Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism…

…But It’s Really Racism

I find the spectacle of liberals heroically mounting the barricades against Trump-fascism rather amusing.

For one thing, liberals don’t crush fascism.

Liberals appease fascism, then they exploit fascism.

In between there’s a great big war, where communists crush fascism.

That’s pretty much the lesson of WWII. 

Second thing is, Trump isn’t fascist.  

In my opinion, Trump’s an old-fashioned white American nativist, which is pretty much indistinguishable from old-fashioned racist when considering the subjugation of native Americans and African-Americans and Asian immigrants, but requires that touch of “nativist” nuance when considering indigenous bigotry against Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants and citizens.

Tagging him as “fascist” allows his critics to put an alien, non-American gloss on a set of attitudes and policies that have been mainstreamed in American politics for at least 150 years and predate the formulation of fascism by several decades if not a century.  Those nasty vetting/exclusion things he’s proposing are as American as apple pie.  For those interested in boning up on the Know Nothings and the Chinese Exclusion Act, I have this piece for you.

And for anybody who doesn’t believe the US government does not already engage in intensive “extreme” vetting and targeting of all Muslims immigrants, especially those from targeted countries, not only to identify potential security risks but to groom potential intelligence assets, I got the Brooklyn Bridge to sell you right here:

Real fascism, in theory, is a rather interesting and nasty beast.  In my opinion, it turns bolshevism on its head by using race or ethnic identity instead of class identity as the supreme, mobilizing force in national life.

In both fascism and bolshevism, democratic outcomes lack inherent legitimacy.  National legitimacy resides in the party, which embodies the essence of a threatened race or class in a way that Hegel might appreciate but Marx probably wouldn’t.  Subversion of democracy and seizure of state power are not only permissible; they are imperatives.

The need to seize state power and hold it while a fascist or bolshevik agenda is implemented dictates the need for a military force loyal to and subservient to the party and its leadership, not the state.

The purest fascism movement I know of exists in Ukraine.  I wrote about it here, and it’s a piece I think is well worth reading to understand what a political movement organized on fascist principles really looks like.

And Trump ain’t no fascist.  

He’s a nativist running a rather incompetent campaign.

It’s a little premature to throw dirt on the grave of the Trump candidacy, perhaps (I’ll check back in on November 9), but it looks like he spent too much time glorying in the adulation of his white male nativist base and too little time, effort, and money trying to deliver a plausible message that would allow other demographics to shrug off the “deplorable” tag and vote for him.  I don’t blame/credit the media too much for burying Trump, a prejudice of mine perhaps.  I blame Trump’s inability to construct an effective phalanx of pro-Trump messengers, a failure that’s probably rooted in the fact that Trump spent the primary and general campaign at war with the GOP establishment.

The only capital crime in politics is disunity, and the GOP and Trump are guilty on multiple counts.

The most interesting application of the “fascist” analysis, rather surprisingly, applies to the Clinton campaign, not the Trump campaign, when considering the cultivation of a nexus between big business and *ahem* racially inflected politics.

It should be remembered that fascism does not succeed in the real world as a crusade by race-obsessed lumpen.  It succeeds when fascists are co-opted by capitalists, as was unambiguously the case in Nazi Germany and Italy.  And big business supported fascism because it feared the alternatives: socialism and communism.

That’s because there is no more effective counter to class consciousness than race consciousness.

That’s one reason why, in my opinion, socialism hasn’t done a better job of catching on in the United States.  The contradictions between black and white labor formed a ready-made wedge.  The North’s abhorrence at the spread of slavery into the American West before the Civil War had more to do a desire to preserve these new realms for “free” labor—“free” in one context, from the competition of slave labor—than egalitarian principle.

White labor originally had legal recourse to beating back the challenge/threat of African-American labor instead of accommodating it as a “class” ally; it subsequently relied on institutional and customary advantages.

If anyone harbors illusions concerning the kumbaya solidarity between white and black labor in the post-World War II era, I think the article The Problem of Race in American Labor History by Herbert Hill (a freebie on JSTOR) is a good place to start.

The most reliable wedge against working class solidarity and a socialist narrative in American politics used to be white privilege which, when it was reliably backed by US business and political muscle, was a doctrine of de facto white supremacy.

However, in this campaign, the race wedge has cut the other way in a most interesting fashion.  White conservatives are appalled, and minority liberals energized, by the fact that the white guy, despite winning the majority white male vote, lost to a black guy not once but twice, giving a White Twilight/Black Dawn (TM) vibe to the national debate.

The perception of marginalized white clout is reinforced by the nomination of Hillary Clinton and her campaign emphasis on the empowerment of previously marginalized but now demographically more important groups.

The Clinton campaign has been all about race and its doppelganger—actually, the overarching and more ear-friendly term that encompasses racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual loyalties—“identity politics.”

The most calculated and systematic employment of racial politics was employed by the Hillary Clinton campaign in the Democratic primary to undercut the socialist-lite populist appeal of Bernie Sanders.

My personal disdain for the Clinton campaign was born on the day that John Lewis intoned “I never saw him” in order to dismiss the civil rights credentials of Bernie Sanders while announcing the Black Congressional Caucus endorsement of Hillary Clinton.  Bear in mind that during the 1960s, Sanders had affiliated his student group at the University of Chicago with Lewis’ SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; during the same era, Hillary Clinton was at Wellesley condemning “the snicks” for their excessively confrontational tactics.

Ah, politics.

To understand the significance of this event, one should read Fracture by the guru of woke Clintonism, Joy Reid.  Or read my piece on the subject.  Or simply understand that after Hillary Clinton lost Lewis’s endorsement, the black vote, and the southern Democratic primaries to Barack Obama in 2008, she was determined above all to secure and exploit monolithic black support in the primaries and, later on, the general in 2016.

So, in order to prevent Sanders from splitting the black vote to her disadvantage on ideological/class lines, Clinton played the race card.  Or, as we put it today when discussing the championing of historically disadvantaged a.k.a. non white male heterosexual groups, celebrated “identity politics”.

In the primary, this translated into an attack on Sanders and the apparently mythical “Bernie bro” as racist swine threatening the legacy of the first black president, venerated by the African American electorate, Barack Obama.

In the general, well, Donald Trump and his supporters provided acres more genuine grist for the identity warrior mill.

Trump’s populism draws its heat from American nativism, not “soak the rich” populism of the Sandernista stripe, and it was easily submerged in the “identity politics” narrative.

Trump’s ambitions to gain traction for a favorable American/populist/outsider narrative for his campaign have been frustrated by determined efforts to frame him as anti-Semitic, racist against blacks and Hispanics, sexist, and bigoted against the disabled—and ready to hold the door while Pepe the Frog feeds his opponents, including a large contingent of conservative and liberal Jewish journalists subjected to unimaginable invective by the Alt-Right-- into the ovens.

As an indication of the fungible & opportunistic character of the “identity politics” approach, as far as I can tell from a recent visit to a swing state, as the Clinton campaign pivoted to the general, the theme of Trump’s anti-black racism has been retired in favor of pushing his offenses against women and the disabled.  Perhaps this reflects the fact that Clinton has a well-advertised lock on the African-American vote and doesn’t need to cater to it; also, racism being what it is, playing the black card is not the best way to lure Republicans and indies to the Clinton camp.  

The high water mark of the Clinton African-American tilt was perhaps the abortive campaign to turn gun control into a referendum on the domination of Congress by white male conservatives.  It happened a few months ago, so who remembers?  But John Lewis led a sit-in occupation of the Senate floor in the wake of the Orlando shootings to highlight how America’s future was being held hostage to the whims of Trump-inclined white pols.  

That campaign pretty much went by the wayside (as did Black Lives Matter, a racial justice initiative partially funded by core Clinton backer George Soros; interesting, no?) as a) black nationalists started shooting policemen and b) Clinton kicked off a charm campaign to help wedge the black-wary GOP establishment away from Trump.

There is more to Clintonism, I think, than simply playing the “identity politics” card to screw Bernie Sanders or discombobulate the Trump campaign.  "Identity politics" is near the core of the Clintonian agenda as a bulwark against any class/populist upheaval that might threaten her brand of billionaire-friendly liberalism.

In my view, a key tell is Clinton’s enduring and grotesque loyalty to her family’s charitable foundation, an operation that in my opinion has no place on the resume of a public servant, as a font of prestige, conduit for influence, and model for billionaire-backed global engagement.  

By placing the focus of the campaign on identity politics and Trump’s actual and putative crimes against various identity groups, the Clinton campaign has successfully obscured what I consider to be its fundamental identity as a vehicle for neoliberal globalists keen to preserve and employ the United States as a welcoming environment and supreme vehicle for supra-sovereign business interests. 

Clintonism’s core identity is not, in other words, as a crusade for groups suffering from the legacy and future threat of oppression by Trump’s white male followers.  It is a full-court press to keep the wheels on the neoliberal sh*twagon as it careens down the road of globalization, and it recognizes the importance in American democracy of slicing and dicing the electorate by identity politics and co-opting useful demographics as the key to maintaining power.

In my view, the Trump and Clinton campaigns are both protofascist.

Trump has cornered the somewhat less entitled and increasingly threatened white ethnic group, some of whom are poised to make the jump to white nationalism with or without him.

Clinton has cornered the increasingly entitled and assertive global billionaire group, which adores the class-busting anti-socialist identity-based politics she practices.

But the bottom line is race.  

U.S. racism has stacked up 400 years of tinder that might take a few hundred more years, if ever, to burn off.  And until it does, every politician in the country is going to see his or her political future in flicking matches at it.

And that’s what we’re seeing in the current campaign.

A lot.

Not fascism.


Lisa Mullin said...

Overall I agree, but you are giving Clinton and her team too much credit for successful Machiavellianism. A lot of what has happened fell into her lap, such as Trump self destructing on a range of issues. The outcry over his sexism (and sexual assaults) come from a fundamental sea change within US society that neither the GOP or the Dem elites have really grasped. Sure after it happened the HRC team has ran with it, but it probably caught them by surprise as much as it did the GOP elite.

Historically less well educated, conservative and/or religious women have voted for the Republicans and buried their heads in the sand over the sexism (heck outright misogyny) within it, a lot driven by their own racism (white men protect me from black men sort of thing) . But there is a clear split now, widening almost by the day, where their fear of black men is being overcome by their hatred of conservative GOP type men. Trump has just been a catalyst for that, though those underlying tensions have been building for some time now, with the GOP elite becoming ever more dominated by the religious right and the 'alt right' they have become ever more misogynist.

Yes to your analysis of racism and how the Dems have totally co-opted black male elites, but that is well known. Ditto their co-option of white middle/upper class feminists to the detriment of all other women especially poor and POC. But is this case a counter reaction is building, with whole new ‘bottom up’ feminist organisations appearing and now starting to put some serious pressure of those elites to ‘shape up or ship out’….watch this space to see how that plays out and it won’t be to the benefit of the Dem elites.

Trump’s fundamental mistake was pandering to the religious right and to a lesser extent the ‘alt right’ this meant policies that alienated a huge proportion of the population …perhaps more importantly, motivated all those alienated by the HRC Dem elites and what happened in the candidate race, who would have probably sat the election out or voted for Stein, to get out there ..many holding their noses doing so with few illusions about Clinton. In a sense Trump denied them the ability to sit it out and register a protest vote by, at least, simply not voting Dem.

A smart future populist should take note.

Lemur said...

Fancy objecting to the elites replacing the historical European American nation with the global south.

And Lisa, Trump's success is based upon alienating all the rent seeking minorities. His great breakthrough was consolidating the white working class and white middle class vote.

Lisa Mullin said...

Lemur: There is only one 'rent seeking minority' elite, white, wealthy, heterosexual (nearly all) men...

US white poor/working class men have long been (dis)united and middle class men are no friends of theirs whatsoever. They long got a psychological wage from the oppression of women/POC/LGBTI/etc while their pockets were picked by the wealthy, for ages they blamed said groups for their economic problems which were caused by those white heterosexual wealthy (nearly all) elite males, who played (and still play) them like a fiddle.

For a (very) brief moment they looked like awakening politically, but they have slumped back to their same old, programmed into them, reflex ‘its all the niggahs, feminists, pooftahs, trannies, etc fault’ while the elites laugh (at them) all the way to the bank…

They can’t seem to grasp the simple concept, if you are at the bottom then you have to make alliances with others in the same (or similar) boat to gain political power. That your self interests are much more similar to them, rather than those wealthy white males idolised so much. That others being oppressed may make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside but doesn’t pay the damn bills.

Oh well, maybe the next election….