Presidentially Obsessed:  Trump on the Brain

Photo by Taymaz Valley | CC by 2.0

I’m almost tempted to feel sorry for the campus-town Democrats I know, some of whom still have Obama bumper stickers on the back of their Volvo and Priuses.  Every day brings a new horrible outrage from the noxious orange-tinted beast who drags his knuckles though the White House, sending liberals into new fits of rage and despair.  They live on the fumes of hope that their great bete noir, Donald Trump, will be removed from office prior to the next election.

Don’t get me wrong. I share no small bit of their disgust at the demented uber-narcissist Boss Tweet. Agent Orange fouls the world with his every word, gesture, facial expression and, well. tweet.  Like most halfway decent human beings, I can’t stand the sorry sexist, racist, arch-plutocratic, and eco-cidal excuse for a homo sapien who sits in the Oval Office these days.

Would I like to see the Lyin King dragged away in handcuffs and condemned to spend the rest of his misbegotten life manufacturing solar panels from sundown to sunup in an open-air prison in Maricopa County?  Sure. That would be some reality television I could enjoy.

Could the Prima Donald be forced out before 2021? Definitely. It’s not for nothing that the leading oddsmaker site Ladbrokes now has Trumplethinskin with a 40 percent chance of “leaving office via impeachment or resignation before the end of his first term.”

Robert Mueller III appears to have his ruling-class shit together. If he and his crack team of elite lawyers get enough of their ducks in a row, they could deal Orange Thing some fatal blows in coming months.

The Paul Manafort and Rick Gates indictments may not tie directly to the Democrats’ “Russia collusion” narrative but they speak volumes about the hypocrisy of Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp.”  The guilty plea of former Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos suggests the likelihood of future Russia-related revelations. It’s a “big deal.” Stay tuned: methinks Mueller came to chew bubble gum and kick ass…and he’s all out of bubble gum.

Congressional heartland Republicans held their noses and got behind the pussy-grabbing New York City (“this stuff’s made in New York City?”)  mogul and “populist” free trade-basher Trump out of the opportunistic calculation that they could get their deeply reactionary and regressive agenda through with the Insane Clown President at their side. How’s that working out for them? Beyond numerous horrific and reactionary direct presidential actions, including a right-wing Supreme Court appointment, they’ve got nothing to show when it comes to legislation. They’ve undergone repeated humiliating defeats in their campaign to throw millions of poor and working-class Americans off health insurance. Now they are looking at another great fiasco: the inability of a Republican White House and Congress to pass a major tax cut for the already obscenely opulent.

It’s not inconceivable that a significant number of Republicans could decide that the time has come to cut and run from the Golden Wrecking Ball. To make matter worse for himself, the Narcissist-in-Chief has feuded with leading Republican Senators, from “war hero” (Vietnam bomber) John McCain (AZ) to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), Senate Foreign Relations Committee head Bob Corker (TN), and “free market” ideologue Jeff Flake (AZ).  The last Senator has written a book dedicated to the notion that Trump is a dangerous authoritarian and “populist” nationalist.

Still, I still don’t see much percentage in living in obsessive rage and disgust over Hair Fuhrer. The absurdly venerated U.S. Constitution, a deeply and intentionally conservative ruling-class document, means that the odds are still with Trump. Impeachment requires a majority in the House of Representatives.  That’s not going to be possible until 2019 and depends on the Democrats overcoming the right-wing gerrymandering of House district lines by winning something close to a supermajority of the popular vote in the mid-term House races.  According to the statistical wizards at Decision Desk HQ, Democrats are likely to win 55% of the popular vote in 2018 mid-term elections.  Thanks to gerrymandering, however, this will leave the Republicans with a five-vote majority in the House.  DDHQ gives the GOP a 55% chance of keeping the lower chamber.

The Holy Constitution says that removal requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate.  That seems improbable given the likelihood that the GOP will continue to hold well beyond a third of the votes, even with the Short Fingered Vulgarian having personally pissed off some top GOPers in the upper chamber.

Twenty-Fifth Amendment removal of the Bad Grandpa POTUS on grounds of “incompetence”? It runs up against the same partisan barrier within both the White House and the Congress.

Do uppermost Democrats really want to pursue Trumpeachment?  The billionaire Democratic Party donor Tom Steyer may have rousted up a million signatures for that, but leading Democrats must be salivating at the prospect of running against the Great White Dope in 2018 and 2020. The big dogs atop the “Inauthentic Opposition” (as the late Sheldon Wolin aptly described the not-so Democratic Party) surely calculate that His Awfulness will let them prevail while continuing to dismiss, ignore, and (yet) rig the intra-party game against majority progressive opinion and the reformist (Sandernista) wing of their political organization.

And that, by the way, means that a second Trump term is not impossible. Con Don may be widely loathed, but so are the corporate Democrats and their noxious and demobilizing brand of elitist and neoliberal identity politics.  Among other things, Russiagate has been all about helping the dismal, dollar-drenched Dems continue to avoid any meaningful confrontation with the reasons for the contempt they richly deserve from much of the nation’s working-class majority.

Meanwhile, who wants Mike Pence in the White House? How seriously have impeachment advocates thought about the dreadfulness of the insipid “Christian fascist” Pence, an arch-sexist uber-homophobic evangelical white nationalist “free market” champion who would likely advance the Republicans’ arch-regressive and reactionary agenda with considerably more skill and effectiveness than the Orange Caligula.

Defenestrating the “fucking moron” (Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s not-so private description of his boss) means you get the arguably more dangerous Pence as POTUS.  Simon, I mean the Constitution, says.

There’s a deeper question.  Call me a Marxist (guilty), but what’s the point of losing sleep over who sits in the White House at the end of the day? If Orange Brutus was booted out, everything would still suck in the United States thanks to the lethal gravitational pull of the underlying and interrelated eco-cidal forces of l capitalism, racism, sexism, and imperialism. Ditching a Nixon or a Trump might feel good. It’d be great fun to see the Orange Beast flown off the White House lawn in abject shame. But it wouldn’t mean all that much for the real lives of everyday workers and citizens suffering under the unelected and interwoven “deep state” dictatorships of money and empire.

I despise Herr Donald, of course, but hating on the Clockwork Orangutan is too easy. Many of the “progressives” I’ve spoken to recently are obsessed with Trump to the point of absurdity and farce. He’s their daily affliction. It’s Trump this, Trump that, and Trump some more all day long with these folks. Their brains have been Trumped.  It was the same with Dubya to no small degree, but this is a new level.  What the Trump-afflicted liberals don’t seem to know or care about is that there’s always a horrible and exterminist system churning on beneath and beyond the matter of who happens to sit in the White House – a system wired to ruin the common good, including (it is own glaringly evident) the very life-support systems of the planet.

It’s long past time for U.S. Americans to mature beyond the childish presidential and electoral obsessions that cripple U.S. “democracy” and political culture. Did Orange Thing (OT) distribute 90 percent of the United States’ wealth into the hands of the top tenth of U.S.1 Percent? Did OT smash unions in the U.S.? Did OT create a racist mass incarceration and felony-branding system in the U.S.? Did OT turn the U.S. political system into an open corporate and financial oligarchy? Does OT make tens of millions of U.S. children live below the notoriously inadequate U.S. federal poverty level? Does OT set the U.S. poverty level absurdly low? Did OT slash the U.S. social welfare safety net? Does OT cause endemic and widespread wage and hour theft across U.S. workplaces?  Does OT force U.S. policymakers to refuse making quality healthcare a basic human right for all Americans regardless of their economic status? Does OT make U.S. politicians attack women’s right to control their own bodies and lives? Did OT turn the Democratic Party into a tool of the neoliberal corporate and financial “elite” and make it into the “graveyard of social movements”? Did OT create the U.S. opioid crisis and the related increase in white working-class mortality in the country? Did OT create the concentrated poverty and insecurity that stalks the nation’s ghettoes, barrios, reservations, and trailer parks? Did OT create the U.S. police and surveillance state? How about the Pentagon System that eats more than half of federal U.S. discretionary spending while functioning as a great system of corporate welfare for the rich?  Does OT bear responsibility for the racist, right-wing, and partisan gerrymandering of U.S. federal and state electoral districts?  Does OT cause the woefully inadequate and unequal funding of U.S. public education? Does OT turn U.S. professors, pundits, preachers, nonprofit “leaders,” politicians, and journalists into agents of U.S. capitalist, nationalist, religious and imperial doctrine and propaganda? Did OT turn the American workplace intro an authoritarian nightmare for millions of employees, who know that they can lose not just their jobs but also their health insurance if they say or do anything that bothers their bosses?

I could go on.  The answer of course is “no” to all the above.  These problems are rooted in the core functioning and richly bipartisan operation of American capitalist Empire and Inequality, Incorporated. “The black revolution,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote near the end of his life, “is…forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws—racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.” (If he were alive today [he’d be 88 years old], King would certainly add sexism and environmental ruination to his list of “interrelated flaws.”)

Six years after King wrote those words, American “democracy” got rid of the despicable gangster Richard Nixon, who would have been impeached and removed from office had he not resigned.  America then plunged headlong into the vicious neoliberal era, which has brought us to a New Gilded age of abject plutocracy and savage inequality.  A good part of that terrible trajectory got rolling under the Christian Democrat Jimmy Carter, probably the last U.S. commander-in-chief not to have been a full-on sociopath. (Sorry liberals, but Obama was one too). Does anyone remember the militantly corporatist and inegalitarian, imperialist, racist, mass-incarcerationist, and planet-poisoning New Gilded Age Hells that were the Bob Rubin-overseen Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations? Would anyone like to think seriously about how awful things would be with Hillary Clinton in the White House today? (I tried to do that two months ago on Counterpunch – it was not a pretty scenario)? The real issues are systemic and institutional.

In U.S. political culture., presidents and the presidentially obsessed nightly and cable news broadcasts function like the distracting matador’s cape while capitalism and its evil twin imperialism grind murderously on behind the ugly scene.  Unlike the matador, the ruling class kills and maims mainly off-stage, not in the visible ring, though it always has key operatives strategically placed in the White House.

Meanwhile there’s something else that is difficult but necessary to acknowledge: The big Bad Grandpa in the White House is accelerating the decline of the mass-murderous U.S.-American Empire, which is a good thing for everyone, including even U.S.-Americans. (As Noam Chomsky noted in the late 1960s, “The costs of empire are in general distributed over the society as a whole, while its profits revert to a few within.”) The buffoonish cowboy George W. Bush did that too, bless his heart. The Empire has fewer clothes to cloak its ugliness no clothes when the nominal top Superpower job is held a senile racist Hollywood actor like Ronald Reagan, a moronic flunky like Dubya, or an openly vicious dotard [1] like Trump holds the nominal top Superpower job.

Deceptive and charismatic, silver-tongued neoliberal upper Ivy Leaguer Dems like Bill Clinton (Yale Law) and Barack Obama (Harvard Law) fill their administrations with effective, sophisticated and smooth-talking ruling-class operatives from the Council on Foreign Relations.  They give the Pax Americana a shiny, smart-sounding, fake-benevolent and multi-cultural re-branding while keeping its machinery set on kill. Hillary (Yale Law) would have continued that game in spades, with a special new gender twist.

I will not shed tears over how the 2016 elections exposed the exhausted nothingness of the Democrats’ scam “neoliberal progressivism” (left historian Nancy Fraser’s useful phrase) or over how Trump is diminishing the American Empire’s brand strength, cultural capital, and (see Andrew McCoy’s latest book) strategic capacity. Who wants Uncle Sam more decently clothed? Who wants the U.S.-ruling class “adults in the room” – the real and “responsible men of power” – to run this morally failed Mafia state with more outward acceptability and effectiveness than it deserves? Let this vicious Empire stand more unambiguously exposed as the racist, classist, sexist, criminal and eco-exterminist prison, police and pariah state that it is

Our energies are misdirected into an endless focus on the big money big media candidate-centered major capitalist party electoral extravaganzas and the constant presidential obsession. Let the Big Orange Stink Bomb spark heightened mockery and rage, discrediting and de-legitimating American empire and inequality at home and abroad for a bit longer, I say. Meanwhile we must not get sucked yet again into the Lesser Evilist electoral trap that turns everything into a big Get-Out-the Vote project for the latest brand rollout from the Inauthentic Opposition Party. We must at long last get radically serious and grow up to form social and political movements are up to tackling the “real issue to be faced” (King) beneath and beyond the big money, big-media, major party candidate-centered “quadrennial electoral extravaganzas” (Chomsky) that are sold to us as “politics,” the only politics that matters. Nothing in existence – not Black Lives Matter (recipient of a $100 million grant from the ruling-class Ford Foundation last year) and certainly not Bernie “Sheepdog” Sanders’ “Our Revolution” – is remotely in the ballpark as far as that is concerned.

A final word of advice to Trump-obsessed liberals: gird your loins in the possible (40%) event of your great affliction being impeached or forced to resign.  A progressive defense lawyer from the border state South recently told me that “if Trump is removed by Washington politicians, there’s going to be considerable white nationalist violence in the country.” He’s probably right about that. Trumpeachment will not occur without bloodshed. I see angry white boys and men glaring at more multiracial and “educated” Iowa Cityans while driving through town in delivery vans and pickup trucks. They hate bicyclists, gay people, people of color, writers, professors, liberals, radicals, transgendered people. Muslims. non-supine women, immigrants, Marxists, feminists, and more. For some of them, Orange Beast was a Godsend. He legitimized their racism, their nativism, their sexism, their homophobia, their selfishness, their anti-intellectualism, their sense of victimization, their provincialism, their rage, their ignorance, their knee-jerk nationalism, their anti-cosmopolitanism. If their Dear Orange Leader is taken away, some of them may well come packing, deplorably enough. If the Great God Trump goes down – and he might – I can see some F-150-driving assault weapon-owning white males losing their shit and going “hunting for Liberals and Leftists.”  Breitbart will cheer them on.  They’ve got Trump on the brain too, in a different way. If Trumpeachment occurs, liberals in bright Blue and formerly Obama-mad campus towns surrounded by armed Red State pickup drivers might want to stay indoors for a while when it all goes down.

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1/ Special thanks to North Korea’s hereditary Marxist-Leninist dictator Kim Jong-un for reviving interest in this rarely used word. As Pyongyang’s Dear Leader said last September, “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire. Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wanted to say.” Who will tame the dotard? Not the “We the [U.S-American] People,” as currently constituted and disorganized. Not Kim Jong-un. Maybe Bob Mueller


Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).