The 77/72* Phenomenal World Divide

Photograph Source: Fibonacci Blue – CC BY 2.0

“I can’t tell you how many people are saying Trump’s saying what I’ve been thinking all my life.”

“Most of them [Biden voters] are morons.”

“That V.P. of Biden’s, oh my God, that woman is vicious,”

“The worst thing about the Trump presidency isn’t what we’ve learned about Trump. It’s what we’ve learned about our friends.”

“Half of Donald Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables” characterized by “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic” views.”

Donald Trump as of Nov. 11th has received just over 72 million votes. That’s a fact. How he will leave office and what sort of transition awaits us we don’t know except knowing he will not concede to Biden’s victory. It’s not his personal style to face facts, such as the numbers supporting Biden’s victory. His style is to push through and stomp over what doesn’t suit his own version of what is the case. He’s already shown that he’s willing to contaminate his rally followers with a virus and undermine the integrity of elections and thus destroy democracy as we know it just so he wins and crushes all who oppose the will of his own ego.

About 72 million voters would accept these leading sentences as fake or corrupted, even as to the vote count. Once that count goes through the courts and maybe as far as the Supreme Court when all the “legal” votes are counted and the “illegal” ones thrown out, Trump wins. But what about the description of the man and what he’s about? Some or perhaps all who voted for Trump perceive him as pushing hard against those who oppose their own personal freedom, who relegate American interests to foreign interests and foreign migration, who wish to replace free enterprise with a socialist domination by Big Government, who push to replace God with a Liberal’s atheism and secular values, who obstruct Trump in his effort to bring back a former middle class prosperity, and who seek to muzzle Americans with standards of political correctness and force them to accept those who live in ways alien to American values.

Trump’s confrontation of all this requires him not to assume the traditional role of the president but rather to upend the habits of heart and mind of an established order, created by Liberals, which has destroyed the economic, social and personal well being of some 72 million Americans, not counting those too defeated in mind and heart to vote.

I would say this answers the question: “Why can’t his followers see how vile a man he is, how great a liar, how uncaring for the general welfare, how unbelievably uninformed and unqualified, how corrupting an influence on every aspect of democratic governance?” The 72 answer: “Why, he’s the very Devil that’s needed to tear down institutions of a status quo in which 72 million people can’t see anything beneficial to them personally.” Trump here stands as a Fifth Great Awakening in America, an awakening centered on him alone. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Liberals don’t think of him in this uniquely Americana way but 72 million others do.

Because Americans do not evaluate impact in any social ecological way but only as it affects their personal lives, Trump is seen as not invading their personal lives with rules of behavior, “wokeness” mandates, and confessions of White Privilege. He wants to bust through whatever chains and reins are put on personal behavior, his own behavior exemplative. Thus, even the House’s impeachment of him only translates as an attempt to remove the People’s champion.

The bottom line here is that regardless of what breaches Trump makes in the resident order of things, that order deserves a trouncing because it hasn’t done anything to stop the downslide of the middle class into a precariat class and the working class into invisibility on the political stage. And here both political parties are part of that debilitating order, which is the very reason Trump defines himself as outside that order, a passionate iconoclast, an irascible and vindicative, venomous man but the man for the job that must be done.

Trump’s arrival on the stage at the time he did preempted deterritorialized revolts erupting as the unrelenting progress of a financial-digital domination dropped more than 72 million onto the extinction pile. What Trump did was detour revolt toward himself and identify the causes of scheduled extinction of the 72 as a Liberal subjection of white supremacy to un-American alien “otherness.” Thus, the domination and the destructiveness caused by what Berardi describes as “digital abstraction, financial automatism and the process of automation of cognitive activity” were replaced in the hyperreal by a dark and absurd psychomachia projected by Trump’s own delusions. (The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility, 2017) Within that nightmare Trump appeared as a champion who could stop decline and scheduled extinction of the confused and dehumanized, who could halt all challenges to the 72’s own delusions of a past supremacy that in actuality never existed for them.

While the Left has been attending to the ravages of globalized financial capitalism and what Richard D. Wolff describes as its socially destructive instability, the erosion of cognitive and affective functioning by the “synthetic logic of the algorithm” and the transformation of individual and societal life into synthetic life, which seems unstoppable, is destructive at both epistemological and ontological levels. (“Why Capitalism Was Destined to Come Out on Top,” Counterpunch) It is this erosion of ways of knowing oriented to human not algorithmic functioning that has destabilized our social mind’s creation of consensual understanding.

We are now immersed in a “hostility to the very idea that facts and truth, as well as respect for scientific and humanistic knowledge [as] the basis of a functioning democracy.” (Dwight W. Blight, NY Times, Nov. 9, 2020) A deconstruction of Enlightenment notions of truth, language, science and reality had a philosophical beginning that reached beyond ivory towers in Jean Francois Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition, 1979 — “science is obliged to legitimate the rules of its own game” — but it was the cyber Infosphere that permeated everyday lives. And the consequences of that, though lauded as more and faster information for everyone, has laid our own faculties in ruin. Berardi is crystal clear here:

“The fragmentation and acceleration of the flow of info-stimulation, the multitasking effect and the competitive pressure that is tied to the ability to follow the rhythm of the Infosphere are provoking the explosion of the centered self and a sort of psychotic deterritorialization of attention.”

We have responded to Trump’s arrival on the Primary debate stage within the diminishment of our own faculties, a devolution of human cognition by the invasion of algorithmic logic into everyday life. I think this is demonstrated on how discourse/counter-discourse went on via social media, from the impulsive, passionate posts of Twitter to the endless, disconnected role of self-advertisements on Facebook. In all such situations, the ready at hand presence of a cyber megaphone has short circuited attentiveness and thought. And the longer such goes on, the further our cognitive faculties sink into a place where the deformed and inchoate tweets of Trump seem meaningful, precisely because we can no longer interpret meaning in any cogent way.

Trump’s contact with his followers via Twitter was something no politics ever has witnessed and what it meant, beyond keeping passion and the blood flowing, was that other forms of representation would always seem slow, laborious, and too much to digest for an attentiveness now marching to the drum of fast, short and always new digital stream, always changing, never continuous, coherent or unified enough to meet an antiquated analog cognition.

If you place alongside the conditions enveloping the 72 million who voted for Trump — all so very powerful — a cognition that has been challenged by synthetic logic, a logic which supports such conditions, you have the makings of tragedy but not one that the world has ever seen before.

When Trump walks away from all globalized schemes, of Bush-Cheney empire building or an empire of financial networks, and declares “America First,” he is relocating the personal agency of every American from its powerlessness within globalized networks back to national shores, from irrelevance and humiliation back to the force and vigor of American individualism. Once again, he is, for all his primordial manic egotism, exemplative of American strong character in the face of global — read as “foreign” — fecklessness.

The absolute irony in all this is that Trump personally has not only been something like an odd piece knocking his whole life at the door of the financial-digital domination that assails his constituency but he, in his small, unglobalized corner, has consistently cheated and robbed, misled and corrupted, slandered and bullied, fired and abused the constituency that now clings to him.

The world does not appear to those who profile Trump as the lowest of the low in the same way as it does to those who make a personal savior of him. Not so simplistic a statement if you recognize that it’s the appearance of things and not the empirical/rational validation of the things themselves which that sentence asserts. Humans have validated the appearances of things not by reason or celestial faith but by a slow production of consensus. It’s that consensus that then goes about finding absolute and universal foundations, which every age seems to have found until somewhere in the third quarter of the 20th Century.

We call it “post-truth” but what it amounts to is that the way the world appears to us is narrated, not empirically/rationally delivered, such legitimizing and authorizing being, as Nietzsche remarked, no more than “alibis” enabling us to do what we want to do. Immersed in our own reality and truth making ways, we don’t see that wealth and the power that comes with it construct narratives that tame our own, that subject the personal to such power. Remnants of validating narratives with facts, evidence and rational briefs, with proof of truth and determinate meaning linger, but as they no longer can be evicted or abolished, we’re divided in our own narrative frames, our own phenomenal realities.

Our present hostile divide is not, however, disastrous to financial profit, which all political parties empower, but rather helpfully deflecting and distracting. A very great fear of financial profit is that a Bernie-like exposure of such power acknowledged by all factions may emerge if we all work ourselves toward a consensual recognition of problems and solutions. Presently, we are far from consensually accepting the deadliness of the Coronavirus pandemic and global warming, both existentially threatening. We can’t see the fires that are burning or the people who are dying through the same lens.

II.

The way in which the world appears as this or that to us depends on our positioning, the angle of our perceiving lens, the conditions shaping that lens. If you consider that middle class well being has collapsed precipitously, you have there a lens shaping condition. Consider these 9 conditions not facing the top 20% of the population but everyone else:

+ Wages are down

+ There’s less income for the middle class

+ Union positions are shrinking

+ More workers stuck in part-time jobs

+ Fewer jobs from U.S.-based multinationals

+ Rising debt

+ Families are saving less

+ Net worth has plunged

(Jason M. Breslow, “The State of America’s Middle Class in Eight Charts”

Frontline

Jared Kushner has said that Black people can’t be helped because they don’t want to succeed and if we delete the racism, his view is that if you haven’t succeeded, it’s your own fault. If we don’t accept this as a reason for the 9 debilitating conditions above, we’d have to search for reasons. Not far. Market rule’s control of our economic fate and thus our socio-political structure is a stochastic rule, like a roulette wheel in Vegas.

But not exactly. That spin of the wheel is like the throw of the dice in a Monopoly game but whereas in playing the wheel how much money and real estate you’ve accumulate doesn’t affect your next throw, unless you’ve lost all your money, in Monopoly such accumulation eventually knocks all your opponents out of the game. You’ve got all the hotels, all the Trump Towers. So, tracking down the guilty parties here is not difficult.”

Why don’t we all see this? We need to remember that what phenomenal world you are in already in confronts what I say is not difficult, namely, it’s the axiomatic destructiveness of the well-being of wage earners (non-invested class) and the planet itself carried on by our unbridled economics. Our “free enterprise” is as free as suits Goldman Sachs et al. We see through the lens of our phenomenal reality; we don’t take it off and see any matter clearly in such a fashion that we would all agree as to what was what. Those already loaded and triggered to see a Liberal order of oppression, and what is worst, a socialist intent, don’t shout Eureka! And buy into Sanders’ or Warrens’ critique. Rather, the Sanders and Squad lot become part of that lying, godless, tyranny that Mr. Trump is fighting against on their behalf.

Complicating matters is the presence of a translation of the 9 conditions which are affecting lives to the hyperreal where alternative meanings are attached. Rather than phenomenal realities being challenged by such actualities they are subordinate to a hyperreality, or, if it were possible, grounded in simulacra and not realities. The expansion of the financial and the synthetic support not only the “fragmentation and acceleration of the flow of info-stimulation” leading to “the explosion of the centered self and a sort of psychotic deterritorialization of attention” but also the creation of a hyperreal in which realities dangerous to such expansion are evicted.

Wages are not down in the 72 million voter phenomenal reality since Trump became president;

There’s less income for the middle class because Liberals have taxed it away from them and to those without income;

Union positions are shrinking because unions impeded economic growth;

More workers are now free to become independent contractors;

Fewer jobs from U.S.-based multinationals because Trump is bringing business home;

Rising debt caused by Liberal spending on those who won’t work;

Families are saving less is unknowable and fake news;

Net worth has plunged is unknowable and fake news.

While it is not difficult to construct the phenomenal views of the Trump voters, it’s not possible to do the same for the 77 million Biden voters. The traditional battle between labor and capital hadn’t shown up in either Clinton or Obama administrations. Safe to say that like the Republicans, that battle has been held by Democrats as old and over. Ditto with unions. Democrats have joined with Republicans regarding austerity measures to check rising debt. And most significantly, the identifying and calling out the causes of an increasing precariat class, formerly economically sustainable middle and working classes, began in 2016 at the unwelcomed edges of the Democratic Party, and will never be done by the Republican Party.

The fact that Trump has been able to redirect 72 million voters from such causes and into a hyperreality in which truth is declared false, false conspiracies replace rational evidence, economic forces are replaced by personalities to be mocked, personal opinion replaces empirical and rational authority, and autocracy extends personal freedom tells us that there will be no need for the Republican Party to fear revolt from this tragically deceived and growing precariat class.

I would say that the 9 conditions grinding the lens of the 72 million are far more pressing, dramatic, and threatening than those grinding the lens of those who see Trump not as savior but the worst visitation on American democracy ever.

They are also far easier to list. Why 77 million voted for Biden is answered differently by those you question. Clearly, the Never Trumpers want to bring back globalized, hyper capitalism a la Reagan, want to extract the anti-globalism of Trump, but also want to block Biden with a Mitch McConnell controlled Senate. Trump’s violation of sacred neo-liberal tenets combined with his intractability, tamed by neither Reagan or Founding Fathers veneration, combined with his upsetting of transnational business arrangements and the always present possibility that he will launch nuclear as easy as launching a tweet all push neoliberals into wanting Biden more than Trump.

We cannot say, however, that all the Biden voters voted for him because he ran as a challenger to the neoliberal economics and politics running the country since Reagan. There were probably not too many votes cast against Trump because he was on the wrong side of a wealth divide, a winner bunkered in with other winners looking at the losers bunkered in the cold outside. Or too many who voted for him because of the lousy way he treated those who worked on his real estate fiascoes, or because they wanted to end “the Trump administration’s consistent attack on workplace democracy—the ability of working people to elect representation in the workplace.” (McNicholas and Poydock, Report: Economic Policy Institute, Oct. 21, 2020)

The most existentially pragmatic among the 77 are those who wanted Trump out so that the U.S. could get back to efforts to mitigate global warming. Inside Climate News reports that “Young Voters, Motivated by Climate Change and Environmental Justice, Helped Propel Biden’s Campaign.” The least noble are those who didn’t mind the tax benefits Trump gave them but found him beyond tacky, socially repellant, un-Woke. If Bernie’s socialism could be kept at bay, Biden would get their vote.

I’d say women who didn’t want to be grabbed in the crotch at will or Mexicans who didn’t see themselves as rapists, drug dealers and so on would find Trump repulsive. On this personal level of outright disgust, Bret Stephens writes that one of the reasons Trump lost “is that he’s immoral — manifestly, comprehensively and unrepentantly.” (NYTimes, Nov. 10, 2020). Such voters were repelled, enraged, and inspired to kick Trump out. Nevertheless, the 72 million phenomenal reality lot saw Biden as immoral. “Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching,” a pastor in South Carolina attested after denying Biden Holy Communion.

If the meritocratic successes, the gentrifiers, the cybertech moguls, and the traditional professional classes, all doing well financially, have no fear of governmental redistribution of wealth and thus can’t see a danger with Biden or any Democrat, then they are free to keep their portfolios while expressing the courage of their privilege through all the causes Democrats have given themselves to for the 16 years of Clinton and Obama rule, namely, race, gender, sexuality, LGBTQ, ethnicity, religion and marginalized identities as they appear. The reason “class” registers weakly is because that is the key issue that not only takes you to the grievances of the 72 million but to the proposals of the “democratic socialists” now in the Democratic Party. And because class registers weakly, it is here that the Democrats blend into Republicans and form the Republocrats, joined in their mutual duplicity regarding our “free enterprise” system.

Because Biden paid homage to FDR and promised a New Deal style healing, he was able to supplement the Democratic Party’s identity not class politics and so attract voters in former union strongholds in the Midwest. He never reached a Sherrod Brown level of discourse regarding the working class and unions, but he did just enough obviously to win Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. However, Trump did better with black males in 2020 than he did in 2016 and the Latino vote was not as supportive of Biden as one would expect from a party that has grounded for the four terms of two Democratic presidents its ideology and all its attention on marginalized groups. A Liberal confession of white privilege may not be as attractive to marginalized groups, especially the young bred on cyberspace personal empowerment and not Liberal noblesse oblige. The call of personal competition in the arena of free enterprise may be stronger in the long run than a Liberal call to mutual aid, communitarianism, and indeed, Bernie style socialism.

One hopes that the largest group voting for Biden broke out of their phenomenal frames of realizing, cleared the perceptual lens and simply added up what President Donald J. Trump has destroyed in less than four years:

“A shortlist of our broken institutions can seem painful and overwhelming: the presidency; the Senate, the Supreme Court; government agencies that run everything from law enforcement to criminal justice to the environment to public health; the election system, including the Electoral College; the news media; our global partnerships like NATO; and finally, our public school and universities — places that are supposed to reimagine lives.” (Blight)

But, once again, to return to the lens of 72 million who voted for Trump: Trump’s broken what they would break themselves had they the chance. He came to bring a sword.

The way the world appears to us eventually finds its misconceptions, its wrongness, its misdirections flayed by what is going on in the world itself. The “Great Outdoors” that exists independent of our “worlding” practices, the deteriorating conditions of the planet itself, makes us corrigible. Hyperrealities cannot fully melt the real into nothingness.

*in millions of votes.

 

Joseph Natoli has published books and articles, on and off line, on literature and literary theory, philosophy, postmodernity, politics, education, psychology, cultural studies, popular culture, including film, TV, music, sports, and food and farming. His most recent book is Dark Affinities, Dark Imaginaries: A Mind’s Odyssey .