What to think about “The Donald”?
On the surface of it he’s an absurdity. Both as a man, and as a politician.
Born with the golden spoon, failed businessman (seven bankruptcies and counting), iconoclast, empathetic bully, classic narcissist, Caligula, and soon to be Republican nominee for the Presidency.
How can a nation that so recently lead the world in graduate degrees, science, space exploration, medicine, women’s rights, and civil rights, now be so ass-backwards as to think that Donald Trump would make a good American president?
How can Americans think that a man who speaks out of both sides of his mouth – depending on the crowd, or time of day, or his mood; one moment he is a racist and then not a racist, a bigot and not a bigot, a liar and not a liar, – how can they think he will be good for them?
His campaign rhetoric has been compared by historians to the early years of Mussolini, and Hitler.
Many rational people mistakenly believe that this simple obvious comparison to Hitler should be, in itself, enough to scare the voter away. Do voters not shudder at the thought?
No, they don’t. Not even close. Trump continues to blow through the primaries as the Republican favorite.
How to explain Donald Trump? How did America get here?
I lay the blame squarely in two camps.
In the first camp you have white American baby-boomer conservatives, who, after 100 years of White American Christian Male global dominance, do not want to share the stage with the rest of the world.[i]
And while America has dominated as the globe’s number one economic power after WWII, it has been in decline since peaking in 1972, and has been, ever since, slowly shrinking in relation to the overall global economic pie. If all things stay the same, China will emerge as the largest economic power sometime around 2020. The US will then move to #2.[ii]
History takes no hostages.
The global economy is increasingly intertwined, companies are fluid, and they have been allowed to move jobs around the globe at will. Corporate profits are at all-time high. (2015 was the best year for corporate profits since Canada became a nation.) Republicans (and not a few Democrats) sat by as millions of good-and-solid American middle-class and working-class jobs disappeared as their work was moved to lower wage countries.
So while global poverty rates have declined somewhat over the past 1/2 century due to overall global economic growth, 60-90 million Americans now live below, or on the borders, of poverty. That is the population of Canada and Britain combined. That number has been growing for 25 years. America’s poor white heartland is increasingly mad as hell. And rightly so. (*African Americans, non-white immigrants, and non-Christians have always been in this particular leaking boat as well, but no one cared as long as whites had decent jobs/economic hope.)
Conservative politicians have not tried to address the fundamental problem of American white poverty. In fact, they have often tried to do the opposite, and blame the growing numbers of poor people for their own problems. They have been deemed lazy, irresponsible, welfare bums, in need of even lower wages – Bill Clinton cut their government support by arguing it would be a good incentive for them to get a job. He also toughened the crime bill, putting millions of poor people in jail.
The white American male is also in demographic decline. Birth rates among non-whites are as much as three times the white birth rate. The white baby boomer male is also a rapidly aging demographic. 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day. His days are numbered.
Sometime around 2030 white people will no longer be the majority race in America.
White Christians will discover – will be forced to discover (should democracy still exist 20 years from now) – that they have to share the political stage with American Muslims, American Sikhs, Mexican-American Catholics, African American Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, secular-humanists.
At the moment conservative males don’t want to share power even with women, little own the world’s diaspora of cultures and colors that are knocking on their front door. White conservatives were outraged when Obama was elected president. They declared that they would never acknowledge his democratic right to lead. Again, history shows that this transition of power never goes smoothly, nor without violence.
The American military-industrial complex – a favorite of the patriotic nationalist conservative – is now a run-away monster, consuming sixty cents of every dollar in the American budget. The American Empire still maintains more than 1,000 military bases around the word, and spends more on its military machine then the next twenty largest countries combined. (That would be more than: China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Australia, India, Pakistan, Israel – how many is that? 11! Add another 9 countries to the list. Do you hear what I am saying? America spends a shitload of money on its military!)
The American military machine is a massive black hole where trillions of dollars disappear every year – money that could have otherwise been earmarked for infrastructure renewal, better and cheaper (free) universities, research and innovation, massive renewable energy development. (History tells us that military types only give up on their empire dreams when you take the sword out of their cold dead hands.)
Whenever it is suggested that the military budget be pruned – even as little as 5% – there is outrage among conservatives, and patriotic flag-waving throughout the heartland of America.
Under-employed, poor, White, Christian, conservative America began to rally around the notion that the political game was stacked against them in the 1990’s. With the help of rich conservatives like the Koch brothers, they formed the Tea Party. Their main goal: to bring down both political parties, and to dismantle Washington. They do not want political reform; they want Washington shut down. They want to return to the Germany of the 1800’s – 50 little State-Kingdoms, each making its own rules, with no centralized power.
The historical certainty that an angry populist iconoclast would rise to power was made inevitable the day the Republican Party thought that they could let loose the Tea Party on Washington, yet think they could manipulate the Tea Party for its own party ends. They were wrong. Donald Trump panders directly to the sentiment of the Tea Party. (Ted Cruz is a Tea Party member.)
But blaming American conservatives and the Republican Party for the Pandora’s Box that is Donald Trump is only half the story.
In the second camp you have American baby boomer educated professional liberals, who, after 20 years of political struggle (mid-’50’s through mid ’70’s), whereby they won some civil rights, sprung women from the shackles of the kitchen, got cheap education, 24hr porn, and birth control, now don’t much care who is on the stage of global power, so long as there is good coffee, three weeks every summer in cottage country, the Saturday New York Times, gay rights, and an implicit understanding that one never has to leave the downtown core and go out amongst the smelly people ever again.
Increasingly educated liberals have become distracted with cul-de-sac academic in-fighting, maintaining their cultural elitism, arguing over intercessionalities, whole grains vs. quinoa, private school, their crossovers, Netflix.
Liberal-minded people never organize well at the best of times, and after Jimmy Carter, they stopped organizing almost entirely. After Ronald Reagan, liberal baby boomers started to turn the corner on their thirties and increasingly looked inward, taking advantage of their economic, social, and cultural privileges to amass the largest material fortunes history has ever seen.
They stopped listening to the political base below them, they stopped fighting for quality public education, they stopped fighting for a living wage, they stopped fighting for abortion rights, they stopped fighting for fair corporate taxes, they stopped supporting infrastructure renewal.
Post-secondary education which was basically free in the 1970’s now strangles students with a lifetime of debt; if the minimum wage was allowed to grow at the rate of inflation since the 1970’s, it would now be $24/hr; 21 states do not have access to abortion services (10 more are soon to loose theirs); corporate taxes were 35% of the federal tax base in 1965; they are less than 10% of total taxes today; the average city plumbing in America is 65 years old.
In their middle ages professional liberals shed the communal non-consumer rhetoric of their youthful ’60’s and started to shop, shop, shop. They checked out of ‘us’ politics and checked into “me” politics, and started fetishizing almost all aspects of their personal life: coffee, wine, liquor, food, clothes, their children, their homes.
They entered their middle years, grew fat, lounged at the cottage.
When some of their children grew outraged over the impending environmental crisis, and the mortgage crisis that created the worst economic depression in 75 years, only to then watch as Obama opened up the entire nation to fracking, and moved the major Wall Street mortgage culprits from Wall Street straight into the White House, baby boomers tsk-tsked their spoiled children for taking to the streets, told them to get back in school and pay their student debts, and reminisced in trendy downtown cafes on how they did protesting so much better back in the ’60’s.
What do kids know these days? They’ve never had it so good.
There have been Republican majorities in the Senate and the House for years and years now. Roosevelt’s legislations enacted in the 1930’s and 1940’s to reign in the worst aspects of capitalism all fell by the wayside between the beginning of Ronald Reagan and the end of Bill Clinton.
Baby-boomer liberals checked out of the political process a long time ago.
The White House was given over – fully – to lobbyists, Wall Street, and the transnational corporation.
The White House, as they say, became a house of cards.
Donald Trump is as they also say, the right man at the right time.
The gap between the rich and the poor in America is now larger than at any time since the Great Depression.
400 Americans have more wealth than the bottom 60%.
Put that into better perspective: 400 Americans are as rich as 180,000,000 other Americans combined.
There is a poor white Christian rage in America that is deep and hot as hell. The Chicago near-riot this last weekend over Trump’s rhetoric of intolerance is but one of a thousand sparks that could light the grass fire to further political unrest.
Want to lay any odds on how soon the National Guard will be called out before the November election?
History moves on with, or without, the common sense of the people.
Donald Trump is the guy who comes to power at the beginning of the end of a nation’s particular historical era. Strong democracies grow weak (usually in 100 year cycles – or less). It happened in 1861 when American conservative politicians went to war with their own government. It happened in the 1960’s when civil rights leaders were assassinated by conservative supporters. 2,500 years ago Plato warned that fascism always rises to power when the democratic process has been allowed to rot away to nothing more than symbols and rituals.
For almost 40 years, American politicians – both liberals and conservatives – have turned their back on the fundamental issues facing their nation: increasing poverty, demographic change, the emergence of religious heterodoxy, globalization, on-going racial tensions, lack of good full time work, stagnant wages, skyrocketing tuition. Not to mention the climate challenges and resulting refugee crisis coming this century.
The big corporate media outlets don’t want to talk about what Trump has latched onto – this political marginalization, economic stagnation, demographic decay that is happening in the heartland of America. Why would they, when they represent corporate interests?They want you to focus on his clownish aspects, his bluster, his bad manners.
Big media represents the status quo, they’d rather you looked in the Hall of Mirrors than ask Republicans or Democrats what they plan to do about the sorry state of the nation.
Trump feeds into the dispossessed voice of the nation – the emotional pain of America. It is a reactionary pain grown through years of indifference and neglect. People don’t care that Trump makes, or does not make, sense. He speaks truth to power (or so they think) – he will make America great again.
It’s a perfect storm, and Donald Trump, with his reactionary populism, is the perfect political voice to represent a large segment of the American population that is politically illiterate, racist, bigoted, fundamentalist, libertarian, under-educated, economically marginalized, reactionary, scared, and/or just plain stupid.
And as some Americans begin to wake up and react to Trump’s fascist intolerance with their own sense of intolerance – as fist fights and near-riots have begun to happen at Trump rallies – I guarantee you this: Trump’s Brownshirts are not too far behind…