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The Blue Wave Turns Orange

Photo Source United States Army | CC BY 2.0

On the color wheel, blue and orange are complimentary colors. Along with your swimsuit this November, Americans would do well to pack some Cheeto-repellent. The latest neolefty sweetheart is Richard Ojeda, candidate for the 3rd Congressional District in West Virginia. The pro-coal xenophobic military recruiter is just the resistance we need, apparently. Oh, and this guy voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Ojeda said about his vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election: “If he does twenty percent of what he promises, he’ll be a decent President…and maybe he just will make America great again.” Did Ojeda change his mind because Donald is doing 100 percent of what he’d say he’d do?

Richard Ojeda’s infatuation with coal is as dangerous as it is archaic. Ojeda, to this day, credits Donald Trump’s policy on coal—which has featured EPA rollback after rollback. This week it was to stop an Obama-era regulation of mercury. No one could ever call Barack Obama a good person, but he wasn’t stupid. Coal is dying. And we are all dying faster.

As the world is leaving coal behind for more efficient energy solutions, it is America who clings to the old guard. Ojeda acts as if the coal industry going away would eliminate all jobs! Ojeda said of coal: “I know coal is dirty, but that’s all we got.” Never mind the coming climate change apocalypse which will literally eliminate all the working people in your beloved state! Never mind that coal mining itself is perhaps the most dangerous job in the country. Never mind that these statements about jobs being lost are completely artificial—note Sweden’s fossil fuel free pledge for a near-seamless transition to greener energy.

Speaking of dangerous, the number one test for Democrats in the age of Trump is a military background. If you don’t have this, you cannot be trusted by the establishment. The way Democrats flock to the military one would think that Donald Trump is really ending regime change, touting diplomacy and scaling back the military. In reality, Trump has increased the military budget by over 200 billion.

Yet every Democrat who pops up seems to have ties to the military-industrial complex. Is this supposed to make us feel safer? That arrogant reckless idiot in the White House is no more arrogant, reckless, or idiotic than the American Empire itself.

Ojeda is a very good boy, as far as the Empire is concerned. He was not going to the army to get some benefits and move on, as so many poor people are left to do. Ojeda stuck around 24 years in the Army, rising to the title of major in the heartbreaking wars of Afghanistan and Iraq. He now teaches at the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC). This might be the most sinister propaganda organization in America.

Simply look at the objectives listed on the Wikipedia page for this evil organization and one can see how it is basically a fascist project. Some of them include: “Developing citizenship and patriotism” and “Developing self-reliance and responsiveness to all authority” and “Increasing a respect for the role of the U.S. Armed Forces in support of national objectives”. Just as the most admirable people in the world are those who help children, the most deplorable people are those who hurt them.

As the propaganda of the American Empire becomes increasingly ridiculous, the JROTC looks for younger and poorer kids to pray upon. As teachers are forced to buy their own supplies, America can afford to fund invasive recruiter programs that target the poor and brown—who happen to be the exact same people like Ojeda are killing overseas. That ‘school choice’ that Betsy DeVos advocates, that’s an option for rich people to buy their way out of the school to military pipeline. That’s the way to buy their way into schools with windows and without police. That’s the way to buy your way out of poorly funded schools that must teach to the standardized test to stay afloat.

Public schools are being shut down in droves—Chicago and New York have both had massive reductions this calendar year. And that is because the schools don’t ‘test’ well. In other words, they accept children with poor parents or with learning disabilities. Or in other words, they actually teach children something other than a rudimentary test. And the reason these schools are shut down is because there is no funding for them. And the reason they can shut down is because they will be replaced by pay-for-play charter schools.

As college becomes just too expensive to be rational anymore, public schools become wastelands, the police and prisons expand their power, and non-college degree jobs lose more and more benefits, children are left with one well-funded option: the military.

This is where Richard Ojeda comes in. Touted as a hero for siding with the West Virginia teacher strike, Ojeda is the new progressive face. Yet one has to ask, what about the children? Are they best served by a JROTC officer who supports the destruction of their planet and voted for a man who is dismantling even the concept of public schools?

Richard Ojeda is being profiled everywhere, from The New Yorker, CNN, The Guardian, The Young Turks (a show also hosted by a macho misogynistic former Republican who prefers weight lifting to cardio–with reading and talking in an inside voice even further down on the list of activities). Ojeda was one of the ‘resistence’ members featured in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9, which has arguably been a bigger disaster than 9/11 and 11/9 combined. The hip socialist mag Jacobin is one of many calling Ojeda a populist. Just as everyone associated with Trump is now a populist. Just read Thomas Frank’s new book for an insight into how all poor people resent everything and everybody and how Trump shows this somehow. Does Frank tint his liberal limousine windows from the outside? Oh well, the revolution is not coming from leftish academia anyways.

And the revolution is not coming from Richard Ojeda. The left does itself no favors by singling out the single Trump to progressive convert. In reality, Trump supporters aren’t budging. Believe it or not, Donald Trump is delivering on his campaign promises. Authoritarianism. Socially conservative. Lowering taxes (for the wealthy). Mass deportation.

It is amazing to see how many commentators have to lament over that good old split between class and liberalism. Commentators left, right and center have accepted neoliberalism’s main thesis: that class and liberalism are separate and incompatible. Look at the polls to see that this narrative is false. Those earning over 100k favored Trump, while those earning under 100k favored Clinton. And this was in spite of Hillary’s own clumsy hatred of the working class.

Yet commentators keep asking after Trump’s victory, how did the Democrats lose the working class to the Republicans? The only answer they come up with to this problem they created is to say that Trump is a working class populist. Donald Trump is a white male populist. But when it comes to class, he loses, if only by a small amount. If a better candidate than Clinton would have ran we likely would have seen Trump’s working class numbers drop even further.

Now it may be true that the working class gap is closer than before, but blame that only on the Democrats. Not being inspired by them is wholly different than supporting Trump.

Commentators are ignoring a far more central issue when they simplify Trump as some sort of working class rebellion. What Donald Trump really symbolizes is the death of democracy, not the assertion of it. The fact that he has helped the 1% and the 1% alone and still remains in office shows that we are nowhere close to the democracy we claim he proves us to be in.

If Trump has delivered anything for the ‘average person’ it is conservatism as an ideology. This ideology has never offered any material benefits to most of its believers, so Donald Trump does not need to be effective in any way besides rhetoric to prove his worth to these people. Conservatism has and always will be a survival of the fittest ethos—a means to empower the individual while ruining the society.

Donald Trump is the cultural rebellion against liberalism, not the political rebellion against economic depravity. All Trump has offered anyone is hate. And that is all he has delivered. If the working class had any power, Trump would have been kicked to the curb already. But his supporters rich and poor are standing by their man. He doesn’t have to deliver economic gains because his campaign was never about that.

We should oppose all apologists for Trump, both rich and poor. One of the more subtle ways of apologizing for Trump is to pretend he is a populist. Or maybe calling Trump a populist is really just a subtle way of digging at working people. Either way, such is a contradiction that makes little sense. Being on the left means you are for liberalism too. In fact one should dare to be far more liberals than liberals themselves. Buying into that false division of class and liberalism only justifies the false choices within a narrow neoliberal framework.

The way people are parading around the populist label, one would think that poverty and fascism are the same thing. Now Donald Trump explains everything. He is the entire story. Seriously, there is no other story to be had. Love him or hate him, this is, we hear, Trump’s America.

Donald Trump—the ugly blemish on corporate America’s squeaky clean image—must be explained as a disease from outside, rather than within, the corporate capitalist system we call home. Proud Blue Wavers will point to Trump’s populist uprising against the professional class. Baloney. He is the professional class. Just not the liberal side of it we see in academia and mainstream media. But he is the business side—a socially conservative, dog eat dog world kind of professional.

Critics of the Democratic Party will gleefully say that Trump was elected because the Democrats abandoned the working class. Hmm. So we immediately assume the Democrats that crossed over to Trump were poor. Once again, this is hardly true. Hillary Clinton, despite decades of sadistic anti-poor legislation by her and her husband, won the under 30 thousand income demographic and under 50 thousand income demographic, per CNN.

And, for the record, Donald Trump was hardly inevitable. He rose from a crowded Republican field, and then was supported by just about every establishment Republican. He did beat out the Democrat, but this happens half the time anyways, and he didn’t even win the popular vote. People basically voted along party lines. 89% of Democrats for Clinton, 88% of Republicans for Trump. Trump is no populist. He’s just a Republican.

Let me return to Richard Ojeda. The quasi-leftist narrative surrounding him is so sentimental, I just can’t stand it. It goes something like this: “Here we have a simple guy. He’s tough, he believes in country, in family (and yes, he supports Trump, coal and hates immigrants, but that’s what all simple guys do). There was a time when the Democrats were the party of the working class, and therefore fascism lost. Now that the Democrats prefer rich people, all the poor people are fascists! Let’s get this simple guy who can talk to the dumb poor people of West Virginia like a working man, and we can save the coal industry, the Democratic Party and the Exceptional country we have all worked so hard to maintain in one swoop!”

Alas, perhaps Ojeda’s 2016 vote for Donald Trump doesn’t make him any more pro-Trump than other Democrats. There wasn’t a single Democrat who voted against Trump’s 674$ military budget. In other words, if you are surfing the blue wave this November, you will have to swim with the sharks in one way or another. That is unless you are surfing a real blue wave, in an unusually warm November. If this is the case you are more likely to find one of the 100 million sharks dying annually from human activity floating on the surface.

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Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com 

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