ABOVE IMAGE: Mike Pence—the true brains of the outfit?
Dateline: December 20, 2016
In my previous column I defined the term “ruling class” as:
“that collection of owners, high-level administrators, and bankers/financiers that controls the major structure and functions of the economy of a nation, and through the exertion of various forms of power (including force when necessary), its political structure and functioning as well. In the modern industrial world, for the most part they do this through the mechanism of political parties and elections.”
I also noted that in terms of the relationship between the ruling class and the government in what are generally called “Constitutional democracies,” Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the great theoretician and leader-in-practice of socialist revolution, who termed government “the State,” concerning the nature of “constitutional democracy” under capitalism, put it this way:
“To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament – this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics.”
Now both Trump and Clinton are strongly tied to the ruling class. Clinton, of course for the most part is still tied to the right-wing of the Democratic Party, what used to be called the Democratic Leadership Council (and to which I still refer by its initials, the “DLC,” even though on paper it no longer exists). This is the moderate-reformist party, especially in such realms as civil, gay, and women’s’ rights—normally called “identity politics”. Trump managed to create an amazing mélange of positions during the campaign, while not tying himself to the Republican Party per se in toto. (I don’t think that he ever once mentioned the Republican Party platform, generally a concoction of far-rightist positions that all but the furthest right Republicans never even mention themselves. In all likelihood, Hillary would have done much better if one of her campaign themes had been to tie Trump to that platform, over and over again.)
On the one hand Trump brought out into the open, without using modifiers of any kind, the long-standing multi-prejudicial base of modern Republican thought: racism, mysogny, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. On the other hand, he appealed to the “little guy,” especially those older white workers in the Middle West who have been left behind, and generally out-of-work by both the shipping of manufacturing jobs abroad and the replacement of them in the U.S. by CARs (computerization, automation, robotization, all inherent in the inevitable technologization of the economy which constantly seeks to make labor more efficient but also shrinks the need for workers). In the context of a generally racist message, he did rail against “trade deals” (as if his adopted party did not provide the original impetus for them going back to Nixon), talked about tariffs and stated over and over again that he would “bring jobs back” without ever saying with any precision (except to invoke “tariffs”) how he would propose to do this. And so, as is well-known, because of the existence of the institution that is a legacy of slavery, the “Electoral College,” (there is no equivalent in any other advanced capitalist country), while Hillary received about 48% of the popular vote he received only about 46%, a total of about 3,000,000 votes less.
Now, given at least some of his rhetoric, one might think that he might not represent that wing of the ruling class to which I referred in my previous column as the “Dominant Wing.” Not dominant in the sense that they have always been to control the levers of power of the State, but dominant in the sense that they have always held the levers of power of the economy, in the manufacturing, transportation, energy-provision, pharmaceutical-food-retailing, and especially the banking/financial sectors. Ironically, because they had a candidate who did NOT appear to represent them in the way that say, Mitt Romney did, they won. Trump has very quickly moved to the appointments phase of the “Transition.” And, as I have said previously, BY HIS APPOINTMENTS THOU SHALT KNOW HIM. To date, his appointees have a collective personal wealth well exceeding $10 billion.
One wonders if any of his supporters have noticed what is going here and are perhaps having second thoughts. Certainly not at his “rallies,” currently billed as a”thank you victory tour”) which he holds instead of press conferences, and increasingly have a ring of earlier time in another country. (Interestingly enough, Trump is now talking about retaining his own security guards in addition to the Secret Service. Many people don’t know that in Nazi Germany the Schutzstaffel—literally “protection squadron”—began its existence as Hitler’s personal body guard because he didn’t trust the instruments of the State which were, theoretically at least, already under his control.)
By his appointments, Trump has very quickly provided the dominant sector of the ruling class full control of the Executive Branch. They also now have full control at the Congressional level and soon will have full control of the Supreme Court as well. And those folks certainly do not have any interest in meeting the needs of any segments of the U.S. working class, regardless of ethnicity. In fact, quite the opposite. And because Trump does not expose himself to the press in open forums, he cannot be asked about the overwhelming contradictions between his campaign rhetoric and the nature/values of his appointees. [In fairness, Obama and the Clintons did not exactly appoint reliable or true “tribunes of the people” either. And their press conferences, as everything that passes for visible government in the US these days, was nothing more than an devious simulacrum devoid of substance, the whole imposture assured by the toothlessness of the White House press corps, a shameless assembly of sycophants to power with few equals in the developed world.)
Further, as is well-known, he has assembled a group of generally very wealthy, generally white men, with right-wing, indeed often far-right, views on every issue from the minimum wage (it should be as low as possible) to poverty (it’s the fault of the poor) to racism (it’s the fault of its targets) to education (it should be privatized and parochialized to the extent possible) to the provision of energy (it should be fossil-fuel based to the extent possible) to Social Security (it should be cut back), to the rights of women to be free of religion-based criminal law concerning personal health-and-wellness decision-making, to the provision of health care (profit-making should be even more of a major factor in it than it is presently, and if that means removing at least some insurance coverage from folks who have only recently received it, so be it) to, of course the over-riding issue for the future of our species as well as many others, global warming/climate-change. And so on and so forth. The list is very well-known.
But there are a few items of both the process and the content of what has been going on with the Trump-transition which are worthy of note (and certainly there are no exclusive notes here). On foreign policy there may be a distinct tilt towards Russia, The “clash of capitalisms” about which I have written previously, is being dropped, or at least downplayed as Exxon is moving to vastly expand its operations in Russia, especially in the depths of the Arctic Ocean. (Just imagine what would happen with a well blow-out there. Oh my!) Whether there are also Trump personal financial interests in play here remains to be seen.
Of course, the U.S. military-industrial complex always needs an enemy. Under Obama/Clinton it has been Russia. With his opening to Taiwan, Trump seemed to tilt towards substituting China for Russia, and with the TPP, designed in part to isolate China in trans-pacific trade, Obama was moving in that direction too. But Trump may find it politically impossible, even for a politician as slippery as he is, to resurrect the TPP. And in any case, there are a variety of reasons, from trade, to US investments/markets (think Boeing and GM) to the U.S. debt that China holds, that that might be such a good choice. My guess? It’s going to be Iran, and wouldn’t that make a whole bunch of people on the Hill (think Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and the fossil-fuel industry who came out against the deal on the morning it was announced before he could possibly have had more than the vaguest idea of what is in it) as well as in Israel as well as in the Sunni sector of the Arab world (think Saudi Arabia) happy.
And by-the-way, all of Trump’s obvious conflicts-of-interest, his refusal to sell his businesses and put them in a blind trust, his already open-violation of the anti-Nepotism law and the Emoluments clause of the Constitution, are real problems. They could eventually lead to his impeachment as the dominant-ruling class sector Republicans come to the realization that they would do even better with this man who has the attention span of a flea out-of-the-way, with the truly, self-consciously far-right/Dominionist Mike Pence in his place. (His first response upon being told of the heroin-dirty-needle fueled AIDS epidemic in Southeastern Indiana? To pray upon it.) Never-the-less, to my mind they are for now at least, very useful media distractions for the Republicans as they move on so many fronts to set up the bases for and then implement one policy after another that are going to bring real harms to so many in the U.S., now and in the future.
Which brings to mind the question “who’s in charge here?” Is Pence truly running things already? On occasion during the campaign, both Trump and Pence hinted that Trump in the Presidency would be more like a Chairman-of-the-Board, while Pence would be the CEO. While Trump made a big show of interviewing the supposed candidates for Secretary of State, a man with no obvious qualifications for the job, all of a sudden became the choice, and very quickly too. (By the way, I do find it ironic that the “Order of Friendship” that Tillerson received from President Putin used to be called the “Order of Lenin.”) As is well-known, Trump’s transition has been characterized by Tweets, rallies, and no demonstration of knowledge of or even interest in complex issues. And of course, there no easy answers to say, dealing with ISIS and its realities, as much as Trump and the Right-wing Scream Machine told us that there were, during the eight years of the Obama Presidency. (And no, Bill and Sean, just referring to “Radical Islamic Terrorism,” will do nothing to solve the problem.) Again, for the record, and to remind everyone that we face not just a “Trump” problem or a “Republican problem” but a systemic, Duopoly problem: the corruption of the US political class comprising both major parties has reached such a degree that to curse the Republicans while giving the Democrats a pass might be an exercise in dishonesty or self-delusion. Why is that so? Because it was the Democrats who literally enabled the return of an utterly defeated and disheveled GOP to the center of US politics and they did that not just by playing softball with their supposed ideological foes, but by constant chicanery and betrayals of the US working class for a full generation if not longer.
Just wondering. Is Mike Pence, who fairly early on quietly replaced Chris “Bridgegate” Christie as the Director of the Transition, already moving into a controlling position? I just noticed in the New York Times article about the choice of one Vincent Viola (yet another who should fit into the Trump Orchestra very well) as Secretary of the Army, that:
“General [James “Mad Dog”] Mattis (Secretary of Defense-designate) had reached an agreement with Vice President-elect Mike Pence [emphasis added] that the new defense secretary would choose who would fill the top policy jobs at the Pentagon — like undersecretary of defense and general counsel — while the White House would select the service secretaries, like Mr. Viola.”
Mattis reached an agreement with Pence? Really? Who’s in charge here? Just asking.