Bad, Bad, Donald Trump *

by Berry Friesen (March 8, 2016)

Like many others, I’m trying to understand the US presidential campaign.  Back in January, I posted six essays about what motivates Trump’s supporters.  This post is about the broader dynamics at work in the politics of the empire.

Let’s start with this maxim from John Basil Barnhill, an early 20th century socialist:  "When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."

Do the imperial elite perceive a threat to their rule among the American people?  That is, is there a part of the electorate who rejects the legitimacy of the elite’s control and is prepared to act accordingly?  If so, who are those people?

Determined leftists do not accept the legitimacy of the elite, but are not a threat because of their fragmentation and preoccupation with identity issues.  Liberals are too acculturated to make a stand; Chris Hedges has chronicled their betrayal. 

Is there then a threat from the right-wing?  Not exactly; there is simply too much money being made via war profiteering, prison profiteering, pharmaceutical profiteering, Wall Street manipulation and the privatization of public functions and wealth.  

Yet there is a genuine threat abroad in the land—millions of Americans who are convinced the US political system is a charade designed to legitimize the rule of the elite. The right-wing Tea Party is the most organized and visible manifestation, but this reality exists all across the spectrum and includes leftists too.  

Within this huge slice of the American people, we find very low rates of voting, deep anger at liberals for their betrayal of the working class, fury about the bank bail-out of 2009, intense frustration with America’s inconclusive wars, much skepticism over official accounts of 9/11, and outright contempt for rules of political discourse that serve to maintain the charade.

Bad, bad, Donald Trump is the elite’s answer to this threat.  Trump has been anointed leader of the disaffected and given the task of neutering that threat.  I expect he will be elected the next President of the United States.

What of the millions being spent every day to derail his candidacy?  It’s all part of the charade, meant to lock in Trump’s credentials as an enemy of the elite, but deployed much too late to stop Trump’s march to the White House.  If the elite wanted to block Trump, they would have denied him nonstop media coverage during 2015.  In this respect, Donald Trump is like ISIS, launched into leadership by the very people who flamboyantly claim to oppose him.

And what is the point of this deception?  To restore the legitimacy of the empire and its ruling elite.  With Trump in the White House, disaffected Americans will have won their country back; they again will believe in the empire.  For a time, at least, this will dissipate any threat to the elite.

But won’t Trump need to make big changes in the empire in order to win over the disaffected? 

Certainly the packaging—the rhetoric—will need to change and that will generate endless and highly engaging controversy. But will Trump change the policies of the empire—the predatory economics, the Pentagon’s bullying, the private profiteering, the transfer of wealth from America’s working people to the elite?  The question answers itself. 

In “Trump will make his peace with the war party,” Dan Sanchez notes that Trump’s circle of advisors includes imperial insiders: Rudolph Giuliani, Chris Christie, Richard Haass (current president of the Council on Foreign Relations), Senator Jeff Sessions and John Bolton, an Iraq War architect and close ally of the neocons. 

Sanchez also recounts how Ronald Reagan came to power as an anti-establishment figure, only to use the power of the presidency to strengthen the grip of the elite.

But isn’t Trump wrecking the Republican Party?  Aren’t people who have given their lives to that Party about to suffer great loses?  It’s a good point, one suggesting Trump is a true outsider and not a stalking horse for the elite. 

Nevertheless, count me among those who are skeptical that Trump represents the end of the charade.  Rather than marking a return to greater transparency, he signifies the seriousness of the threat from the millions of us who have stopped believing what is fed to us daily by the mainstream media. 

That’s the problem Donald Trump is meant to fix.
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*     Back in 1973, Jim Croce had a No. 1 hit with “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown,” a song about a man whose meanness was part of his attractiveness.    I don’t expect the song will be played at the Trump inauguration parties, but it captures a crucial element of the Trump phenomenon.