By Kumar David –
“Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first drive mad” ~ Fragment attributed to Euripides (c. 480 – c. 406 BC)
“Fake News Media badly wants a confrontation with Russia that leads to war” ~ Donald Trump on Twitter (19 July 2018)
President Trump is a chaotic oddball; it is hard to think of a Twentieth Century parallel except the mad monk Rasputin, who was probably insane, drunk most times and suffered mystical delusions. The parallels are that Donald Trump is unpredictable to the point of chaotic, obsessed with pussies and panties and suffers from inordinate narcissism flavoured with naiveté and arrogance. These personal quirks would hardly warrant an essay, but the uproar in US media and Congress after his tête-à-tête with Putin, the pandemonium he has ignited among Western allies, the commotion of ripping infants and children from illegal immigrant parents, and lastly the threat to reforms won over decades that his Supreme Court nominee (Justice Brett Kavanaugh) poses is, literally, unprecedented.
Before getting into the thick of it I need to unwrap what may seem a puzzle. Those of you who have suffered the misfortune reading my etchings would have worked out that I am an unabashed Marxist pickled in modern science and dialectics. You will rightly ask: “What the devil do you, Satan, care if Trump is ripping up Western society? Shouldn’t you be dancing on the grave of capitalism? Have you degenerated into another liberal?” Well true, but there is a conditionality and a point of theory that I plead. The conditionality: Run of the mill capitalism is better than fascism, Hindenburg would have been better than Hitler, an anti-Paksa option will be better than Gota, and US liberal democracy is better than bedlam. To link hands with Trump and dance is as ghoulish as to embrace Gota because Yahapalana is a drifting eunuch. In simpler words, Trump is a menace to more than plain vanilla global capitalism; alt-right stimulated chaos can end in mayhem unknown.
Secondly, the sorry state of the modern world reveals to the theorist the deeply complex processes mediating the decline and fall of prevailing society. Yes Trump must go, but that won’t get America far unless it makes way, albeit gradually, for social-democracy. This essay, limited to the number of words that a weekly column can countenance, does not paint on this grand canvas. It is confined to a summary of the commotions I spoke of and it is presented from a perspective that abandons the interpretations of half-blind, self-righteous, holier than thou “scholars” and mainstream liberal bores. Trump has brought this system to a sordid climax, he is its candid pacesetter, its alter-ego. This is what elite, “scholars”, the media and “analysts” conceal! They are his demiurge, he their masked zeitgeist.
Consternation in the West
I have to disregard domestic issues and focus on the international fracas – the Putin meeting, the standoff with NATO and the fire he lit under Theresa May’s skirt. NATO is aggressive; its ideological raison d’être disappeared with the collapse of the Soviet Union. It now serves the capitalist-West as an instrument to confront near-capitalist Russia. Since 1990 it has encroached ever closer to Russia’s borders. I would be happy to see NATO dismantled, but since my enemy’s enemy is not necessarily my friend, whacky Donald buggering NATO need not endear him to anyone except Putin. Trans-Atlantic military clout, the power underpinning imperialism is unravelling, cranky Donald is driving America’s erstwhile allies up the wall, but that does not mean anyone need dote on the ugly lecher.
First the factual background. Trump roiled NATO allies at a summit in Brussels on 16 Sept by berating them as free-riders on the back of US taxpayers – which is true. The US is one of just five of 28 members that meet their commitment to spend 2% on defence – at 3.73% of GDP it spends $700 million. The other four are Poland, Greece, Estonia and UK. America whinges that it provides a disproportionate share of the funding and demands that others raise their defence budgets. He alarmed allies declaring “what good is NATO”. When he came out of the meeting he lied, escalating rhetoric at a press conference and claiming that NATO members had caved in to his demand that the 2% goal be met immediately not by 2024 as previously agreed.
The next day France’s Macron issued a statement firmly stating that this was untrue and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg refrained from confirming Trump’s claim. Trump went further and dumfounded Germany saying “Germany is totally captive to Russia” pointing at the huge amount of gas Russia sells Germany. Angered German politicians are muttering “Europe cannot depend on the US for security any longer; we must start planning independently”. NATO will be kaput for sure if Trump wins a second term. That in itself is good; aggressive NATO is a threat to peace; but that’s not to deny that Trump is a plague.
The plague then crossed the Channel and violated Theresa May. “She messed up Brexit, Boris Johnson who quit her Cabinet a day earlier would make a better PM, she made a mess by not taking my advice etc.” Meanwhile London saw its largest demonstration (tens of thousands) since 2003. Trump could not enter the city by land (he was ferried by helicopter) and I was amused to see Londoners declare on BBC “we ran him out of town”. There are plans afoot to use London as seeding ground for another Balmy-Army to follow and evict Trump from every foreign capital he visits.
The Putin-Trump press conference on 16 July after the one-on-one meeting (at Trump’s request) ignited an explosion. It was wall to wall, every broadcasting mega-byte consumed on American media for five days and still in full cry. “Siding with the enemy against America’s own interests – treason!” blared former National Security Director John Bannon. “It’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that Putin has something on Trump” opined Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (Maybe crooked property deals in Russia, money laundering or shady investments). Republican elder statesman John McCain thought “Today’s press conference the most disgraceful by a US president. The damage inflicted by Trump’s naiveté, egotism and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate”. Those who follow US politics should read McCain’s statement in full.
Trump, usually an obnoxious windbag was bereft of gas; weak and submissive in Putin’s presence prompting a wag to ask “Was Trump giving Putin a foot massage in the private chamber?” The anger is that “having thrown NATO under the bus and disembowelled our allies”, the US media claimed, “he sided with Putin against our Joint National Security Agencies, and Senate and House investigation reports on Russian interference in elections”. There is overwhelming evidence that Russia intervened in the 2016 US presidential election, but whether it affected the result is moot. America, Britain, France and Russia, all have a finger in other nations. China financed Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidential campaign to the tune of hundreds of millions of rupees funnelled through the China Harbour Engineering Company.
Given the overwhelming evidence, Russian meddling is incontrovertible, so it is unsurprising that the establishment, the media and the public (except ‘Trump base’) are aghast at a President, foresworn to uphold the constitution and ensure the security of the nation, turning “traitor”. MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, in fact the whole liberal jingbang are milking the story for all it is worth. Thanks to Donald Trump advertising revenues have risen several fold.
Has the Trump-Base wavered?
The plain answer is NO! There is no evidence that the Base is troubled, turned against Tump or concedes that he has betrayed the national interest. Faith springs eternal in the alt-right chest: ‘Trump will make America Great Again, drain the swamp, stop Chinese and foreigners stealing in the name of trade and stem the tide of Muslim and Hispanic illegals’. It is early days and faith remains unshaken. His reputation as a sexual predator has done little to disillusion the Base. A reason for complacency is that the economy is growing and the “real” unemployment is at a 17 year low. How much longer the economy will hold up is outside the scope of this essay.
But there is a deeper reason why the Trump-Base will not easily fracture; the failure of powerful elites and businesses (capitalism) to stem exploding inequality in the last three decades, or to address fear, resentment and alienation in the hearts and minds of numerous Americans. Of that the white working class in the rust-belt (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Illinois) and red-neck rural parts of Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana constitute the Trump-Base. Numerically the hard core is 25 to 30% of the electorate. Another 25% is conservative, reactionary, gun wielding, Christian fundamentalist or racists and devoted to the Republican Party. Trump’s ratings have fluctuated, rarely falling below 38% and at times rising to the mid-forties. The ratings have flattened out at about 40% which is not good news for Trump but not disastrous either. The callousness of America’s elite, class demographics and America’s ideological backwardness firm up anger in the Base.
Furthermore, the Base says “Look how tough Trump has been on Russia; expelling diplomats, arming Ukraine against Russia’s friends, bombing Assad’s bases in Syria, imposing sanctions against Russian enterprises and Putin acolytes and applying tough economic sanctions. Those who claim that Trump is in Putin’s pocket need to explain away all this. Is an “I say Vlad, you know that for credibility’s sake I need to be seen to be tough on Russia” explanation adequate?
The damage Trump is doing America’s global hegemony, the economic downturn his loony trade wars will engender, his rubbishing deep-seated liberal and democratic values that underpin how America sees itself, all capped by his crankiness and narcissism, are too much to get away with. While the densest part of the hard-core will stay loyal, history will eventually bury this American Mussolini. The first test will be November’s Congressional elections. Congressional Republicans are burying their heads in the sand and play ostrich because they reckon that without the Trump-Base they will lose seats.
[If you have time to spare and need titillation, read a lengthy extreme-conspiracy-theory piece in the New Yorker by Jonathan Chait.