Since Donald Trump began his ascendancy toward the throne of American Empire last week I have been increasingly puzzled by the level of astonishment I have noted from a wide spectrum of people. I mean really, is the rise of Trump that much of a shock to people? It makes me think that most of the confounded have not been across the American continent in recent times and still hold fast to some sentimental flotsam of Disneyfied Main Streets as being hard truths. I drove across the country, north, south and middle, with my sister in the process of helping her move this past year. Trump’s rise is not a surprise to me, and it is not an enigma. It is the logical end of economic neoliberalism, the final and most brutal form of capitalism, in living, albeit orange-tinted, color.
As we drove I saw the economic malaise, demoralization and ecological degradation in town after town in the heartland caused by neoliberal policies championed by Democrat administrations. Of course, the Republicans are the main political nest of capitalist robber barons, but the Democrats, once the party of working people (or so they claimed) promised something better. Instead, they abandoned the working class by throwing unions to the wolves and embracing Wall Street banksters and corporate hucksters wholeheartedly.
The result of this was obvious. Still holding a bucolic beauty, vast swaths of the nation have been sacrificed and hold an alienated landscape laden with misery where the core of each town is littered by payday loan shops, liquor stores, thrift stores and pawn brokers. The church in these communities is frequently maligned and ridiculed by the wealthy, coastal, urban elite. But, while it is often misguided and many times promotes a fevered bigotry, it is the primary refuge for many abandoned and downtrodden people, providing food, clothing and emotional support. If a town is “lucky” it is bisected by an interstate which automatically inserts a corporate colony of banal mediocrity. It is a familiar formula of disenfranchisement in ones own home, with a McDonalds, an Olive Garden and a Cracker Barrel flanked by a Chevron and a Quality Inn. I say “lucky” because these are usually the only places for viable employment in such townships.
Economic neoliberalism is a vague and elusive term for most people. But it can be summed up in three words: privitization, austerity and deregulation. These three words can also be vague, and that may be by design. But it isn’t too difficult to dissect:
-Privitization means taking the commons, that which belongs to all people, that which is public, that which is sacred, and dividing it among a handful of wealthy investors.
-Austerity means taking the common wealth, that which has been accumulated by the hard work of the people, and dividing it among a handful of wealthy investors.
-Deregulation means taking the laws and statutes designed to protect the commons and their precious resources like air and water or protect the health and safety of workers, and watering them down or dismantling them to make it easier to privatize and impose austerity so as to accumulate even more wealth for a handful of wealthy investors.
You see, it was the sold-out Democratic Party and Liberal Class elites who, in their slavish service to Wall Street neoliberalism, ignored the plight of non-urban, working class people. They were expendable. “Deplorable,” if you will. And in promoting an establishment oligarch, one with a long career of pandering to Wall Street and war mongering on behalf of corporate interests, through party chicanery and outright deception they only succeeded in enraging the base of their own party and alienating further these people whose livelihoods and institutions were gutted and sacrificed on the altar of Wall Street greed.
Now some may ask how does this explain the racism? Or the xenophobia? Or the misogyny?
Let me tell you a short story…
In its rush to dismantle the commons which were intended to benefit All of the people, a relatively small group of very wealthy people decided to gut or make redundant all of the institutions that did not serve the purpose of creating capital (wealth) for them. Colleges and universities became apprenticeships for industry and training schools for obtaining jobs only. Critical thinking and study for the betterment of all society was not seen as useful for wealth accumulation for this handful of wealthy investors. (Has anyone applied for university recently? Or graduated with a degree in the arts or humanities? Or didn’t graduate yet has a student loan to repay nonetheless? Debt is enormous and options for repaying them few. Neoliberalism does not countenance a thoughtful or enlightened electorate. It only seeks cogs for its machine, no others need apply). But I digress.
All this in turn enabled the unchecked growth of a militarized police/prison/surveillance state which incarcerates and persecutes scores of non-violent debtors or drug offenders, mostly young, mostly Black or Brown, but many white, rural and poor. And this system then marks them unfit for employment or for voting rights often for the duration of their entire lives. When so many people are feeling alienated and disenfranchised from the society in which they were supposed to belong is it any wonder why racism and misogyny persists and is growing?
Neoliberalism also fueled the US imperialistic war machine which lined the pockets of profiteers and fueled a rapacious, xenophobic aggression. This is the same machine which bamboozles young men and women with scant economic or educational opportunities into “defending US interests” – code words for being cannon fodder, a term buried by the ruling elite, or mercenaries for neo-imperialistic corporate power (see Vietnam, Laos, Iraq, the Balkans, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, and on and on and on). Of course militaristic jingoism is nothing new in the US. It has played well for decades at nearly every single sporting event getting slicker with more techno flash every time. With jets tearing the sky into shards over packed stadiums festooned with red, white and blue everything, crowds of young, disenfranchised white, straight males are encouraged to buy into the lie that bombing brown people elsewhere to smithereens will somehow defend their homeland. The organized murder game is often their only option for employment or educational advancement. But sadly most are forgotten when they return to the homeland damaged or in need.
With scant opportunities and permanent debt enslavement these “deplorables,” as the vanquished Hillary Clinton dismissively painted them, have become easy prey for the chicanery of slick snake oil salesmen like Trump, et al. If, and most likely when, these masses begin to realize they have been duped yet again, and this time by someone whom they thought was one of their own, their rage will be nothing less than terrifying. With climate change poised to wreak untold havoc and misery on the biosphere and the economy we should all find this beyond sobering.
I say all of this not to dismiss the fears of many people, especially people of color, immigrants, women and Muslims. These feelings of fear many have are justified, but all of this is not due to the rise of an unabashed racist to the throne of the American Empire. This is the very nature of American imperialism without the veneer of polite, Liberal class parlance to cloak it. The notion that the United States was ever a pluralistic, multicultural society is a myth not founded in reality. Indeed, it would be ludicrous to suggest that any nation formed via the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population and built from the forced and coerced labor of other ethnic and racial groups could somehow transform itself into a different animal. It is time to jettison these fallacious ideas while we still have time.
Indeed, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence and several viable reports that suggest that there has been an uptick in white nationalist aggression. But truthfully, the culture of hypermasculine, white supremacism has always simmered under the surface of American society. Keep in mind how the United States was founded. Who was enslaved? Who was dispossessed of their land? Keep in mind that lynchings via white mobs and the forced internment of Japanese Americans by the US government were not so long ago. In times of economic upset, social unrest, war and ecological crises this Lernaean Hydra, surreptitious in the best of times, emerges with gusto and especially so under a charismatic leader.
Is Trump that leader? Perhaps. I honestly don’t know. And I would not be so presumptuous to assume he and his minions are not capable of the most unimaginable horror, especially since he has not failed to surprise or even shock so many thus far. But his rise should not come as any surprise to anyone who dares to take an honest look at the American experiment. This not the first time that the tide of fascism has washed over American shores. It has been here all along, and many of us have been sleeping while it was nourished by the neoliberal economic policies that hollowed out what was left of the commons, relegated millions to the margins of Empire, decimated entire nations in never ending wars of plunder, and made way for a vengeful and terrifying barbarism. Trump’s rise is not an anomaly. It is, indeed, the fulfilment of a long, despicable legacy that persists. And until we begin to face that monstrous fact, and ditch the failing political structures which aided this legacy, he and his ilk will also persist until there is nothing left to save.
Kenn Orphan 2016