All That is Holy is Profaned: Beyond Ruling Class Trumpeachment

Photograph Source: Shealah Craighead, The White House – Public Domain

Malignant Orange is an unspeakable atrocity. Think Muslim travel ban, Charlottesville, the advance pardoning of racist pig Joe Arpaio, sadistic family separations, calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “murderers,” the fake national emergency, the Nativist Wall, the criminal diversion of taxpayer funds, “go back to the crime-ridden countries you came from,” Kavanaugh, the captivity to the National Rife Association, emoluments, climate denial, reckless environmental deregulation, the abrogation of asylum rights, record-setting drone war, “shithole countries,” insane threats (“fire and fury”) to annihilate other nations (North Korea and Iran), “I might end birthright citizenship,” threats of “tough guy” violence if Congress or voters try to remove him from office, disfigured weather maps, the torture of Puerto Rico, covering for Saudi Arabia’s dismemberment of a dissident journalist, the torture of Yemen, 10,000 false statements, “the Blacks love me,” “my perfect phone call,” “the Kurds are very happy,” “this phony emoluments clause”….the nauseating list of its soul-numbing and head-shaking offenses goes on and on and on.

The venal and neofascistic Malignant Orange is the Energizer Bunny of Awful. It deserves worse than mere impeachment and removal. It merits the fate of “Damiens the regicide,” related in Foucault’s classic Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Modern Prison:

“On 1 March 1757 Damiens the regicide was condemned ‘to make the amende honorable before the main door of the Church of Paris,’ where he was to be ‘taken and conveyed in a cart, wearing nothing but a shirt, holding a torch of burning wax weighing two pounds’ ; then, ‘in the said cart, to the Place de Grève, where, on a scaffold that will be erected there, the flesh will be torn from his breasts, arms, thighs and claves with red-hot pincers, his right hand, holding the knife with which he committed the said parricide, burnt with sulphur, and, on those places where the flesh will be torn away, poured molten lead, boiling oil, burning resin, wax and sulphur melted together and then his body drawn and quartered by four horses and his limbs and body consumed by fire, reduced to ashes and his ashes thrown to the winds.’”

Let this orange abomination be swept into the proverbial dustbin of history. Let it pass from this Earth. The sooner, the better. There’s no telling what this cornered animal and its deranged backers might do in the next few weeks and months.

But who should sweep it away? How and with what purpose and what vision of a world beyond its sinister presence? There is profound and all too rarely noted irony in the hatred Donald Trump has elicited among much of the American capitalist and imperial ruling class. For who from the American oligarchy that hatched Trump on its foulest margins do not also deserve “to make the amende honorable”? Their parasitic profits system has pushed livable ecology to the edge of existential collapse while creating a planet so profanely unequal that the five most obscenely rich homo sapiens together possess as much wealth as the bottom half of the species – this while billions struggle to “live” on less than two dollars a day. With his shameless indifference to Western ruling-class niceties and civilizational pretense, his string of hired wives, and his global empire of debt-leveraged properties, the terrible, tiny-fingered, tangerine-tinted Twitter-tantruming titan Trump epitomizes the spiritual death that Karl Marx and Frederick Engels described in 1848:

“The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has …left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment.’ It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value..[and] stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers….[it] has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation….All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned….”

Among its many lethally reverberating sins of “egotistic calculation,” the blindly accumulationist bourgeoisie promotes human extinction through the transformation of the planet into a giant Greenhouse Gas Chamber, the disastrous diminution of biodiversity, the poisoning of Earth’s waterways, the acidification of its oceans, the continual razing of its forests and mountaintops, and the melting of its glaciers and ice-sheets. These are crimes beyond Hitler (himself something of a “green,” I am told) and his Third Reich.

None of this destruction is surprising. Bourgeois society, named capitalism by the end of the 19th century, has never had a moral center. It is not about anything remotely like democracy or the common good. My old copy of Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary defines capitalism as “the economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution … are privately owned and operated for profit, originally under fully competitive conditions: it has been generally characterized by a tendency toward concentration of wealth and, [in] its latter phase, by the growth of great corporations, increased government controls, etc.” This definition does not mention any of the things routinely and inaccurately identified with the profits regime in the dominant U.S. political and intellectual discourse: democracy, freedom, trade, job creation, an independent media, and a “free market” characterized by widespread competition and/or little or no government interference.

Capitalism is about profit for the owners of capital—period, full stop. There is nothing more, the world be damned. If corporate and financial profits are high, the system is working for its architects and intended beneficiaries: capitalists. Its great corporations (granted the legal protection of artificial personhood) are working as they are supposed to under U.S. common law, which holds that corporate “managers have a legal duty to put shareholders’ interests above all others and no legal authority to serve any other interests” – including the species’ interest in survival.

Trump stands charged with breaking civilized norms and the rule of law. He is guilty of all that and more. He is evil on steroids. But the norms, laws, and standards that Trump violates with impunity – denouncing the “phony emoluments clause” (from the “Fake Constitution”?) and calling the bourgeois corporate media “the enemy of the people”(!) – mean less than one might think to capitalist elites at the end of the day.

And yet Trump is a great bete noir – a beast to be slain – for many in the nation’s wealth and power elite. This is for five interrelated reasons. First, while he has gratified many among the wealthy Few with regressive tax-cuts and de-regulation, Trump interferes with their profits and capacity for effective planning with wildly erratic and unpredictable trade, tariff and foreign policies that do not show proper respect for the global networks and imperial needs of capital.

Second, Trump lacks suitable deference to the professional and managerial class and the related meritocratic ideology big capital called into being to coordinate its far-flung operations and to sell its system. The American ownership class’s goals and fate have been intertwined with the “expert” professional and managerial class (some of whose members have long been given entrée to the economic and political power elite) since the rise of a “modern” urban-industrial order and the corporate-managerial reconstruction of American capitalism during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Third, Trump goes too far in bridging the gap that is supposed to exist between economic and personalized political power under “democratic capitalism” (an oxymoron) Trump thinks his private wealth should merge with and be enhanced by his supreme political office, as if this was the time of the late-feudal absolutist state. A textbook malignant narcissist of the lowest reptilian order, the Trumpenstein thinks it’s all about Him. This fat-assed, golf-cheating, McDonald’s-wolfing idiot looks in the mirror and see a glittering monarch. This flabby and stupid silver-spooned, bone-spurred aristocrat thinks his wealth (likely inflated) proves that he is a “stable genius.” He muses that he should be appointed as “president for life,” maybe even king. This demented and angry clown (who thinks that Colorado shares a border with Mexico) refers to his election as the moment “when I took over the country” and he actually fucking means it. Trump is the first president in U.S. history who poses a real threat not to honor a re-election count that does not go his way.

Trumps thinks it “perfect”[ly] acceptable for him to use his position at the top of the American Superpower to extort assistance for his re-election bid from foreign heads of state like poor Volodomyr Zelensky, president of missile-hungry Ukraine. That, it turns out, is an American ruling-class no-no going to back to the birth of the nation Trump says he wants to “make great again.” It’s what’s going to get him impeached and possibly even removed from the presidency.

He’s been trying to run the White House like a private business – and like a mob outfit. Donito Assolini doesn’t get it: the President of the United States is supposed be a dutiful agent of American Empire and Inequality, Inc., like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The Al Capone here is the whole ruling class.

Fourth, Trump is too clumsily and childishly brazen in laying bare the moral nothingness and senseless selfishness of the real material-historical bourgeois society that lives beneath the veils of “Western civilization” and “American democracy.” Trump the Transgressor rips off the shroud. He could give a flying fuck for the nation’s longstanding egalitarian, legalist, democratic, and humanist pretensions, for its constitutional pledge to advance the General Welfare, or for its more recent outward commitment to racial, ethnic and gender “diversity.” He gives the lie to bourgeois society’s and America’s holy claims to embody and advance higher ideals like liberty, popular self-rule, “the rule of law,” and the desire for “a more perfect union.” Trump too transparently profanes everything he touches, including the hallowed pretenses of “American democracy.”

Fifth, the unmitigated and translucent ugliness and fitful stupidity of Trump is, to quote imperial U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) last Tuesday, “destroying the credibility of the United States in the world.” According to the blood-drenched former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking on the fake-progressive cable news network MSNBC (MSDNC), Trump is “turning the United States into a second-rate power.” Translation: Donald “America First” Trump is a shitty imperialist. He couldn’t get through three sentences of a Council on Foreign Relations briefing paper. He doesn’t understand hegemonic multilateralism and globalism. He’s bad at selling and managing the Pax Americana, the chief guarantor of the world capitalist system since 1945.

Trump is both a policy and a public relations disaster for the American Empire, whose benefits revert to the wealthy Few and whose costs are born by the rest of us. He is hastening the end of the “The American Century.” Trump is bad for the brand as well the operations of the Empire. In his small hands and big Twitter feed, the solid and doctrinally mandatory sense that “exceptional” and “good” America “stands taller and sees farther” (former Secretary of State Madeline Albright not long after she went on national television to proclaim that the killing of half a million Iraqi children by U.S.-imposed economic sanctions was a “price worth paying” to advance Washington’s inherently noble foreign policy objectives) melts into air in ways more inelegantly transparent than usual. There’s nothing “good” or visionary or tall about Trump.

Under the glare of the sick-clown Malignant Orange show, the speed at which the solidity of U.S. global hegemony melts into world systemic air is accelerated. Never mind that most of humanity would welcome the disappearance of the rogue American Superpower, which has killed tens of millions across the planet ever since it announced its full-on emergence with the criminal and unnecessary atom bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Trump’s unwitting assistance to the ongoing unraveling of U.S. hegemony is perhaps the best thing that can be said about him. Make no mistake: the smart “liberal” foreign policy operatives who are being sold as the “adults in the room” on CNN and MSNBC these days (Panetta, the sinister Samantha Power, and creepy James Clapper) are pure imperial evil. And they are curiously wedded to the Donald. He is their perfect foil, the validation of their more sophisticated version of top-down class and global rule. His sloppy repulsiveness authenticates their more erudite, tasteful, careful, and cultivated hideousness.

The ever-more poisoned world created by Marx and Engels’ “bourgeoisie” naturally produces monsters like the id-laden Trump, who goes too far for the bourgeois super-ego in revealing the primeval void and savagery that lurks beneath “modern,” “rational,” and supposedly civilized capitalism. Herr Donald also gets in hot ruling class water for disturbing the ego of capital – its more “organized,” “realistic,” “rational,” planning and coordinating functions – with his erratic and unpredictable trade and foreign policies. (Sorry to go Freudian here, but the terms are a perfect fit here). Trump is both an excessively visible lesion on the rump of the pitiless capitalist beast and a barrier to proper imperial operations.

The American wealth and power elites who want Trump defenestrated are focused on a very limited and deeply conservative set of procedures and grievances. Their mainly Democratic Party-affiliated media, officeholders, and politicians want Trump disciplined and even removed through the tedious, prolonged and top-down mechanisms of the U.S. Constitution – a document created by 18th Century slaveowners and merchant capitalists for whom democracy was the ultimate nightmare. They want removal to be about how Trump put his own personal political and (if an Article of Impeachment is formed around the Emoluments Clause) economic interests above the “national interest” – a phrase that provides rich propagandistic cover for an imperial system that serves the domestic U.S. corporate-financial oligarchy while imposing huge costs on the broader society (including the bankrupting of vitally necessary social and environmental programs). They want impeachment, perhaps removal and (failing that) the next election to usher in a new presidency comprised of more properly “adult” and respectful representatives of the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of capital and empire. They want Citigroup, Goldman, Chase, the Council on Foreign Relations, Brookings, the CIA, and the rest of the calamitous “best and the brightest” imperial class restored fully to their rightful position at Superpower’s commanding heights.

It’s hard for any self-respecting left progressive not to want to see Malignant Orange fed to the wolves. It and its base are a co-joined, constitutionally inflated racist and sexist cancer, a neofascist and eco-cidal tumor that has grown too big not to be cut out. The sooner, the better. No remorse for this dismal wannabe fascist strongman, this malevolent “Midtown Mussolini.” But impeachment (almost certain now) and perhaps (unlikely but no longer unimaginable) removal via the Constitution are highly flawed, tepid, and elitist tools. Trump and his ridiculous emissary Rudy Guliani’s mob-like muscling of the (by the way) terrible Ukrainian government (a regime no progressive should admire), while no small matter (no leftist should be “okay” with a president using the imperial leverage of the White House to enlist foreign support in his or her re-election), is not particularly high on the list of terrible offenses (concentration camps, the brutal acceleration of Ecocide, blatant racism, and the criminal diversion of taxpayer dollars to the racist-nativist Wall, for starters) for which Trump deserves removal and incarceration. He should be driven out by a mass popular rebellion that brings down not just his neofascist administration but also the bipartisan “deep state” system of class rule that birthed the Trumpenstein and now poses a grave existential menace to all prospects for a decent and organized human existence. And it should be driven out as soon as possible, before this trapped monster and its neofascist Amerikaner base go completely apeshit in disastrous ways.

A recent Reuters story is titled “Season of Discontent: Protests Flare Around the World.” By Reuters’ account:

“Another day, another protest. On Monday it was Bolivia …Last week, the streets of the Chilean capital Santiago descended into chaos, as demonstrators enraged by a hike in public transport fares looted stores, set a bus alight and prompted the president to declare a state of emergency. Earlier this month, Ecuador’s leader did the same after violent unrest triggered by the decision to end fuel subsidies that had been in place for decades.

And that was just South America. Hong Kong has been in turmoil for months, Lebanon’s capital Beirut was at a standstill, parts of Barcelona resembled a battlefield last week and tens of thousands of Britons marched through London at the weekend over Brexit….

Tens of thousands of people have flooded Beirut in the biggest show of dissent against the establishment there in decades. People of all ages and religions joined to protest about worsening economic conditions and the perception that those in power were corrupt.

Similar factors were behind deadly civil unrest in Iraq in early October. More than 100 people died in violent protests across a country where many Iraqis, especially young people, felt they had seen few economic benefits since Islamic State militants were defeated in 2017.

Protests have flared around the world in the last few months. Each has had its own trigger, but many of the underlying frustrations are similar.

Globalization and technological progress have, in general, exacerbated disparities within countries, said Sergei Guriev, former chief economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development…

… Protesters set cars on fire and threw petrol bombs at police in Barcelona, unrest sparked by the sentencing of Catalan separatist leaders who sought to declare an independent state.

..In Egypt, where demonstrations last month were relatively small yet significant in their rarity, the catalyst of dissent against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was an Egyptian posting videos from Spain.

Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, inspired millions of people to march through cities around the world in September to demand that political leaders act to stop climate change. Tens of thousands gathered in a New York park to listen to her speech…”

Reuters might also have mentioned widespread anti-corruption/anti-neoliberal unrest in Haiti, the millions who took to the streets and highways to overthrow a corrupt and racist-sexist government in Puerto Rico last summer, and the success of the Gilets Jaunes (yellow-vest) street-fighters in forcing France’s arrogant neoliberal president Emanuel Macron to repeal a regressive gas tax last year.

Reuters would have done well to further note that that the problem isn’t simply “globalization” as such but rather globalization under the regressive, divisive, and environmentally ruinous command of capital – and that “technological progress” under that command is always a double-edged sword to say the least.

With those qualifications in mind, we are long past time for a “Season of Discontent” here in the belly of the bourgeois, world-systemic beast. Mass protest both to overthrow a hopelessly corrupt and tyrannical, racist and white-nationalist administration (the neofascist Trump-Pence regime) and to confront the savage economic inequality (the three richest U.S,-Americans possess more wealth between them than the bottom half the country) and environmental ruin imposed by neoliberal capitalism at home is long overdue inside “exceptional,” capital-profaned America.

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