Monday, March 21, 2016

Facing The Crushing Weight Of Having To Share The Nation, Some Would Cling To The Past And Vote For Donald Trump

Political pundits on the left and the right have opined quite a bit over the last few months about why Donald Trump has so easily and effectively captured the hearts and minds – and votes – of so many Republican primary and caucus participants.

Trump is well on his way to securing the delegates he will need to win the Republican nomination. The so-called Republican “establishment” is aghast at the thought of Donald Trump winning the party’s nomination, and even worse to some, the possibility that he may actually win the presidency and become the leader of their political party.

Several “High Priests” of the right-wing punditry class, such as Washington Post columnist and Libertarian, George Will, have been vocal critics of Donald Trump for a number of years. Back in 2012, during an appearance on ABC news program, This Week, Will criticized then Republican Party presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, for hosting a fundraising event with Trump.
“I do not understand the cost benefit here,” Will said. “The costs are clear. The benefit — what voter is going to vote for him because he is seen with Donald Trump? The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is obvious, it seems to me. Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be very low and you can still intrude into American politics.”
More recently, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote, “He [Trump] is a childish man running for a job that requires maturity. He is an insecure boasting little boy whose desires were somehow arrested at age 12.” Brooks has been railing against Trump both in print and in interviews on radio and television.

Wow!!!

To say that many conservative intellectuals and pundits, the ruling class business wing of the Republican Party, and the party’s elected officials are in “fear and trembling” mood about a potential Trump candidacy or worst case scenario, presidency, is an understatement. They are rightfully concerned that a Trump candidacy will divide the Republican Party (the riled-up base versus the “establishment”), hand the Presidency to the Democrats in November, and make it hard for some Republicans in Congress facing tough reelection bids to hold onto their seats.

It seems like the “establishment” is experiencing an existential crisis of epic proportions.

Indeed, they are! The white working-class base of the Republican Party loves them some Donald Trump and they are mad as hell at the establishment, and rightfully so.

So, what is the basis of the white working class love affair with “The Donald?” There are a lot of potential explanations being thrown around from people on both the left and the right.
In my view, part of the reason why Republicans have a full-scale rebellion going on among the base is because of broken promises. They have been selling to their base for years the idea that free-trade/privatization/marketization/deregulation/tax cuts for the wealthy economics would lift all boats. Neo-Liberalism has finally been exposed as nothing but an economic theory designed to transfer wealth upward to the richest Americans. Now the base seems to be in the mood for an authoritarian/militaristic/trade-protectionist/nativist/racist/dog-whistling leader who will build them their wall, bring back their manufacturing jobs from abroad, kick out the foreigners, and make them feel good about themselves again.

It seems like the white working class is trading one fantasy for another! But, why are so many people susceptible to such toxic political and economic priorities? I believe that the white working class has turned to Trump and other extremist politicians in the Republican Party and the media (e.g., Fox News) to help them escape the crushing weight of what they perceive is a new reality they are not ready to accept.

White working-class Trump supporters believe the nation is in decline – the signs of this decline to them range from the outsourcing of jobs to places like Mexico and competition for work from “illegal foreigners” to a general belief that the “system” now puts the needs and interests of undeserving racial and ethnic minorities ahead of white people.

The world they believe they now face is unfamiliar, confusing, and unnerving.

In his dense but intellectually rewarding tome, Being and Nothing, Existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, gives us a way to think about what many working-class white Americans must be feeling. Sartre invites us to imagine standing alone in the park. In the park by ourselves, everything seems to fall into place around our point of view. Everything I see presents itself to me. But, then I notice someone else in the park moving closer and closer to me. Their presence is disorienting and unsettling to me. I begin to realize that this person is also arranging their own universe around themselves. As Sartre describes it, the green grass starts to turn toward the other person and I’m no longer the center of the universe. Indeed, some of my universe drains off of me into the other person's universe. I am now an object in their universe as they are now an object in mine.

Working-class white America is being forced to share the universe and they are kicking and screaming about it.

Trump and his supporters like to wear hats at his rallies that say “Make America Great Again.” If you are a white American, you might imagine that was a time when the universe was reserved for hard-working people like them, folks who had good–paying jobs that allowed you to afford a house in the suburbs with green lawns, weekend barbecues, low crime rates, great schools, neighbors that went to church with you every Sunday, shared your small-town values, and looked just like you.

Of course, if you are a black person in America, there is no mythic past, that is, a time when American was great. In the past, there was slavery, segregation, lynchings, rapes, disenfranchisement, ghettos, cross-burnings, Klu Klux Klan, convict leasing system, share-cropping, and police and mob violence.

Human existence has always been about "transcendence" or "going beyond." That requires imagination. Working-class white Americans that follow Trump believe the opposite: they think the nation is in decline and are incapable of imagining what comes next. But, America can't backwards. The only way is forward.

Monday, February 29, 2016

A Real Good Reason To Not Vote A Businessman Into The White House

Many Americans (okay, mostly white Americans who vote Republican) say we need a President who will run the country like a business - I think this is because most of them don't understand how the economy really works.

I recently read an article, "Masters of the Universe but Slaves of the Market: Bankers and the Great Financial Meltdown" by Stephen Bell and Andrew Hindmoor, in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations, and I think I'm finally beginning to wrap my mind around how starting in the 1980s, the privileging of the financial sector over the real economy almost collapsed global capitalism if it hadn't been for government intervention to save Capitalists from themselves.

Capitalists unleashed is dangerous for America!

One of the most popular explanations of the banking crises of 2007-08 (you would have heard this one a lot if you watched Fox News during the crisis), was due to imprudent mortgage lending to black and brown people because of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 which encouraged banks and other lending institutions to meet the credit needs of communities they operate in.

But, according to Bell and Hindmoor, banks and financiers (with the cooperation of political elites in both the Democratic and Republican Party) created the greatest financial crisis in the history of capitalism all because they pushed for and got the liberalization and deregulation of financial markets they wanted under the wide-spread, but false assumption, that markets are self-regulating and that banks that make poor decisions would be disciplined by the market.

What they didn't count on was how competitive market pressures and the insatiable pursuit of profit opportunities by bankers and financiers would create the kind of systemic risk that could topple the entire global financial system (specifically, in order to get ever-higher return-on-equity, they engaged in highly risky leveraged-trading activities and created exotic/complex financial instruments that neither they nor the so-called regulators fully understood).

By the time the sub-prime mortgage security market collapsed (IMF estimates the declared loses to be $500 billion) in 2008, panic set in about the value of other securitized assets (which tended to have AAA bond ratings due to a rigged bond rating system) because they really didn't understand what they had created, could not control what was happening as the crises unfolded, and simply wanted out before they went insolvent due to the loss of value of securitized assets on their balance sheets and low capital buffers due to so much leveraging.

They got the neo-liberal system they wanted, but rather than become "Maters of the Universe, they became slaves of the market they created.

So, yeah, let's put Trump in control and deregulate the economy and unleash privatization and marketization even more and see where that will land us.

My guess is that it'll land most of us in the poor house.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Restoring White America's Greatness Donald Trump's Way

Donald Trump is a megalomaniac and a demagogue, but he is also a highly skilled and very effective propagandist.

Trump is also a racist and a xenophobe.

Although not in words, but certainly in spirit, Donald Trump’s run for the Republican nomination for President of the United States reminds me of the days when much of white America openly approved of white supremacists, ultra-nationalists, xenophobes, and misogynists, having total control over the nation’s key political, economic and cultural institutions.

There was a time when white supremacists such as Mississippi Senators, Theodore G. Bilbo and James Eastland, slithered across the floors of Congress for decades and did everything in their power to block any legislative efforts designed to secure for black people the same civil and political rights guaranteed to white Americans by the U.S. Constitution.

Bilbo, Eastland and other leading public officials of that era who were cut from the same cloth – primarily, though not exclusively, from the South – stood on the floor of the Senate and  frequently referred to black people as criminals, sexual deviants, lazy and shiftless, and even went so far as to advocate for the use of violence, including murder in the form of lynchings, to keep black people in their place and maintain white supremacy.

Trump is no Bilbo or Eastland. His rhetoric is coded, much more nuanced, not the kind of over-the-top race-baiting favored by Senators elected from a part of the country steeped in violence and racism. But, the message is clear: Trump reminds white America that they (people of color) are criminals, sexual deviants, lazy, shiftless, illegitimate, and looking for handouts, whereas, we (hardworking white Americans) always play by a set of rules that once made America great, and that we can reclaim America's greatness, but only if we take our country back.