The Trump Diversion

 

Many liberals would love to depose Trump and return to a normalcy where such a monster could never be elected. If only Hillary would’ve won, the thinking goes, things would have been so much better.

I beg to disagree.

As a radical writer, I believe we face a generational crisis due to decades of elite mismanagement.

In this way, Trump is the perfect president for this milieu. He’s a tawdry, reality-TV pitch-man, putting a monster face on all that is fucked-up in America. Because Trump is from the same class, he’s also a living, breathing embodiment of the plutocracy that has looted the country under the rubric of neoliberalism.

In the Political Economy of Obama/Trump, Richard Wolff, argues that US capitalism, under the thrall of neoliberalism, has brought about the generational crisis due to its inability to manage the economy for most Americans.

“When the second major crash in 75 years hit in 2008, it exposed the debt-dependent reality of those decades. It also sent capitalism careening through a new depression followed by a devastating austerity regime. The economic careening provokes the political: its establishment center cannot hold.

Among leading capitalist circles there was immediate fear that the 2008 crash might well revive the 1930s’ coalition of labor unions (CIO), socialist and communist parties that forced the New Deal from below. True, the sustained post-1945 persecutions of communists and socialists plus the persistent attacks on labor unions had destroyed the New Deal coalition, but no one could be certain that it might not rematerialize from a new generation. What could and did help to prevent that was inserting Barack Obama into the presidency. He was the quintessential liberal, urbane, counterpoint to the Bush-led GOP that presided over the Crash’s arrival. Hillary Clinton might have done the job but Bill Clinton’s enthusiastic embrace of all that had crashed in 2008 gave the job instead to Obama.

And Obama performed as needed. Strictly trickle-down economics was how his administration “handled” the 2008-09 crisis. Nothing remotely like the New Deal’s taxing the rich to fund programs for the poor and middle was proposed or debated, let alone adopted as policy. Roosevelt in the 1930s had created and filled many millions of federal jobs. Yet the deep unemployment problem of 2008-09 prompted no serious consideration or even discussion of a federal jobs program from the White House or congressional leaderships.

Obama in the White House could temporarily calm and deflect mounting anger and resentment. His words and symbolic gestures effectively blocked many labor unions, students, white liberals and African-Americans from mobilizing against his administration’s economic policies. And when real opposition did arise in 2011, he suppressed it (as with the nationally coordinated forced removals of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s municipal encampments).

However, the powers that be paid a heavy price for the social quiet they purchased with Obama’s presidency. Sections of the white working class plus broad swaths of right-wing and conservative populations recoiled from the Obama administration. The 2008 crash had hurt them too. The trickle down recovery likewise largely bypassed them. Badly needing help, they resented “others” who seemed to have captured the government and would use it exclusively to help themselves. Indeed, those “others” included people they had long feared and/or hated: major parts of old party establishments coalescing with non-whites and “liberals.”

US capitalism used up the Obama diversion to get through most of the first decade after the 2008 crash. 

It is fast using up the Trump diversion. The social groups kept from system critique by Obama have become noticeably more interested in it since he departed the White House. Trump only accelerates that process. Meanwhile, Trump’s followers keep waiting for the promised protection from decline, but it does not appear. They get lots of symbolism but little substance. He and they blame their usual others, but their frustrations may soon open them too to system critiques.

Meanwhile, those critiques proliferate and mature across the society.”

In a perverse manner, Trump just by being Trump, might help shine a light on the  catastrophic failures of neoliberal/capitalism and our corrupt political and economic elite who’ve made his presidency possible and a generational crisis absolutely certain.

After that, it’s up to us.

Update: I’m in good company.

“…we dodged a bullet with Trump because he is incompetent. A competent right-wing ideologue who actually made the economy better (and it can be done), can change the US and own it–in a perverse reversal of FDR.

It is not enough to be for civility and decorum. Democrats must also truly be against Republican policies and for positive policies of their own which are radical enough to turn the United States away from its current economic trajectory towards further and further oligarchy. Policies which create and spread wealth, and which end monopolies and oligopolies, and break corruption.

These policies are well known and understood: high marginal tax rates, breaking up large companies and real universal health care, along with effective stimulus and investment. What is lacking isn’t knowledge of how to implement them, what is lacking is will: The Democrats don’t want such policies any more than Republicans do. What they want is kinder, gentler neoliberalism. A slow descent into oligarchy, with a few more cushions for the homeless.”

 

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