That Little Power Elite Moment is Already Over

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Concerns over the white-supremacist neofascism of the Republican Party were overblown, a “Marxist” told me last January, because Trump had never won the allegiance of all but a small fraction of the nation’s corporate and financial ruling class. Had I not read the latest Noam Chomsky interview, the “Marxist” said, in which Chomsky expressed what seemed to be surprise at the corporate sector’s displeasure with the January 6th Attack on the Capitol? “Shortly after the storming of the Capitol,” Chomsky commented days after the assault, “some prominent corporations and political action committees vowed to cut off support for the Republicans who had fanned the flames of anger and conspiracy that resulted in violence.”

Please. Some relevant and deep pockets sections of the ruling class (especially in the fossil fuel and other polluting industries) did in fact back Trump from the start. The corporate and financial elites who didn’t want the demented monster in the White House in 2017 were happy to leave him there for a full first term thanks to his tax cuts and neoliberal de-regulation policies. “Those who hold the levers of the private power that dominates the society and political system,” Chomsky himself observed in the aforementioned interview, “never liked Trump’s behavior, which harmed the image they project as humanists dedicated to the common good. But they were willing to tolerate the vulgar performance as long as Trump and his accomplices delivered the goods, lining their pockets by robbing the public.” Indeed, as Doug Henwood reflected last April:

Trump was not the bourgeoisie’s favorite candidate. He had support from provincial plutocrats but not from the executive suite at Goldman Sachs. When he took office and immediately began ransacking, one wondered if the deep state would rein him in. Maybe the CIA would even arrange a malfunction in Air Force One’s fuel line. But it was not to be. Tax cuts and deregulation made capital forget all their reservations about Trump, and the stock market made 128 fresh daily highs — on average, one every six days — between inauguration and the onset of the coronavirus crisis. It took the encouragement of an attack on the U.S. Capitol for the big bourgeoisie to complain [about Trump’s extremism] openly – 99 percent of the way through his time in office.

The narcissist in the White House was good for the bottom-line interests of big capital, which waited until he tried to physically overthrow a presidential election to go public with disgust over his mad tyrannical excess.

At the same time, a respectable wealth and power elite that seriously wanted a loathsome neofascist out could have pulled the plug well before the fall and winter of 2020-21. Trump’s fascist essence was fully evident after the summer 2017 events in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the very least (see this for an excellent analysis in May of 2016). But this “deep state” coup never took place.

If Trump had gotten a second term (as he likely would have but for COVID-19), moreover, many corporate and financial chieftains not on board with the orange malignancy would have easily re-accommodated to his power. And make no mistake: most of the politically engaged U.S. corporate and financial elite would have backed Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections had the Democrats run Bernie Sanders (admittedly an impossibility), the leftish progressive who campaigned in accord with majority public opinion and misleadingly called himself a socialist. The America ruling class will pick fascism over even mild social-democratish progressivism very time. You can take that to the bank.

And guess what, the little burst of belated ruling-class campaign finance conscience that Chomsky noted after January 6th seems to have ended half a year out from the failed Capitol Complex Putsch (ancient history!). Check out Al Jazeera’s recent reporting on how the military-industrial aviation giant Boeing corporations has decided to resume campaign contributions to leading Congressional and state-level Big Lie Republifascists:

“Boeing Co.’s political action committee resumed giving to federal candidates and committees in May after a three-month pause, including donations to members who opposed certifying the 2020 election results for President Joe Biden. The aerospace giant joined dozens of other companies on Jan. 13 in announcing that they would suspend and review their PAC donations in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot by supporters of Donald Trump.

But beginning on May 3, Boeing gave out nearly $900,000 to political committees and candidates, according to its latest filing with the Federal Election Commission. Among sitting lawmakers who received $5,000, the maximum amount a PAC can give per election, were House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Representative Vicky Hartzler of Missouri. Representative Jack Bergman, a Michigan Republican who also voted against certification, got $2,500.

All four were among the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying Electoral College votes for Biden in alignment with Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was rigged. Five people were killed as a result of the mob storming the building.

Boeing’s PAC also gave $25,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association. An affiliate of the group, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, helped organize protests on Jan. 6 that preceded the riot, paying for robocalls urging Trump supporters to attend the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally.

The PAC’s biggest donations went to the Republican Governors Association, which got $200,000, and the Senate and House arms of the Democratic and Republican parties, each of which got $105,000 — the maximum that a PAC can give to a party committee per year.”

If system and industry leader Boeing is opening its political checkbook back up for the white nationalist party of QAnon, other top American corporations can’t be far behind. Other parts of Big Business don’t want to be lose out in the scramble to purchase influence with the neofascist wing of the neoliberal duopoly.

Put that in your power elite pipe and smoke it.

How do things look going forward? Not great. Here is a recent smart reflection from Jeffrey Goldberg, editor of the mainstream magazine The Atlantic, on likely scenarios for 2024-25:

“At least from where I sit, the most important and most relevant truth of the [January 6] riot is that it was not the culmination of the insurrection, but its prologue. If the Republican Party, as currently constituted, takes back the House and Senate next year (an outcome that is not only plausible but, history tells us, likely), and if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2024, it doesn’t seem likely that Congress will certify the victory. And then the four horsemen will most certainly ride.”

Say what you want about the centrist Obama fan (ugh) Goldberg, but that sounds about right to me. The bipartisan defeat of the For the People Act – irrelevantly supported by most of the populace – could help lock that outcome in. The killing of the bill (a major voting rights reform that passed the US House but is blocked by the absurd racist U.S. Senate, where Wyomingans citizens have 136 times more voter representation than Californians) seems to make a Republifascist return to power likely. The legislation, killed by white Demublifascist Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), had the potential of rolling back racist voter suppression and right-wing gerrymandering and the insidious power of right-wing dark money in US electoral politics. The bill’s defeat is a green light for “red” (white-supremacist) takeover in 2023 and 2025. Such a shame. Too bad. Senatorial Simon Says.

Lack of full corporate support may well not be enough to prevent Trump or some other white nationalist freakshow from rising to power in 2024-25 with help from many millions of small donors, the right-wing media hate machine, racist and partisan voter suppression measures, and Republican power in Congress.

Republican state legislatures governors are backing and signing bills to restrict minority voting rights, criminalize liberal and left protest, and outlaw teaching about white supremacy. They are scheming to take charge of key election supervision and oversight positions in battleground states. Paranoid, brain-cooked Arizona has a bill that would permit its state legislature to nullify the state’s popular vote in assigning its 2024 Electoral College slate.

Along the way, the country is awash in weapons, mass shootings, anti-vaxxery, and general insanity, certain to be exacerbated by the ever-deepening ecological catastrophe, which has created a lethal water crisis in the Western states. Nearly a quarter of the nation’s Republicans and 1 in 7 U.S.-Americans (more than 35 million U.S. adults) believe fasci[st]nating QAnon conspiracy theories like the following: “The government, media and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global sex trafficking operation.”

There are enough guns in the US for every man, woman, and child and then 67 million more guns after that. There are more than 20 million military-style assault rifles out and about in the U.S. A bloody U.S. pogrom is just sitting out there, waiting for the right triggers. Only a third of Americans, very disproportionately Republican, own all the guns.

Still, it sure was neat that Boeing and other corporate chieftains held back for a few months on funding lunatics (like the 21 House Republicans who just voted against giving Congressional Gold Medals to Capitol police officers who defended Congresspersons against a violent fascist assault on January 6, 2021), wasn’t it?

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