This a Freak Show, Not a Democracy (Thanks, Founders)

Photograph Source Marc Nozell | CC BY 2.0

Some fall predictions:

+ The Chicago Cubs, having added Daniel Murphy to their roster, will go to the World Series again, to be defeated by a superior American League club, likely the Red Sox (51% probability).

+ The quasi-fascist U.S. President Donald J. Trump will pardon his recently convicted and  former campaign manager Paul Manafort. (65% probability). (Whether this happens before or after the mid-term Congressional elections I can’t say – probably sooner rather than later to prevent Manafort from spilling any beans to federal sentence-negotiators.)

+ The Democrats will win a small majority in the U.S. House of Representatives (63% probability) in the 2018 mid-term elections, raising the distinct possibility that Trump will be impeached in 2019.

+ The Republicans will retain control of the U.S. Senate (67%) in the mid-terms (the Republicans are defending just 8 Senate seats while the Democrats are defending 26, including 10 seats in states won by Trump in 2016), something that should (but see my postscript-like endnote [1]) keep Trump’s removal off the table (see endnote [1] on why I will now notput a probability number on this) in the absence of shocking new slam-dunk evidence about his criminality and immorality.

+ Manafort will be convicted all over again in his next trial (90%), if it goes ahead.

+ The criminal investigations and allegations around Trump’s violations of campaign finance laws and laws against the obstruction of justice and witness tampering will widen and deepen (95%), raising the prospect that he will be indicted at the state and/or federal levels.

+ The nation will continue to flail around in the archaic aristo-republican straight-jacket fitted for it by the nation’s slave-owning and explicitly anti-democratic “Founding Fathers” 231 years ago – the U.S. Constitution (100%),

+ The arch state-capitalist United States will continue wreaking havoc on its own people and the world, reflecting its captivity to the un-elected and interrelated dictatorships of wealth and empire (100%).

The capitalist and imperialist havoc will persist well past the fall.  It will go forward no matter what happens to Trump in coming weeks, months, and years. It will continue if Trump is replaced by the revolting Mike Pence before 2021, or by some outwardly “liberal” Democratic corporatist and imperialist like Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Andrew Cuomo, Oprah Winfrey, James Comey, or Michael Avenatti in 2021.

Different Types of Dislike for Trump: Yours and the Ruling Class’s

If you are like most people I know, you quite reasonably hate Donald Trump. You loathe him for accelerating the climate crisis and the destruction of a livable environment, the biggest issue of our or any time (since nothing else we care about is going to matter on a dead planet).  You detest hate him for being a racist, a nativist, a sexist, an arch-authoritarian, a gross and plutocratic oligarch. a record-setting pathological liar, and an agent of what can fairly be called “creeping fascism.”

These aren’t the reasons that much if not most of the U.S. ruling-class disapproves of Trump. Let’s be candid.  The lion’s share of the nation’s financial and corporate masters have long been comfortable with: dog-whistling racism and nativism as a Machiavellian political tool; the relentless oligarchic smiting of democracy; the reckless plunder and pollution of the natural and social commons; the upward concentration  wealth and money through various means including giant bailouts (as under Bush43 and Obama44) and big tax cuts for the rich (as under Bush 43 and Trump45 last year).

The steady drift to the ever-more menacing right was hardly invented by Trump.  The wealthy Few have been quietly indifferent to the steady rise of “neoliberal fascism” in and under both reigning political organizations – giant plutocratic fundraising tools I hesitate to call political parties anymore.

So, what’s wrong with El Donito as far as the real “deep state” (capitalist and imperial) masters are concerned? The Western capitalist system and its evil twin imperialism (we might add the evil triplet of white supremacism) wraps itself in (yes, hypocritical) the “civilized” and “higher-brain” flags of parliamentarian “democracy,” legalism, equal opportunity, humanism, professional expertise, modernity, carefully constructed establishment accord, compromise, “checks and balances.” peace and (more recently) cultural diversity.

These are masks that a lower-brain pre- and/or post-modern atavist and pussy-grabbing, wannabe dictator like Donald Trump is unwilling and/or unable to wear.  Trump’s first sin is that he’s too sloppy and obvious about his racism, sexism, narcissism, authoritarianism, and disregard for the bourgeois “rule of law,” parliamentary procedure, elite consensus, and common human decency.  He’s too seriously reptilian about his racism, crossing the line between calculated dog-whistling (okay) to explicit bigotry (not okay). He goes too far in exposing the naked reality of savage class, race, imperial, and male beneath and behind the refined, polite, and elegant pretense of caring and democratic governance.

His thuggish crime-boss bravado and his unapologetic white-male despotism is bad for the brand. So is his longstanding habit of surrounding himself with certified uber-avaricious low-life swamp-denizens like Manafort (convicted felon), Michael Cohen (convicted felon), Roger Stone (un-convicted uber-creep), Scott Pruitt (un-convicted felon), Anthony Scaramucci (ridiculous buffoon), Steve Bannon (should be sent to a work camp), Michael Flynn (convicted felon), Jared Kushner (a crime family son who should be deported to an illegal Israeli settlement), and…the list goes on and on.

Presidents aren’t supposed to hang with creatures that far down in the evolutionary mud. They are supposed to stock their administrations and policy circles with – and listen to – the “best and brightest” from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institution, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, the Hamilton Project, and the Atlantic Council.  They are supposed to work with people from the right swamps like Robert Rubin, John Podesta, Eric Holder, Peter Orszag, Timothy Geithner, Hillary Clinton, and Larry Summers.

Trump’s second sin from the perspective of the U.S. wealth and power elite goes is his willingness to speak to angry white pitch-fork-carrying masses in “populist” (yes, fake-populist) terms (yes, betrayed by his 2017 tax cut for the super-rich, himself included), outside the usual ruling class neoliberal and globalist consensus and doctrine. During the 2015-16 campaign, Trump sickened decent human beings the world over by taking the ugly racist and sexist Republican playbook of racist, nativist, and sexist insult and dog-whistling to new levels of mean-spirited and childish toxicity. As the brilliant political scientist Thomas Ferguson notes, “he trash-talked Hispanics, immigrants, and women virtually non-stop, though with a verve uniquely his own. He laced his campaign with barely coded racial appeals and in the final days, ran an ad widely denounced as subtly anti-Semitic.”

At the time, however, the Trump “populist” appeal wasn’t just or all about sexism, racism, and nativism, coded and not-so coded. Trump “supplemented these [ugly themes] with other messages that qualified,” Ferguson writes, “as true blockbusters: In striking contrast to every other Republican presidential nominee since 1936, he attacked globalization, free trade, international financiers, Wall Street, and even Goldman Sachs.”

Here are forty-nine words from candidate Trump that could just as easily have been uttered with only a few adjustments by Bernie Sanders, or for that matter, by Noam Chomsky: “Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache…[while] the politicians do nothing. For years, they watched on the sidelines as our jobs vanished and our communities were plunged into depression-level unemployment.”

As part of his outreach to the nation’s “forgotten” blue collar workers – white ones for the most part, to be sure – Trump even criticized as unfair and plutocratic the “carried interest” tax break that was and remains beloved by high finance.  Deepening his assault on the U.S. globalist establishment, Trump channeled long dormant isolationist-sounding Middle American themes in proclaiming “America First.” He ridiculed George W. Bush’s false “weapons of mass destruction” pretext for invading Iraq.  He abandoned more than six decades of Republican orthodoxy by observing (for whatever reasons, including possibly corrupt and compromised ones) that the United States had an interest in cooperating with Russia.

Like it or not, the lying fake-populist Donald Trump spoke some real truths on these matters. His anti-establishment rhetoric (well-suited to an anti-establishment election season) was part – not all, but certainly part – of how he defeated the stiff corporate globalist Hillary Clinton in “heartland” districts that the pompous Democratic candidate foolishly labeled as home to “a basket of deplorables.”  It was also the main reason that most of the big corporate and financial campaign bankrollers lined up against Trump and with his main competitors (Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Hillary Clinton) during both the presidential primaries and the general election campaign (Clinton got a vast swath of the normally Republican business money) in 2016.

As president, the epic dissembler Trump has accurately noted that the world would be a safer place if the planet’s two leading nuclear superpowers stood down a bit from the strident New Cold War that peaked under Obama – and which Hillary promised to escalate in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.  Trump’s sentiment on this score is a truism and may originate from less-than-peaceful and noble motives (am I, as a good leftist, really supposed to be so afraid of being charged with ideological impurity as to deny that the global real estate baron Trump has been strangely tied to Russian oligarchs and their money going back decades?) but it still beats the reckless determination many top neoliberal Democratic and neoconservative Republicans have shown to heighten the West’s U.S.-led humiliation and provocation of proud nationalist and nuclear Russia.

It reminds me of the old joke: “even a broken clock tells the time accurately twice a day.”

The Malignant Orange Hate Machine

Should Trump be removed from office for corruption? Sure.  Get him the Hell out of there for whatever – obstruction, witness tampering, campaign finance violations, “collusion” (if there’s really anything there on that)…for spitting on the carpets of the West Wing, for violating Twitter’s anti-bullying role, for abusing his 12-year old kid, who he’d throw under the bus with Melania in a second if he thought it made political sense.

Trump is a such a selfish and racist-nativist thug that he can’t honor the wishes of the family of the murdered young Iowa woman Mollie Tibbets by resisting his vicious impulse to aggressively politicize her alleged killing by an “illegal immigrant.”

Think it’s too much to accuse Trump of racialized creeping fascism?  Listen to some of his rally speeches, like the West Virginia one last Tuesday. The Malignant Orange Hate Machine (MOHM) used the Tibbetts tragedy to roll out yet his vicious and idiotic narrative about the supposed mass of “illegal immigrants” marching across our “weak borders” to kill us.

The MOHM absurdly said that New York governor Andrew Cuomo was speaking to “a room full of socialists” when Cuomo engaged in what Trump called “career-threatening” rhetoric by claiming that “America was never great.” (A crowd member yelled out “communists.” “No,” the MOHM said “they were socialists, but there may have been a couple of those in there”). How was that for some neo-McCarthyite red-baiting?

The MOHM mentioned previous wars that showed the “greatness of America” but left out the Civil War since he knows that many of his backers would be more than okay with the revocation of the North’s victory and the restoration of Black chattel slavery.

“Coal is back,” the MOHM announced to great cheers.  It was another gross statement of his and is fellow Republicans’ chilling, eco-exterminist commitment to burning every last fossil fuel that can be found in North America – a death-knell for the species.

A “blue wave” in the upcoming mid-term elections, the MOHM intoned, “means crime…a red wave means safety and strength.” If those dastardly leftist Democrats win, the MOHM warned, “we’ll have open borders and vicious predators will run over us.”

The MOHM praised “our ICE officers, our heroes…they defend our communities like nobody they’ve ever seen…they defend our communities. They’re tougher and stronger…they have no fear.”

The MOHM pointed to local police and gave some love to “law enforcement…these are great, great people.” He praised his fascistic border patrol for “throwing people in jail and throwing them out of the country.”

The MOHM started in on his favorite big city whipping boy Chicago, absurdly blaming its gun violence (significantly enhanced by gun-control rollbacks pushed by his friends at the neo-fascistic National Rifle Association) on – no joke – “open borders.”

“MS-13 poured in with Obama,” Trump ridiculously charged, “but we have them on the run because WE LOVE ICE.”

Do you think a lot of people in his audience wouldn’t have erupted in cheers after a brief gasp “if the MOHM had said what he really wanted to: “MS-13 poured in with that son of a bitch Obama, our Nigger president from Kenya?’

You betch’ya they would have. And don’t kid yourself: the MOHM would love to live in a “Great America” where he could say something as openly racist as that.

So, sure, get this sick quasi-fascist tangerine puppy with its tiny little fingers on the nuclear button and on the world’s most noxious Twitter feed out of there. The MOHM is an endless maddening distraction and, oh by the way, a lethal menace to livable ecology. The environmental threat is clear from the rollback of CO2 emission limits the recently trumpeted in a venomous rally before thousands of frothing white-nationalist supports in West Virginia.  The accelerated war on the natural environment is the topmost danger he and his party pose, though you’d never know it from the “mainstream” media’s obsession with lesser perils.

The sooner the MOHM is swept off his preposterous presence at the center stage of history, the better.  This tangerine freak show needs to climax and expire.

Scared of a Pence White House?  I’d take it easy. Sure, he’s a Christian Fascist.  But he’ not remotely the political force that is “The Great God Trump” (Mike Davis’s phrase). He’d be a comparatively weak and crippled caretaker through 2020.

Our Wholly Undemocratic, 231-Year Old Constitution

Most of the nation and world’s politically and morally half-cognizant people hate the MOHM, with good reasons.  So why is TrumpExit probablynot happening anytime soon (except see endnote [1]), if at all prior to January 21st, 2021 or perhaps even (believe it or not, since the dismal Democrats are so awful) January 21st, 2025?

This is a democracy, right?

No, it’s not.

You can blame the evil Trump base – and don’t get me wrong, it’s a nasty group for the most part – all you want, but you might want to ask yourself how he can gain and stay in office despite his epic unpopularity, his obvious criminality, his unrivalled record of pathological lying, his weird connection (going way back before the 2016 election) to Russian oligarchs, and his bottomless, mind- and soul-numbing indecency.

There’s a lot of factors in play but one nobody seems to care about and that deserves far more attention than it receives is the archaic, explicitly anti-democratic 18thcentury aristo-republican U.S. Constitution that we moronically venerate and follow twenty-three decades after it was ratified for the clear purpose of protecting propertied elites against the non-affluent American majority.

Our Holy Constitution’s (OHC’s) Electoral College (EC) permits an absurd over-representation of rural and disproportionately white, rural, racist, and Republican states in presidential elections.  We do not elect presidents directly, on the one-person, one-vote basis of majority rule, an elementary principle of democracy. The EC has trumped the popular vote in five presidential elections, including 2016 and two of the last five.

Impeachment? It could happen if the Democrats take back the House of Representatives.  The Democrats maysucceed in that endeavor since they are scoring much higher than the Republicans in the pre-election polls.  But they must do far better than a simple majority in the biennial mid-terms because of the preposterously gerrymandered way in which House districts geographic lines are drawn at the state level.  OHC says that the states, most of which are now controlled by Republicans, set the manner of electing House representatives but OHC also permits the Congress, currently controlled by Republicans, to alter that manner. So the openly anti-democratic practice of partisan (now fiercely Republican-biased) gerrymandering remains intact and could(with some help from racist voter suppression in red states and other noxious voting irregularities) trump a majority Democratic nationwide House vote next November.

It is an example of an old problem that plagued OHC from the outset: partisan party politics checkmating the “check and balances” system that is supposed to distribute power evenly between government’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Okay, so say the Trumpenstein gets impeached, for corruption, “collusion,” and/or just for being an unmitigated asshole. OHC says it can’t be removed from office without a 2/3 verdict in the Senate. Impeachment is just an indictment that moves to the Senate for conviction or exoneration. And the widely hated Republican Party (viewed unfavorably by at least 6 in 10 U.S.-Americans) are the majority party in the Senate, thanks in no small degree to OHC’s openly anti-democratic granting of two US Senate seats to each state regardless of population. This leads to an openly absurd over-representation of rural and predominantly white, racist, and Republican “red” states. The over-representation of those states under 2 senator-per-state rule means that states containing just 18 percent of U.S. population are home to a majority of U.S. Senators right now. Absurd.

The notion of the Democrats and enough anti-Trump Republicans suddenly joining hands to form a two-third U.S. Senate majority in support of defenestrating the MOHM from the White House still seems farfetched as I write this essay (though please see endnote [1] for some reflections on an alternative scenario).  It’s probablynot going to happen short of some spectacular development like the release of a tape showing Trump and Putin roasting and eating Chechen children alive. It’ll likely take something like a cannibalism tape (okay, maybe a golden shower tape) to stand the dotard’s Republican congressional enablers and his gun-toting white-Amerikaner base down from their deadly allegiance to the Great God Trump.

Okay, so suck it up, buttercup and get back in shape for the next holy, constitutionally ordained quadrennial electoral extravaganza to vote a Democrat into the White House, right? Who knows if they can pull that off?  Who do they have, really, for 2020? Has anyone reached out to Jimmy Carter?

The Democrats aren’t winning any popularity contests themselves.  They are highly unpopular (their party is viewed favorably well less than half the populace) for some very good neoliberalism-imposed reasons. The Inauthentic Opposition Party – as the late left political scientist Sheldon Wolin rightly described the Democrats near the end of the George W Bush fiasco – is every bit as corporatized and sold-out to the financial plutocracy and its military empire (that is. to the capitalist class and imperial system that emerged out of national development under the rule of the propertied elite our Holy Founders worked so brilliantly to protect) as the GOP.

This is thanks in no small part to the outrageously outsized role that big-money campaign contributions play in determining the outcomes of the nation’s evermore absurdly expensive elections. And that role is traceable in part to OHC. The founders created the Supreme Court as a critical appointed-for-life check on the popular will. And in two landmark decisions, Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and Citizens United(2010), the high court has ruled that private campaign contributions are “free speech” and that there are no “constitutional” limits to be set on how much the rich and powerful can invest in the giant organized bribery project that is U.S. campaign finance.

We get to vote?  Big deal. Mammon reigns nonetheless in the United States, where, the leading liberal political scientists Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens find, “government policy…reflects the wishes of those with money, not the wishes of the millions of ordinary citizens who turn out every two years to choose among the preapproved, money-vetted candidates for federal office.

Most US-Americans have long said that the two reigning “parties” – aptly described as “two wings of the same bird of prey” by Upton Sinclair in 1904 – do not adequately represent the real spectrum of public opinion (which stands well to the left of both political organizations on numerous key issue) in the U.S.  And the Supreme Court has consistently ruled on behalf ballot access and other laws that make viable third and fourth parities impossible.

The Supreme Court, too, is pretty much a Republican bastion, another example of party politics check-mating OHC’s promise of “checks and balances.”

Thanks, Founders.

Oh, and by the way, OHC permits presidents to pardon criminals big and small – a nice little check on checks and balances.

We need a new national charter.  OHC was drafted 231 years ago by wealthy slaveowners, opulent merchant capitalists, and their dutiful servants with the explicit purpose of keeping democracy – the Framers’ ultimate nightmare – at bay. It’s working.

In the meantime, prior to our next and overdue constitutional convention (could we call it a Constituent Assembly?), there’s got to be something more relevant to do about Trump and the rest of the wealthy oligarchs (atop both parties and including the billionaire impeachment champion Tom Steyer, America’s top campaign financier) who are running this country into the groundthan waiting at the 18thcentury Founders’ command for 4 minutes in a voting booth once 2 or 4 years to “among choose among the preapproved, money-vetted candidates for federal office.


1. I could well be wrong about Trump not getting impeached and removed in 2019 or 2020. The wild card here is the Republican Party.  If enough of its big shooters come to the understandable practical conclusion that Trump is going to collapse their organization with his reckless arrogance and criminality, they could at last abandon him and things could move towards removal quite quickly.  After I completed this essay, news broke that the mushrooming Michael Cohen-Stormy Daniels-Karen McDougal-Trump campaign finance and cheating scandal had expanded into an offer of immunity by federal prosecutors to a key 2016 Trump media ally and co-conspirator (David Pecker) and, more importantly, that the right-wing Republican Attorney General Jeff Sessions had issued a strong statement essentially rebuking Trump for the president’s politically motivated efforts to “improperly influence” the Justice Department.

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