On the face of it, Trump is Reagan on steroids. His towering size, his nativist US supremacism, his down-home talk, and his reality-show confidence make him ideal for the role of bullying and big lies from the oval office.
He is America come to meet itself in larger-than-life image to rejuvenate it as its pride slips away in third-world conditions and a multi-polar world.
While Trump’s narrative is that the American Dream seeks recovery again, the dominant media and political elite relentlessly denounce him as an implicit fascist and disastrous fake.
Something deeper is afoot. An untapped historic resentment is boiling up from underneath which has long been unspeakable on the political stage. Trump has mined it and proposed a concrete solution always denied of his candidacy. From his promise to halve the Pentagon’s budget to getting the Congress off corporate-donation payrolls, the public money that the big corporate lobbies stand to lose from a Trump presidency are off the charts. But his attackers dare not recognize these explosive issues because they are all part of the problem.
The public money stakes may be bigger than the US corporate stakes behind the foreign wars the US state has initiated since 1991. The takeaway promised by Trump’s policies threaten almost every big lobby now in control of US government purse strings. It grounds in the military-industrial complex spending close to $2,000,000,000 a day for its endless new untested weapons and foreign wars both of which Trump opposes. But the cut-off of hundreds of billions of public giveaways to the Big Corps do not end here. They hit almost every wide-mouthed transnational corporate siphon into the US Treasury, taxpayers’ pockets and the working majority of America. Masses of American citizens increasingly without living wages and benefits and in increasing public squalor and insecurity are paying attention to what the political establishment and corporate media have long buried and continue to silence.
Trump has raised the great dispossession from impotence into the establishment’s face, and this is why he is a contagion on the American political scene. He is pervasively mocked, accused and slandered in non-stop public fireworks of ad hominem hits, but the counter-attacks never engage what Trump has set his sights on – the long stripping of America by corporate globalization selecting for the limitless enrichment of the very rich living off an ever-growing take from public coffers and the impoverishment of America’s working people. A primal rage unites the political establishment across party lines, but they can’t say why. No defaming scorn and abuse is off limits, but Trump’s underlying betrayal of the ruling game remains unspeakable on the stage.
The electoral dynamite of all the Americans who have lost all their good blue-collar jobs, social benefits and public infrastructures is recognized only in class condescension. But the facts cannot be denied of a corporate globalization effectively stripping the lower middle classes and the public realm itself with no-one in Washington establishment saying a word against the greatest transfer of wealth to the 1% in history.
Trump may deserve back as bad he gives. But this understanding keeps our eyes on the ego-contest which is the standard spectacle to avoid the real issues. The personal attacks only tells us how deep the rupture has become between Trump’s campaign and the establishment on the issues kept out of sight. This is why the corporate politicians and media are almost as wound into one-way demonization of Trump as they are when they beat the drums of war against a designated Enemy abroad.
In the end, it may get to him – as when he tries to find angry millions again from onside with an evangelical trumpet of abortion-is-murder just before the primary in Wisconsin.
Trump is a shameless opportunist, no doubt. Yet we continue to revolve within an ad hominem circle until we go deeper than the establishment morality tale of the evil of the stigma object – the oldest propaganda trick in the book. The major money interests that are really at stake in the conflict between Trump and the political-economic establishment remain unconnected and blocked out. “Who will stop Trump’ is not only now asked across America, but the world’s media in China too. But nothing is less talked about than the globally powerful interests he has promised to rein back from the public troughs bleeding the country’s capacities to build for and to employ its people. On this topic, there is only silence or abusive distortion frothing from the mouth.
Joining the Dots of the Great Silence
Eventually people may ask why the establishment unanimously abhors Trump across party divisions which are otherwise unbridgeable. Even if he is a caricature of American privilege and self-promotion, who else could fight the corrupt corporate-state and media establishment? Who else could ever get public support from dispossessed masses and from inside the Republican Party base itself? Who else could take on the supra-dominant corporate interests of the war state, drug monopoly, health insurance racket, lobby-run foreign policy, off-shore tax evasion, and global trade with only corporate rights to profit taking jobs in the tens of millions from home workers, and still hold a large and right-wing voter base onside?
Conversely, what else than Trump’s threat to the corporate-state establishment can explain the unity of voice and venom against an American paragon of wealth and chupzpah? What else could motivate a cross-party and corporate media hate campaign where there is nothing else in common across the condemning voices? Only those citizens depending on the deep system corruptions he promises to reverse are really threatened by Trump’s candidacy. But how do these huge private interests go on getting away with a corporate-lobby state transferring every more public wealth and control to them at the expense of the American majority and their common interest when most people already dislike and are systemically exploited by them? They get away with it by no-one being able to do anything about it.
Trump represents a threat to these gargantuan public-trough interests that even the super clean and informed Ralph Nader candidacy for president never did. The corporate media and party machines just shut him down on the electoral stage so few even knew he was a presidential candidate. You can’t do that with Trump. That is the very big problem for the otherwise seamless political and media establishment who are all in on the fabulous payoffs of this corporate state game. Trump’s entire strategy is based on getting public attention, and he is a master at it, unbuyably rich, and the most watched person in America across the country and the world. He can’t be shut up. Personal stigmatization and attack without let-up are the only way to gag his policies and turn the tide against him at the same time.
Maybe it will work in the end. It’s how disastrous and bankrupting foreign aggressions and wars have been sold whatever the ruinous costs to the public paying for them.
When you join the dots to Trump also preaching a policy revolt against the insatiable corporate jaws feeding on trillions of dollars of public budgets in Washington, the meaning becomes clear. But that connected meaning is blacked out. In its place, the corporate media and politicians present an egomaniac blowhard bordering on fascism who preaches hate, racism and sexism. But the silenced policies he advocates are more like jumping into a crocodile pit. He is on record saying he will cut the Pentagon’s budget “by 50%”. No winning politician has ever dared to take on the military-industrial complex, with even Eisenhower only naming it in his parting speech. Trump also says that the US “must be neutral, an honest broker” on the Israeli-Palestine conflict – as unspeakable as it gets in US politics. Big Pharma is also called out with “$400 billion to be saved by government negotiation of prices”. The even more powerful HMO’s are confronted by the possibility of a “one-payer system”, the devil incarnate in America’s corporate-welfare state.
Trump even challenges “the Enemy” cornerstone of US ideology when he says “wouldn’t it be nice to get along with Russia and China for a change?” Not very fascist of him. He was also open to nationalizing the Wall Street banks after 2008. None of this sees the light of day in the hate-Trump culture that been effectively mounted across even left-right divisions. Most of all, Trump rejects the whole misnamed “free trade” global system because it has “hollowed out the lives of American workers” with rights to corporations to move anywhere to get cheaper labour and import back into the US tariff-free. But again the connected meaning is repressed. That Trump also wants to get the US out of foreign wars at the same time, the other great pillar of corporate globalization, is the real danger to the transnational corporate state he has set in motion.
All these policies threaten only the ruling money interests of America that depend on the superpower public purse to extend their transnational monopolies and multiply their wealth. This is the real establishment interest that has so far evaded the glare of publicity and critique of the Donald Trump phenomenon, bigger now with Bernie Sanders than any political challenge to the US system since the 1960’s. Trump is certainly not a working-class hero. He is a pure capitalist, with all the furies of private interest and greed that capitalism selects for. But at this time he is a capitalist who is not rich from looting the public purse as the biggest annual cash flow, nor from exporting the costs of labor and taxes to foreign jurisdictions with subhuman standards that come back to the US as “necessary to compete”. Trump has initiated a long overdue recognition of parasite capitalism eating out the life capacities of the US itself.
Prof. John McMurtry is author of The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure (Pluto)