Six Brief Theses on the Trump Era

1. Ruling classes are not monoliths. The major employers, finance capitalists, top politicians, senior military brass, military-industrial complex, and capitalist political parties are divided into factions. There are genuine differences among them as to how to best exploit people. Trump was never favored by the dominant faction of the U.S. ruling class to become the Republican candidate for president. In 2016 the big bourgeois money was behind Jeb Bush, and/or behind Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate. Either evoked sentimental family feelings and would have been acceptable to Wall Street.

2. Once in power Trump pleased Wall Street with his tax cuts and deregulation, but alarmed many by his apparently unstable personality, and unpredictable trade and foreign policies. Many bosses wanted to fire him. Ruling class opposition to him took the most traditional, uncreative, backward Cold War form: he was criticized for alleged ties to Russia. But the campaign to oust Trump as a Putin puppet failed, as did the effort to impeach him—for the high crime of delaying delivery of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. Having avoided removal from office in February 2020, as the Dow Jones reached new highs, Trump seemed poised for reelection.

3. Then COVID19 arrived. The main issue now became not the (discredited) Russia charges, but the president’s callous, irresponsible response to the virus, indeed his responsibility for tens of thousands of deaths. And in May there was a sudden surge in mass demonstrations—despite the virus—against systemic racism as reflected in the latest iPhone-captured police murders. The protests were extraordinarily diverse and peaceful, and depicted sympathetically by much of the press. Trump’s hostile response to the protests, catering to his racist base, was condemned as “divisive.” COVID, racism and the prospects for a police state became the new issues in the drive—backed by the majority of the ruling class—to oust Trump.

4. Just as schools were closing in the wake of the coronovirus outbreak, the DNC threw the Democratic nomination to Joe Biden. The election would now be about Trump (the virus-spreader and racist divider), versus Biden (the defender of medical science and racial unifier.) Universal health care as advocated by Bernie Sanders would not be an issue. The fight would be between indecency and decency, aberrancy and normalcy.

5. The contest was won by normalcy. Trump was convincingly defeated. But so was the mainstream of the Democratic Party, which gained no Senate seats and lost some in the House. The significant role of progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar in abetting Biden’s victory is hardly appreciated by figures like Rep Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) who blames the party’s poor showing on “socialism.” “We need to not ever use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again,” she declares, as though support for socialism was a matter of pragmatism or mere rhetoric. “We lost good members because of that [word “socialism”]. If we are classifying Tuesday as a success . . . we will get fucking torn apart in 2022.” Quite possibly the party will tear itself apart, as the Democratic Socialists of America emerge as the progressive alternative to the Neanderthals like Spanberger.

6. The Trump era ends not with his removal as a Russian agent (the initial plan), nor with his imposition of a fascist police state (a prospect over-hyped by some) but with a conventional humiliating electoral defeat. The defeat was obtained at the cost of suppressing—while smugly exploiting—the progressive wing of the Democrats. The election did what it was supposed to do: restore normalcy, re-enforce the default militarism, suppress “socialism” and convey to the world an image of America reuniting confidently after a period of deep division.

It was as much an election to prevent “socialism” as “fascism.” The mainstream of the ruling class wants neither right now, and it continues to make the decisions. Biden is now the face of the ruling class, the bulk of which (Wall Street numbers suggest) is happy to see his victory. Far from being a puppet of the left, as the defeated Moron President warned might happen, he will say “thank you very much, AOC and Ilhan,” before combining with Spanberger to marginalize them. And to proceed with the ongoing bipartisan national patriotic cause of “pushing back” on Russian and Chinese “adversaries” in their near waters—where north Americans in accord with God’s plan should clearly prevail!

The immediate specifically fascist concern (in the real world) is with the center of European neo-fascism, Ukraine, where neo-fascists (in the Svoboda Party and Right Sektor) played key roles in the Feb. 2014 coup organized by Obama’s State Department (to get Ukraine into NATO).

Biden (with his warmongering history) has a very keen interest in Ukraine. Since “foreign policy issues” were generally excluded from discussion during the campaign most people are in fact clueless about this issue. NATO is never problematized by the ruling class parties and their media; people are taught as a matter of the national religious creed that NATO has protected peace and stability in Europe for 70 years. They are encouraged to imagine a Europe without tens of thousands of U.S. occupying military forces falling through its own devices into chaos or under the Soviet boot. Biden as his campaign literature stressed is an advocate of NATO expansion.

There is reason to breathe deep and enjoy the death of a disgusting presidency. Ding-dong the witch is dead! Okay, good. But the stale air of Clinton’s bombing of Serbia (Beau served proudly in Kosovo) and Obama’s bombing of Libya lingers. The contagion of imperialism (to paraphrase somebody) is breathed forth by hell itself unto the world. The sad-eyed, confused looking new president has never repudiated his support for criminal wars. Kamala Harris for her part, who could be president tomorrow, is an AIPAC lackey critical of the Iran Deal and friendly with India’s Modi and the fascist Hinduvatu movement.

One ugly face will fade from view, even if it has to be tugged out of the White House by the Secret Service. But the nightmare is not over. There is no revolutionary party with a strategy, enjoying credibility, to lead anything like a Bolshevik Revolution. There’s no immanent takeover of the Democratic Party by the Democratic Socialists. It will be Biden, then Harris, exuding the status quo. It’s back to normalcy and its own dreamed illusions.

Gary Leupp is Emeritus Professor of History at Tufts University, and is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 and coeditor of The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: