As much as I try to tell myself that Donald Trump’s election was an anomaly due, in part, to voter suppression and intimidation of minorities, I can’t deny that the man’s charisma and bullying character appeal to a substantial proportion of the citizenry. Though a psychopath who glibly invents terrorist immigrants, who slanders individuals, nationalities, religions and ethnicities at the drop of a hat and lies to bolster every assertion he makes — it is all part of the package that makes Donald Trump American as apple pie. Many Trump followers see him representing some core individualist American mythology from the days of the Wild West and Manifest Destiny, which they admire and wish they could emulate.
Trump doesn’t try (or, at least, try very hard) to disguise the cruelty of his thoughts, words, and actions. He sees himself as righteous. His very flagrance well-represents the ethos of latent American imperialism and its underpinning capitalist drive. This terrifies elites who live by these very ethics. Trump exposes their subterfuge of virtue all too well.
Now, unlike in Karl Marx’s day, the “specter” haunting the halls of capitalism is the man who best represents its evils — a crony capitalist baron, shorn of the usual graces of respectability. The magical ascendancy of Trump to the seat of world power has brought Marx’s specter full circle and it could cost Trump his job.
The forces aligned against him are probably unstoppable. His fatal mistake was not the brash racist defiance that typifies his personality, nor the Russian intrigue, but the animus he provoked from the national security state — the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and myriad other lesser known components of that apparatus. As Michael Glennon points out in Harper’s, these are the forces that, behind the scenes, actually control our political institutions. Glennon was a lead Counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee years ago, so he knows how the game works:
A de facto directorate of several hundred managers sitting atop dozens of military, diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies, from the Department of Homeland Security to the National Reconnaissance Office, has come to dominate national security policy, displacing the authority not only of Congress but of the courts and the presidency as well. The precise sizes of the agencies’ budgets and workforces are classified in many cases, but the numbers are indisputably enormous — a total annual outlay of around $1 trillion, and employees numbering in the millions.
There are two other forces working for the deposition of Trump. There is the massive, ever-organizing public resistance to his rule and then there are capitalism’s weakened institutional elites from Wall Street, the political class and the mass media opposing Trump’s presidency. They are organizing to regain the reins in order for the United States to preserve its power in the globalized world of neo-liberalism.
For all Trump’s absurd talk about making America great again, he is haunting the future of U.S. capitalism every bit as much as the international working class ever did.
It is worth remembering what happened in Egypt during the Arab Spring. A popular movement, appalled by newly-elected President Mohamed Morsi’s moves against civil liberties, backed a coup by the national security apparatus. The result has been, without question, far greater repression, social control and militarization Egyptian society.
The moment that our nasty American emperor falls, there will no doubt be celebrations as there were in Egypt, but beware. The forces that brought us the War on Terror, domestic surveillance, mass deportations, mass incarceration and the extrajudicial killings of Michael Brown and so many other minorities remain alive and well. Unless popular resistance to these forces expands when Trump falls, we could suffer a similar fate to the Egyptian people.
Photo: A naked President Donald Trump greets Americans in San Fransisco’s Casto District. (Flickr/torbakhopper.)