29 November, 2020

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Gotabayaism: Tropical Trumpism Between The US & China 

By Dayan Jayatilleka 

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

The planetary political pandemic of autocratic Alt-Right ultranationalism has just had its curve flattened at its epicenter, the country of its most dramatic height, the USA. Sri Lanka’s likeminded regime will feel secure that this is an ancient, ‘organic’ hierarchical society unlike the USA, congratulate itself on the “autocratic breakthrough” (Balint Magyar) effected with the 20th amendment and the grip it has on the institutions and electoral process. Ruthlessness will be its recourse to pre-empt a replay of the fate of its hero President Trump. 

While the Biden-Harris ‘event’ won’t translate immediately and unmediated, into a decisive impact on Sri Lanka, the change in the global zeitgeist and the world correlation of forces, starting with the overall balance of ‘soft power’, will transform the regime’s environmental conditions of existence and ‘overdetermine’ (Althusser) our small island’s political destiny. 

The GR presidential project was socially and psychologically powered by Trump’s 2016 victory. The Gotabaya regime came into being as the last victory of global Alt-Right ultranationalism, the parabola of which has begun its descent with Trump’s defeat. The regime’s external factors of existence constitute a tripod: Trump and Trumpism; Israel’s Netanyahu, Netanyahu’s Israel; and Xi’s China. 

As Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s brilliant Deputy National Security Advisor wrote: “For the last decade, the political project of an increasingly far-right Republican Party has become enmeshed with other right-wing movements in Brazil…and elsewhere…Right-wing parties share sources of financing, media and disinformation platforms, political strategies, and consultants.” (The Democratic Renewal, Foreign Affairs, Sept/Oct 2020). 

The ‘Late Trumpist’ Lankan regime’s tripod just lost a leg.

The second leg is Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel. Biden is staunchly pro-Israel but he’s also pro- ‘two state’ peace. Netanyahu will be hoping that a Biden victory will not help his rival-cum-partner Benny Ganz, a more promising peace partner. 

The third leg is President Xi’s China. In a reopened dialogue between the USA (with India in its corner) and China, that leg may prove flexibly retractable, and even if it doesn’t, perching on that particular leg will make the regime more vulnerable in the coming global re-set. 

When Obama won, I wrote a piece from Geneva entitled ‘Barack Obama: History’s High Note’. Maybe I should call this ‘Joe Biden: History’s High Noon’. The victory of Joe Biden, Gary Cooper-like cool, calm, yet principled American moral hero, was a triumph for civility and moderation, decency and dignity, humanism and pluralism, social empathy and social fairness, anti-racism and anti-supremacism. 

With Biden begins the end of American decline. Those who think that in the past week, the USA demonstrated its weakness and the debility of democracy as a system of governance, are much mistaken. History will show that this was the turning point, where the world saw democracy alive, in real-time, from the inside; how the values of democracy were fought for, even at this moment of ‘dual power’ marked by Trump’s institutional obstructionism and polarizing incitement of far-right passions. A second American Revolution, this time a replay of the 1960s and ’70s, may be inevitable.

If a low-intensity Civil War is waged against the Biden-Harris administration by neofascist militia, drawing support from the ‘Confederate’ white supremacist constituency, future history will show that this only strengthened American democracy as did the Civil War of the 1860s, enhancing the moral strength of the American idea, ideals and system throughout the world. 

As I entered my teens I read a new book (in 1970) which an American friend had gifted my father, titled The Greening of America, by Charles A Reich. It contemplated the shift of consciousness of the 1960s, dubbing it Consciousness III. The Biden-Harris victory marks the birth of a new American consciousness, with globalized resonance because the USA is more a mirror of the world, of humanity in all its plurality, than is any other country, and its ideals as demonstrated by the vote for Biden-Harris, are more universalist than the message and model of its rivals and competitors. The gravitational center of global consciousness could shift, creating a new global center-space, a new democratic consensus, a new middle-ground and Middle Path.

History will indelibly etch the charismatic Kamala Harris, who is in part, OUR Kamala: not only the first woman Vice-President of the USA, but also the first woman of color and of “South Asian descent” (Biden’s victory speech) to hold that post, who will also be the most powerful woman in the history of the most powerful nation in history.  

The Trump/Biden example shows that Trumpism can be electorally defeated in a single term at a Presidential election. While it was a protracted struggle for the electoral college, culminating in victory, it was a much clearer sweep in the popular vote. Biden-Harris polled the highest number of votes that any presidential ticket did in US history, beating Trump by almost five million votes. 

In a Presidential system with a direct popular election, it is perfectly possible to defeat a majoritarian-supremacist autocratic President in a single term. As Bolivia recently showed with the first round 55% win for the Movement for Socialism candidate Luis Arce, this is perfectly possible even against a tougher-than-Trump “de facto dictatorial regime…which killed protestors” (President Arce).

This would be especially so if, like Trump, the incumbent President has been a success in other fields but has zero-experience of legislation and governance, and faces a progressive democratic candidate who by contrast, has considerable political experience. Sri Lanka’s democratic challenger lost to the incumbent President at the zenith of the latter’s post-Easter/pre-Corona popularity as candidate, by only 10% (52%-42%).

Sri Lankan democrats and liberal/neoliberal civil society intelligentsia must abandon their colonial hang-up on the Westminster model and absurd three-decades long fixation on the abolition of the executive presidency (‘contact traceable’ to the abortive anti-Premadasa impeachment and the reactionary DUNF breakaway). What ended up abolished was not the executive presidency, but the UNP which was the project’s vehicle. The executive presidency stands reinforced. 

The USA proves (as does Bolivia) that however autocratic the President, the task of democrats is not to abolish the Presidency, but to WIN the Presidency, defeating that President. 

Former Obama strategist David Axelrod correctly said on CNN after the victory that Biden is “a Center-Left Democrat…[with] a progressive agenda”. When the neoliberal-globalist Hillary Clinton was his opponent, Trump broke through the ‘blue wall’ that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had built. Joe Biden rebuilt it. Biden is an authentically caring, empathetic man with an appeal to the blue-collar working people of the white majority (who had deserted the party during the Hillary Clinton candidacy), able to breakthrough in the American heartland which Hillary had lost for the Democrats, while constructing the broadest anti-Trump coalition, especially with the African-American community which voted overwhelmingly for him. 

In a lesson for Sri Lanka’s ethnic/religious minorities, the Black community didn’t support the ideologically advanced Bernie Sanders (backed by young, college-educated whites) as they did that Democrat who could reassure the white majority and break through to it, giving the best chance of victory.

The vital energies for the winning Democrat mobilization came from two sources: the (Bernie Sanders) Democratic Left and Black Lives Matter. The incandescent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (‘AOC’, age 31), Joan of Arc of the Democratic Socialists, was re-elected to the House of Representatives with an amazing 68.8% vote. Ilhan Omar and the rest of The Squad, the progressive women’s caucus which includes AOC, were re-elected. 

It was President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who decided, in conversation with President Xi, and later with Politburo member Yang Jiechi, on taking the party-to-party relationship, as distinct from the purely state-to-state or government-to-government relationship, to the next level. 

“…Chinese Embassy spokesperson Luo Chong said that the meeting was aimed at implementing a consensus reached by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and President Xi Jinping in their telephone conversation as well as the recent high-level visit of top leader Yang Jiechi to Colombo.”

“…Minister Song Tao of the International Department of Central Committee of CPC, Party Secretary Liu Cigui of CPC Provincial Committee of Hainan Province, SLPP Chairman Professor G.L. Peiris, Secretary General Sagara Kariyawasam, SLPP MPs including Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Namal Rajapaksa and Ramesh Pathirana together with some State Ministers and Mayors from the Western Province participated in the meeting.

‘…Ambassador Qi Zhenhong…emphasized that the experience sharing between the two ruling parties would play an important role in bilateral cooperation in the post-COVID era to come. “…As ruling parties, CPC and SLPP should enhance experience sharing so as to better leading the two Governments and the two peoples for a brighter future.”’

The event was billed as an “Opening Ceremony of CPC-SLPP Advanced Seminar on Governance Experience”. Would the “Governance Experience” that the SLPP absorbed at this seminar make its way into the new Constitution? The SLPP is not a ruling party in the systemic sense that the CPC is– unless that transformation is the goal. Does the regime seek to entrench itself behind a Chinese Wall of an ‘Asiatic absolutist’ constitutional/political order? 

The SLPP-CPC dialogue on Governance took place in the immediate aftermath of Pompeo’s messaging on his Sri Lanka visit, and while a naval exercise of the Quad was underway in the Bay of Bengal. Mike Pompeo was careful to target the Chinese Communist Party more often than China as such, an interesting attempt at an implicit distinction between state-to state or intergovernmental relations, and the alleged expansionist impulse of the Chinese CP. 

Just as the Trump administration built on Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ (minus the Trans-Pacific Partnership), the Biden administration will build on elements of Trump’s China policy. Just as the policy of ‘containment’ of the USSR was essentially bipartisan, albeit with varying emphases, so too will be the policy of the ‘containment’ of China.  

The US Democrats are even more focused than the Republicans on the issue of democracy vs. the projection of China’s governance model by the CPC. On this, there is a bipartisan consensus. Moreover, if Michelle Flournoy handles China policy or more importantly, Defense, the Biden administration’s approach will be smarter and sharper in both soft and hard power dimensions. 

Tie this into the recently reinforced American relationship with India (billed as a relationship between ‘the world’s two greatest democracies’) which lies at the center of the Quad, itself billed as an alliance of democracies. The Quad has a back-office backstop: The Five Eyes, an old (1951) but recently re-energized partnership for intelligence integration, comprising the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

That’s the substructure/infrastructure in place. Add the coming ‘superstructure’: Biden’s stated commitment (in a landmark Foreign Affairs essay) to what I call ‘democratic internationalism’– a global mobilization and vigorous offensive, advancing the values of democracy and human rights while explicitly targeting autocracy and ultranationalism.

There is a politico-corporate-managerial-bureaucratic-institutional conglomerate in Colombo with an economic stake in its vocation as China lobby/client, but Beijing’s umbrella will not sustainably extend so far south in the Indian Ocean, will be vulnerable to an Indo-US pincer or Quad encirclement, and be rolled up. In the great game in the Indo-Pacific, Sri Lanka may prove a dispensable bargaining chip, traded-in to protect a stake elsewhere. 

What if the Trump presidency was not, and had not been, constitutionally constrained? With presidential power unchecked and militarism rampant, liberty in Sri Lanka has no safeguards, enjoys no guarantees. The objectively enabling role that any external power assumes in relation to domestic tyrannical tendencies must therefore be externally contained and countervailed. And this is so not only in Sri Lanka.

Today Humanity’s main threat comes from the narrowing and darkening of human consciousness through parochial ultranationalism, racism and supremacism; the retrogression in human and social progress through reversion to tyranny and despotism; the anarchic breakup – not progressive transformation—of the world system through the irruption of walled-in ultranationalist tyrannies; and the sporadic, opportunistic, enabling and/or consolidation by rising great powers of these retrogressive trends. The absence of a common, science-driven global response to Covid-19 and the much larger danger of climate change are symptoms of this situation.

Humanity has to be reunited; the human consciousness broadened and enlightened; internationalism reborn.   

 The ideas and ideals of the Biden-Harris campaign (including those of progressive and left Democrats) must be transferred and transmitted globally, uninterruptedly extended and expanded into an internationalist project of democratic solidarity against tyranny and for freedom, liberty, equality and justice. The new American revolution must be universalized.

In his victory speech Biden said “at its best, America is a beacon for the globe…we will lead not only by the example of our power but by the power of our example”, adding “it’s always been a bad bet to bet against America.” Earlier this year Joe Biden wrote: “…We have to champion liberty and democracy…” (Foreign Affairs, March/April 2020) Those who face the danger of autocracy flecked with elements of fascism, must hope he makes good on his promise.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    0

    ‘Sri Lanka’s likeminded regime will feel secure that this is an ancient, ‘organic’ hierarchical society unlike the USA, congratulate itself on the “autocratic breakthrough” (Balint Magyar) effected with the 20th amendment and the grip it has on the institutions and electoral process.’
    .
    I’m pretty sure Gota too was thinking of Balint Magyar when he gave his speech to the nation.
    .
    How come there is no mention of the military, surely a part of the ‘politico-corporate-managerial-bureaucratic-institutional conglomerate in Colombo with an economic stake in its vocation as China lobby/client’?

  • 0
    6

    Democrats used the Covid-19 to pass postal voting laws in swing states designed to help them to win the election without tell-tale signs. They win the Presidential Election. The parliamentary election in Sri Lanka was conducted under Covid-19 in an impeccable manner to rout the UNP and endorse the performance of the President.

    The other similarity is adapting a local production oriented policy that is keeping the economy afloat with a healthy stock market and the exchange rate remaining stable.

    • 8
      2

      Lal de Mel,

      President Trumps election first victory was due to fake patriotism similar to Rajapakse victory in 2010 election. Corruption, bribe, Power hungry of Rajapakse family brought a defeat in 2015 election. Unfortunately, threat forced on Sirisena and Easter Bombing plot by Rajapakse family gave a boost to Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalism and victory to Gota in 2019 election. Even though the weak Corona imports from China and bribe to Muslim MPs helped to get two third majority the second and third wave Corona took nearly 5 times more civilian death and infections. Now, they are prepared to sell part of Sri Lanka again and the next election (if happen) send Gota and Basil back to USA.

  • 1
    0

    Gotabayaism?

    Dayan for gods sake don’t coin that phrase.
    sounds like PAYASAM
    I suggest
    Gota Payasam

    Gota for Sinahalayo
    Payasam for his Tamil arse lickers

    Double whammy?

  • 1
    0

    As you have correctly pointed out, Biden-Harris are staunchly pro-Israel and Israel is the new Apartheid regime of the 21st century with laws in the occupied West Bank applicable based on ethnicity (Israeli laws apply to Israeli citizens who have illegally settled in the West Bank and Israeli military law applying to Palestinians under Israeli occupation). The mainstream Democrats who Biden-Harris belong to have enabled Apartheid since the Oslo agreement, only paying lip-service in their criticism of Israel. This will only continue under Biden enabling Netanyahoo or Gantz (or Naftali Bennet) to grab more Palestinian land for settlers and stay with the Apartheid policies. Is this what we want to “universalize'”? How are Biden-Harris going to reconcile their support for progressive causes such as BLM at home and support the 21st century version of Apartheid in Palestine?

  • 1
    3

    In year 2016 Bernie was the most popular candidate……Most fo the democrates choose not to vote for Mrs Clinton for all the right reasons. Berni choose not to get involved too for all the right reasons except conceding to Democrat election process.

    Year 2020 Bernie thrown in the towel and openly asked hoist other base to support running Democrats.

    Hence the .loss then and the victory now.

    Yes Minority & black votes were divided then and now. Not a measure of anything regard to right and wrong in life???

    MR/GR has been more right than many others in their projects/execution/consistency/success than I could say about any other in my land?? won the heart and minds of people??

    Federalism/Separatism/Communism/Capitalism/Insurgency/Military coups/Religious coups….the most consistent GOSL I know of in the world who treated all the same and dealt with with decent the same too for the past 70 years. Even after your EPRLF days you get to be the Ambassador to Russia?? where else this happens??

  • 1
    2

    DJ, try telling to more than 50 % of our public who voted in bringing back the family, for experts who just lost their own democrazy but seems more concerned with US election results, conspiracy theorist here in CT, local self claimed PRC members/Xi fans, Amrit . M (local QAnon expert), Pseudo Alt Right ultra nationalist in Lanka and all those who thought “Trump won the elections”. I believe U.S is in capable hands and the people have done the right thing , in their second attempt. Where as we Lankans ??? So people who are too concerned with U.S should stop and start cleaning their own house.

  • 1
    0

    CT commentators can take a pride in Thero’s today’s essay. The essay today you are reading is the pride of yours. We not are going to go into a lengthy critic of it. But the general direction is positive. Thero is known for three negative behaviors, not connecting his obsolete Cuban Communism: 1). As frequently commented by Native Veda, his essays lay bare racism. 2).He is a hypocrite, preach one thing but support Castro, Chavez, Old King, and Vaalaiththodam Sr. like tyrant dictators. 3). He is a policy-less egomaniacal coolie, carry the torch for seeking jobs, by which he can stand behind his ideal masters. Thero wrote this essay today, because commentators who reply to his essays molded his soul, in his unconsciousness, into another body. So CT and commentators, who constantly criticized Thero adoring the treachery of Iran-Cuba-China- Lanka mother, can celebrate their achievement along with Biden-Harris team.

  • 0
    1

    Puhazhenthi composed a stanza that in king Nalan’s kingdom: “The pet parrot eats from man’s hand and the kite fly high up in the sky searching for its prey parrot, live in the same cage.” Unity is about within the same ideologist. But peace, more dear, is about among enemies. A kingdom is place to live for both, same ideologists and dissidents too. When President elect Biden said “he will be the president for all Americans” that meant it is for the ones voted for him and the Republicans. America cannot be Democrats only or America cannot be Republicans only. If the end story is not “Americans are the winners”, there is no point in having a just and fair election. Because, after the election, unfairly, some are left behind in their lives, at least for another 4 years until they get another chance. King too, after his victory of, by “Sinhala Buddhist Only”, standing under the Buddhist Bodhi Boo tree, declared that he the president of Lankawe will rule over all, by bringing Tamils and Muslims under his jackboot. “There are no longer any minorities in Lankawe”. To honor that promise he had got his 20A attested by Tamils and Muslims too. This is re-enacting of Tamil and Muslim Ministers attesting Soulbury Constitution for Don Stephen, in 1948.

  • 0
    1

    Ranil said yesterday though press criticized him a lot, he preserved it for his ability the press freedom in his time. Talk freely about what you feel is next to the threes, food for Hunger, cover for cold and the roof over head to rest. It is no longer available under the Royal government. Thero knows what Lankawe is, what Cuba is and what America is. He knows how an American citizen, who enjoyed all the fruit of the American democracy, now as Lankawe President, is setting the course of Lankawe into the anti-American waters. He knows even Solzhenitsyn lived in America, when he was disenfranchised in USSR. The American story is about “Vettunar Thaankum Viyan peru Nilame, Kollunarkarunilal Koddupna Marame” (Digging man too lives on the earth, Cutting man rest under that tree). If you fell sleepy only you pat the pillow and spared the sheet. Thero has no longer any hope for Ambassador Posts in the royal government. Russia the saltwater is not for thirst. That is why he is welcomed for refuge in America, the Great Land in the modern civilization.

  • 0
    0

    Mallai, there was an interesting view from a U.S analyst I heard recently. In the recent elections overall voting has been high and Trump managed to increased his support among Hispanics and Blacks. Further study indicates it the men who have voted more in numbers but not women. His support among Hispanics was almost 25 %, when minority in general was abused by him throughout his stay. One of the reason why Hispanic men liked and voted for Trump is for his “macho ” personality, traits of abusing women, treating them like garbage, forcing him on them, calling names , going around cheating, extra marital affairs, one night stays , lot if illegally made money —etc which are glorified and many who dream of that life style. . Among Blacks it was men who were quick Millionaire, rappers/entertainment industry, like 50 cents ,snoop dog and the rest ,who too have shady background, now filthy rich and wants to avoid paying tax/cheat the system , just like trump. Considering this we sure can understand why more than 50% of SB (with few minorities) voted for Rajapaksas in creating a family dynasty.

  • 0
    0

    Chiv,
    You picked up some valid points. Yet I am hesitance that you are comparing Lankawe election to US election. SB has no feeling for policies but empathy for Kasippu and antagonism for minorities. That is where their vote is. Sorry, No fix! I wrote last week about the democracies which are going with two party (Left-Right) politics. People want performance. They treat the policies as pure talk. Important part is, when general standard of living improves, but the distribution curve widens, left and right parties are losing their bases. So the practical cleavage in the policies is narrowing. Instead of Mexican wall, a policy matter for president Trump, if the Obama care, a left oriented policy matter, was replaced by a satisfactory solution, Trump might have been assured a chance. His difference between with Biden is much more than with Hilary. For a 10M increment Biden got 3 Million additions. But Hilary managed only 3 M additions for 65M votes. So in the incremental votes, a higher percentage stood with Biden. So the small increment of Black men for Trump this time was washed away by white woman and men turning against President Trump. Still there is point in your talk.

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