swamp” of vested interest groups and standing up for hard working Americans against the remote “liberal elite” in Washington. More important is how the billionaire Trump has been able to succeed in portraying himself as a “man of the people” because his rise is an indication of the left’s failure to put up a credible candidate or develop a programme to inspire the people, notwithstanding the example of the brief glory of Sanders.

Particularly appalling has been the grotesque anti-Russian tirades in an attempt to brand Trump as a “traitor” ripe for impeachment. For the record, all Trump has ever stated is an intention to improve relations with Moscow expressing the view that the two powerful nations should “get along together”, and work, for example, to eliminate ISIS and secure a lasting peace in Syria. Possibly the real reasons that Trump might want to improve US relations with Russia have less to do with personal financial connections, as his critics allege, but part of a calculated response to Russia’s “Eurasian turn” in recent years and designed to detach Moscow from its strengthening strategic and economic alliance with China and Iran; based on an understanding that they would one day form a mighty bloc capable of challenging US supremacy on the world stage not least with regards to the role of the dollar as the main global currency for pegging exchange rates. Regrettably, such considerations are rarely considered by Trump’s overexcited critics who largely eschew political analysis.

Most disgracefully of all, the left has willingly joined in the anti-Russian feeding frenzy. Michael Moore, showing no scruples about employing the language of Senator McCarthy, called Trump a “Russian traitor…squatting in our oval office” and demanded his immediate impeachment.

Trump has been derided as a “traitor” simply for enunciating mildly détente sounding sympathies, while his opponents’ arguments have become ever more incoherent, irrational and downright dangerous. It is as if they’d be ready to risk war with Russia if it meant getting rid of Trump. It is unsurprising that the likes of Senator John McCain and Hillary Clinton, who share a worldview where Cold War is a permanent fixture, would seek to taint Trump with a “stooge of Putin” tag, but to witness celebrated leftists like Moore trying to outdo the neocons in venom is surely quite sickening. Trump has demonstrated a degree of tenacity in resisting the climate of fear that the left and liberals alike have concocted around alleged Russian links. The fabricated stories about Moscow manipulation and infiltration of this, that and the other are simply incredible. They are carrying on as if Russia was still the Soviet Union and a Communist country when in truth it poses no tangible threat to anyone; but why is it that much of the left can’t ever admit this?

The stark truth is that the left has long ago lost its way politically and the near mass hysteria that has greeted Trump’s victory is just the latest symptom of a sick and enfeebled politics. Much of the left seems to have long given up on serious politics well before the Soviet collapse in 1991 which marked the final end of the 20th century’s most ambitious socialist experiment, “actually existing socialism” as it was called. Rather than expending our precious energies in futile and pointless protests, let’s ask the question why the left seems bereft of genuinely radical ideas these days and totally incapable of developing a credible programme when it is most urgently needed? The people deserve to be offered a choice of an alternative to neoliberal austerity and heartless globalisation. Why leave it to Trump to fill the vacuum?

Sadly those left fractions, whose kneejerk political solution is to organise an obligatory protest action where slogans, such as “Dump Trump”, are chanted ad nauseum, have become an obstacle to the advance of socialism.  They are denying the necessary discussion needed to find socialist solutions to meet the many dilemmas and challenges that confront us today whether they are homelessness, low pay, urban decay, environmental pollution, the health crisis or the rising costs of education. The mass rallies held in the UK against Trump’s election and the proposed state visit seem simply self-indulgent.

Once there was a time when the cadres of the Stop the War Coalition had just cause and urgency to plan protest rallies against illegal wars initiated by American presidents; millions of people heard their call and came onto the streets; now virtually the same cadres with ranks much depleted are reduced to screaming abuse at a president because they disapprove of his character rather than his policies. Trump’s challenge to the warmongering neo-cons over Russia has to be brushed under the carpet by the anti-war movement as it reinvents itself as bedfellows of Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel and Tony Blair.

The Freudian term “displacement” describes an unconscious defence mechanism whereby the human mind substitutes an aim or a subject for a reality that it is too afraid to confront because it is perceived as too dangerous or too destabilising to address openly.

Displacement precisely explains the political reaction to Trump’s victory. Constant protest has become a great displacement exercise adopted by people to avoid contemplating the real reasons why the left has been eclipsed by a resurgent populist right seen in America with Trump, and now occurring across Europe in different hues and in places as far afield as India.

This anti-Trump hysteria has become a kind of collective psychosis like tulip fever or cases like the 19th century railway mania or the South Sea Bubble as described in the classic 1841 book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds written by Charles Mackay, who cited several examples of public hysteria as evidence of how people will believe the oddest things and frequently behave entirely irrationally especially when acting in groups.

David Morgan is a journalist, editor‎ and researcher based in London. His writing has appeared in  Live Encounters Magazine, London Progressive Journal, Morning Star and the Socialist History Society.

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