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Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals

In a nation that professes to be democratic, the United States, we see, as I write, violations of a fundamental nature. They constitute the substructure, perhaps not yet the Constitutional-legal basis, although certainly the moral basis, for introducing the charge of impeachment directed to Donald Trump. Am I too premature? I have the following charges in mind, in no particular order because they in fact hang together and make for a cohesive whole—conditions and practices which promise to become worse as Trump becomes more emboldened in his actions and encounters less resistance.

Let us start with his framework of government, hierarchical in structural-ideological terms, in which wealth concentration is an acknowledged purpose (telegraphed by the demand for “tax reform” and the appointment of a Billionaire Cabinet). This is not a “people’s government,” which, with the possible exception of the New Deal, has not been the case anyway, and hence, is not an impeachable offense. But at least it could be shouted from the rooftop every moment until the din awakened people to the total inversion of the meaning of democracy. Equality is not enshrined in the Constitution, yet its absence specifically as the result and intent of the society’s functioning should expose the administration to strong criticism as creating still further than the Democrats a class-state (or in fact, a militarized plutocracy).

From structural-ideological hierarchy it is an easy step, and logically related, to militarism, a system built upon command, discipline, issuing and taking orders, amoral standards (which legitimate and justify killing, torture, regime change) all in the name of patriotism. Militarism also refers to the militarization of social values and national identity, which leads to an unmistakable Trump marker: ethnocentrism and xenophobia to be ground into basic policy making and the increasing likelihood of war, Russia or China as which possible candidate not yet determined. Militarism, as itself such an integral factor in fascism, has not begun to exhaust its meaning, for it affects the whole purpose and processes of government. Militarism is meant to bleed the social sector dry, a perfect excuse for destroying the safety net, an avowed purpose of Trump’s candidacy and presidency. The military state ideally repudiates government’s social obligations to its people. Even without authentic democracy in its history, America did not have a moral emptiness at its center.

Now it does. We see this in the proposed budget cuts so as to give more to the military. If still not a violation of the Constitution (except perhaps to a broad interpretation of the general welfare), it will do on the antecedent plane to substantive political discussion in the hope of stimulating greater awareness of the massive disconnect between government and people. Political consciousness is centrally important, and everything now attempted and given priority seeks to break this down, indeed, convert it into a false consciousness closely attached to elite rule, global expansion, and an ethos of follow The Leader. Cut, cut, cut, bring the citizenry to its knees, and expel all others. Maternity care, addiction treatment, the list proceeds as though culled with a sharpened needle, every right-wing hatred brought to the surface. And yet, Trump retains much of his following (notwithstanding recent polls, which themselves imply criticism more than outright disaffection), as though a core constituency is ripe for fascism, if not already there. Trump’s chief adviser, Bannon, a Hitler-figure laying in waiting, is reputed to have through his organization, contacts, and proselytizing, some 26M captive loyal adherents.

Shifting public allocations to the military sphere, coupled with tax cuts calculated to benefit only the wealthy, not only eliminates essential government services, but also serves as a means to redistribute wealth, power, and status—more than already under the Bushes, Clinton, and Obama—to the upper stratum. A Billionaire Cabinet, few with any experience in public service, and each dedicated to destroying the designated sector (the reason for the appointment), again may not be an indictable offense, but loudly proclaims the need for impeachment proceedings, centered, like anarchism, on the deliberate wreckage of government and ruination of the social order. Militarism, cause and consequence of needless human suffering largely for its own sake, is an economic and ideological pretext, beyond working for the overwhelming superiority of weaponry and fighting strength, for achieving the docility and psychological impoverishment of American working people.

Then there is the wall, seemingly a nationalist-isolationist drawing inward, which transmogrifies with its vilification of the immigrant the historical image and reputation of America, while thus hiding behind a Fortress-America ideology, actually pressing for greater intervention in world affairs. Impeachment is here improbable, except for the way the Executive leaves little room for congressional action, not to say, for Trump, a record of unscrupulousness which could lead to intervention and undeclared war. In the examples given, and that omits so much else, what is frightening is the lack of opposition or resistance offered to a one-sided, devious government that disregards elemental principles of the rule of law, civil liberties, uncontested civilian over military authority, and the adoption by society of a sovereign people expressing their will—and that includes their representatives—free from pressures and manipulation. America has become the creature of its upper groups, themselves led by an infinitesimal proportion at the top of the pyramid.

Where will it end? Trump on mental grounds alone should never have become president. He is not to be trusted in moments of crisis, particularly those of his own creation. His arrogance is boundless, which often means the cover-up for personal emptiness or a sense of inferiority. His toughness has no redeeming features, the hard-nosed deal maker a vain person who lives for winning and somewhat crumbles when he doesn’t. Play with my marbles, or not at all. His business interests violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution, prohibiting a president from receiving gifts or benefits from a foreign government (a Chinese bank is the biggest tenant at Trump Tower), but although technically a ground, it does not carry the necessary weight for impeachment. Rather, Trump to this point, habitual prevarication and activating a volatile mass in his speaking engagements notwithstanding, stays within constitutional bounds, so that until his true policies and inclinations can be smoked out, which would raise extreme danger for the world at large, hope lies in a militant Democratic party challenging him at every turn (backed by the small “d” democratic crowd on the street and in strikes).

On both counts, the results so far have been disappointing. Nothing can be expected of the Democrats, their latest ploy being to show antagonism to Russia, ideologically, for its own sake, but politically to demonstrate their respectability and patriotism. The party is wholly unworthy of leading America or standing up to fascism. A war or complete severing of ties with Russia on the part of the Trump administration would meet with its approval and exhibit its complicity in mounting a conflict. As for the working class, it in turn, hopefully, with pockets of opposition, has gone over to the side of Reaction, a force for intervention, largely self-marginalized in the fight for social-welfare measures. The early days of the CIO are far over the horizon, the IWW even more so. Deny it if we must, in honor of a democratic vision of America and its potential, but the American worker has ceased to act as a progressive social force, a gauntlet picked up by ordinary people fearing the loss of medical coverage, a public school system, control over pollution, hence, the vast depletion of society’s resources now to go instead to the making of war.

Trump is a tyrant, worse, an unthinking one, tied up in his own personal world of glorification, his luxurious lifestyle of weekend golfing, his surrounding himself in the trappings of power, all that makes for a repugnant personality who delights in popular adulation and the ostentatious display of wealth. Mar-a-Lago is the man writ large, comfortable with like-minded individuals who despise the masses, would if they could liquidate the poor (except insofar as needed for serving them), and contributing to every cause prejudicial to humankind. Will the republic survive as we once knew it or at least imagined its possibilities to be?

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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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