Creating Donald Trump

Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_2

“Every rise of fascism bears witness to a failed revolution.”

-Walter Benjamin

The other day marked yet another milestone within the American political travelling circus. Newt Gingrich took a swing at Fox News for “creating” Donald Trump. What’s fantastic about this is that Gingrich simultaneously took a hit at one of his best political impersonators and attacked a media institution that fed off the environment he fostered while he portrayed himself as the reasonable guy within a sea of demagogy.

And, to add insult to injury the headline: “Newt Gingrich Drops a Truth Bomb on Fox News” was plastered all over Facebook, shared widely and celebrated by progressives of all stripes.

All of this, of course, is but the frantic scramble of an American political class that can’t come to terms with its own demise. Trump’s resounding victories in Nevada and South Carolina have proven that this isn’t some kind of glitch in the system, it’s a systemic prophecy coming true.

Headlines and articles have continued to pop up by disillusioned pundits in dismay about the ascension and popularity of Trump’s hateful rhetoric. At first it was a joke and now it’s a tragedy.

American public debate has turned into a self-caricature to the point that we can have one of the main instigators of the neoconservative counter-revolution come on Fox News and blast them for creating the environment in which Trump’s monolithic World Vision thrives. I guess stone throwers shouldn’t live in glass houses…

trump fox news

Even though Gingrich and other Conservatives such as Dick Cheney and Karl Rove calling out Donald Trump is ironic, it’s also quite revolting. The media obsession with the Trump phenomenon, in their view the worst thing yet to hit American politics, glosses over despicable track records and heinous crimes.

Trump has been the biggest gift for Bush & Co who have been able to rehabilitate themselves as dignified representatives of some kind of respectable conservative branch. It’s nauseating for me to hear pundits talk about the Bush days with nostalgia and fondness. The recap videos attempting to contrast Trump and Bush’s rhetoric about Muslims and Islam are vomit worthy.

I can feel for the disoriented right-wing pundits, though, and the sense of betrayal and injustice they are feeling over Trump. After all, you can think Islamophobic things, you can be a closet racist and garnish support from KKK bigots in private and you can bomb and send flocks of Drones to the Middle East, but the golden rule is you don’t talk about such things in public.

It’s quite impressive to see the right-wing running to the hills, in a sort of Frankinsteinesque freakout. Newt Gingrich was right about how Fox News fostered a welcoming environment in which Donald Trump’s brand of neo-fascism breeds extremely well. But it would be a mistake to see Donald Trump as some freak side show. After all Republican and Democratic administrations alike have been putting Trump’s word into practise for the past few decades if not more.

Within the American political spectrum no one is better at embodying the pyromaniac firefighter syndrome than the Democratic Party establishment. It’s the Democratic Party’s liberalism, rhetoric of managed expectations and guardianship of the status quo that allowed a space to be opened to right-wing maniacs and an egocentric form of politics that would go on to ignite the flame that has embroiled American public discourse. Those sulfurous fumes are oxygen for Donald Trump’s campaign.

Few western political institutions have represented such a profound betrayal of “progressive” principals as much as the US Democratic Party. It has been such a detrimental force to progressive movements in the United States and throughout the world.

Trump has built his reactionary movement on the ruins of the Social Contract once promoted by New Deal politics and its dismantling through progressive Republican and Democratic administrations. Even though Reagan and his bunch were the first to start destroying most of the social acquisitions that were the bedrock of the idyllic American middle class, this Herculean task wouldn’t have been accomplished without the economic agenda implemented by the Clinton administration.

During the 1990s, Clinton continued Reagan’s economics: in depth deregulation of the American financial system, political financing, strengthening big capital’s grip on the United States. The Clinton administration, however, had carefully crafted a different rhetoric from their Republican counterparts. Well versed in the Liberal ideals of formal equality over substantive equality, the Clintonites and the Blairites in England espoused an idealistic and fundamentally paradoxical third way.

Their rhetoric was of true recognition and emancipation of all minorities and an end to discrimination which would go hand in hand with market liberalization. Whereas conservative forces denied formal rights outright, this rehashed old-new brand of political liberalism acknowledged formal rights but only as residues of past discrimination and unequal access to resources, not a systemic discrimination.

Emancipation would come though liberalization. Exit any notion of reparations, which is fundamental for any form of substantive rights to be implemented.

Meme courtesy of Lee Camp on Facebook, original image from 2005 by Getty Images
Meme courtesy of Lee Camp on Facebook, original image from 2005 by Getty Images

Clinton continued the massive liberalization agenda that was put forward by Reagan and Bush Senior. Bush Junior only exacerbated already deep underlying fault lines and Trump is the direct beneficiary of that. It’s not innocent that Trump has railed against trade deals everywhere he goes. One of the things mainstream political media have for sure left out of their coverage is that Donald Trump has given stump speech after stump speech calling for the “opening-up” of the trade agreements that have destroyed industrial and working-class American communities.

Trump’s popularity among white working-class American families has much more to do with the shortcomings and the political maneuverings of the Democratic Party than with right-wing rage contortionists like Glenn Beck or Fox News. The history of the Democratic Party’s ambivalence about race and divisions in the American working class and the construction of the racist narrative of White American Working Class are the grounds on which Trump’s degenerate xenophobia breeds.

But Donald Trump is also a more direct reaction to the economic crisis of 2008 and failed opportunity that the newly anointed Barack Obama had to effect profound change within the United States, dismantling the too big to fail power structure and removing American democracy from the grip of Wall Street. Fascism, ie. Donald Trump, is simultaneously a reaction against a potential “revolutionary” movement at a precise transformative moment and a movement that feeds off the desolation of that missed opportunity.

To understand the rise of Trump, one must understand that there’s nothing particular about Trump. There’s nothing special about this phenomenon except that Trump has decided not to follow the pre-established conventions of the American political class and there’s surely nothing dangerous about Trump for the American political establishment despite CNN’s lyrical waxing.

Hillary Clinton, earlier this week, made a very revealing remark: “I’ve said for a long time that Trump isn’t a joke.”

Hillary Clinton and most of the American political and media establishment have known for a long time that Trump wasn’t a joke. Trump, after all, is merely a reaction to their policies. In the past four decades, American administrations have followed Trump’s platform to the letter, just in a more discreet, less pompous and extravagant manner.

* Featured image by Gage Skidmore via WikiMedia Commons

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