By Jude Fernando –
Donald Trump continues to maintain his momentum in the 2016 US Presidential race.
The liberal corporate establishment will do their utmost to ensure Hillary Clinton prevails over Bernie Sanders. The Sander’s anti-corporatism and the fact that his campaign is not funded by corporate money do not mean that his followers are liberated themselves from neoliberal corporate mindset. Because a Clinton presidency will continue the Democratic Party’s push to right and ignore minorities and the poor, the Democratic base may not be motivated to get out and vote for her. Clinton may lose the national election, and Trump may still pull ahead of the Republican pack if he continues to appeal to voters who have turned on the established Democratic and Republican leadership.
A Trump presidency could become reality if most voters, consumed with paranoia over terrorism and immigrants, reject Hillary Clinton because they dislike her, and if Bernie Sanders’s supporters aren’t motivated to vote because they see her as a corporate ally.
Donald Trump rides roughshod over political correctness and multiculturalism. The more transgressive and outrageous his statements, the higher his lead in Republican primaries grow. Both liberals and conservatives wrongly assume that Trump’s “rump romp in the short term” will not “secure victory in the long term.”
Trump has ascended not because he is a self-made sensationalist backed by personal wealth and charisma but because he articulates a particular position—bipartisan Trumpism. It appeals to the political consciousness of those voters discontent with the ‘political expediency’ of the established Democrats and Republicans who once in power failed to honor the ideals and expectations of their respective constituencies and kowtow to similar corporate and geopolitical interests. For many, Trump’s political incorrectness, anti-multiculturalism, braggadocio and grandiosity come across as evidence of a self-confident, bold, risk taking and entrepreneurial President who promises to vanquish their fears and confusion, and build a clear path to make the American dream a reality.
Hardly anyone thought that Ronald Reagan could ever become president!
Three consequences are possible if Trump gets elected as the President. First, just like the other Republican Presidents in the past Trump might compromise his election promises and move to a pragmatic center. Second, his nationalistic economic and foreign policies, that resonate with those of the authoritarian regimes since Hitler, could reverse our hard-earned gains in civil rights and other social and environmental struggles for justice, especially those that have benefitted minorities and the poor. His foreign policies will isolate United States from the International community and pave the way for a more contentious world order. Third, he might completely destroy the Republican Party.
Then why is it so difficult for the Republicans and Democrats, and their media allies to remove Trump from the race?
Though staunch Republicans dislike Trump’s politics, his popularity springs, in part, from a political consciousness deliberately cultivated since the Reagan era – an attitude of suspicion and paranoia toward immigrants and foreigners. Trump supporters see him as an alternative to failed Republican politicians— traitors who, once elected, compromised the conservative values they touted during their campaigns.
By pushing the fringe so far right, mainstream Republicans have lost the backing of their most committed supporters who now turn to Trump despite, or perhaps because of, his socially and morally repugnant ideals, his ignorance and outright lies, and his dangerously simplistic, divisive, and isolationist foreign policy.
Trump appeals to those on the religious right who prioritize the interests of American patriotic nationalism and corporate capitalism to frame the universal biblical values of justice and fairness. Only a theology that derives its moral and political teachings first from American patriotism and corporatism would accept Trump – a man who knows so little about Christianity and doesn’t practice its values – to lead the country.
Bryan Fischer, head of the American Family Association and avowed evangelical conservative, pointed out, “Trump has initiated two unbiblical divorces, had a very public affair with the woman who became wife number two while still married to wife number one, has made a fortune off the immoral practice of gambling, celebrates greed, has gone bankrupt four times, openly admits that he has spent his entire public life bribing politicians for access and influence, and hasn’t apologized to God or man for any of it.” Still, evangelicals embrace Trump because they see him as the man who can create the political conditions for American corporatized theology to take control of the country and the world.
Republican Evangelicalism has never limited itself to scripture-based morality; instead, it has been pragmatic about achieving its parochial political, economic, and cultural goals. In such corporatized theology, Trump and his ilk comfortably achieve Christ-like status.
Trump’s evangelical supporters are unfazed by his ignorance of international affairs and false claims about foreigners because they match their own deep-rooted belief that the global mission of American evangelism is to ensure American economic and political dominance over the rest of the world. They do not care that “Trump evangelism” legitimizes and feeds politico-religious forces in countries that are increasingly hostile to Christian minorities and the West. American evangelicals have rarely looked outside the frame of American patriotic corporate interests to assess American foreign policy and are unlikely to begin now.
The Democratic Party is not ideologically positioned to reach out to evangelical voters who have been burned by the Republican Party. Democrats equate evangelical Christianity with conservative politics. The secular liberalism of the Democrats is often based on the false premise that just and equitable politics are antithetical to evangelical beliefs and have no place in democratic political agendas. There is a groundswell of progressive evangelical Christians, who historically rally around social justice and equality. However, these progressives are instinctively anticapitalist, and see Clinton as a corporate ally, so the progressives are no more welcome than the socialists. The ideology of the Democrats is the secular version of the Republican Party’s evangelical corporatized ideology—both parties are hostile to genuinely anti-corporate evangelicals.
For the secular-minded Trump supporters, Trump’s disdain for political correctness and multiculturalism is convincing evidence of his courage to offer simple and straightforward answers to their complex, but immediate issues concerning economic and national security. These voters are, indeed, seduced by Trump’s policies that promise to simultaneously protect the United States from foreigners — ‘terrorists’, ‘illegal immigrants’, ‘foreign labor’ and products — and promises to restore the American dominance over global security and the economy. Democrats certainly do not provide an alternative ideological framework for the voters to think outside of the broader parameters Trump policies.
As talking heads in liberal and conservative media denounce Trump for his bold assault on foundational American principles, including religious freedom and tolerance, they feed his ascendant popularity by giving him more airtime than any other candidate. What do Trump supporters care that sober-minded critics have branded him a racist, bigot, xenophobe, and sexist pig? Those same critics have been using the same terms to describe Republicans for years, but have failed spectacularly in persuading the voting public to reject continued use of such language and behavior. In the end, both liberal and conservative media are owned by similar, and often overlapping, corporate interests promoting the same corporate patriotism.
If Trump hides his corporate patriotism under his contempt for political correctness and multiculturalism, the liberal media hides its corporate patriotism under a flutter of hand-waving and finger-pointing, without offering a progressive challenge to the hate Trump is spewing. Hillary Clinton is subservient to the corporate interests Trump exemplifies. The Democratic Party has failed to foster a meaningfully inclusive, just, and equitable political consciousness and has instead been so busy “moving the center to the right” that, in some areas, its agenda is just as conservative as Trump’s.
Despite Sanders’ strong support with a significant population of voters, the majority does not see Sanders as a viable candidate. This is due to the Democratic Party’s corporate-backed propaganda machine intent on silencing him, evidenced by the great lack of media attention on the Sanders campaign. Sanders’ socialism has divided the Democratic Party, and he is unlikely to win the undecided voters of both parties. If Sanders loses the nomination, his supporters will have a hard time swallowing their disappointment, holding their noses, and pulling the lever for Clinton, whose subservience to corporate interests they see as a sign of nepotism, corporatism, elitism, and a betrayal of true democratic principles.
At the same time, Democrats cannot take for granted the cultural liberalism that helped elect Barack Obama as the country’s first Black President. They cannot assume that a similar inertia will help Hillary Clinton to be the first woman President because for the poor and marginalized minorities such liberalism in recent times means further worsening of their basic freedoms and living conditions.
Trump could win if disillusioned Democratic progressives stay home, but it would be hard to blame them. A Clinton presidency offers only a “kinder, gentler” form of Trumpism, cloaking “corporate über allies” in rhetoric that denies her actions and applies the patina of hardline neoliberalism and hawkish foreign policy with lip service to the few progressive issues that politicians like Sanders and Warren make impossible for her to avoid.
The “Trump moment” in American politics—the fact that we have reached this point—should challenge everyone, especially Democrats, to take stock and realize that we need to reject corporatism as a guiding ideology because it only leads down the path of disaster and destruction in a world that cannot take much more of either.
The best outcome of the two primaries, and perhaps the general election, would be a legitimacy crisis (unbridgeable divisions) within the Republican and Democratic parties. But what will it take for Americans to use this moment as an opportunity to embrace a paradigm shift in the way we do politics outside of the political cultures of the two parties?