THE TRIUMPH OF DONALD TRUMP: A VIEW FROM THE LEFT IN BRITAIN

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By Mike Faulkner
Sr. Contributing Editor, London Correspondent

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November 9  2016. The United States has just elected as its 45th President a man aptly described as a proto-fascist egomaniac. Trump’s election has burst upon the world as something between a sick joke and a nightmare. For many it seems like a counter-factual plot from somewhere beyond the fertile imagination of Philip Roth, or the replacement of reality by show-biz reality TV. But for all that, it is true. It has happened. Does it matter? Will it make much difference to the course of US domestic and foreign policy? The only reasonable answer must be that, yes, it matters enormously and it may very well make a great difference for the worse to what happens in the United States and beyond. This is said without any rose-tinted illusions about what the future would have held if Hillary Clinton had won. The escalating confrontation, particularly over Ukraine and Syria, between the US and its NATO allies, and Russia, which Clinton endorses, poses the serious threat of a major  war between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. But this is no cause for complacency about the meaning of Trump’s election victory.
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With his appalling egocentrism, and capacity for self-delusion, it is likely that Donald Trump can actually believe this claim.

November 11. Already, just two days after the bombshell struck, a media operation is in progress in Britain to “normalize” Donald Trump. His meeting with Obama, it is widely claimed, showed us a different side to the man, more conciliatory, even gracious and complimentary to the outgoing President who for years he has subjected to thinly veiled racist abuse and, based on the lie that he is foreign born and a secret Muslim, denigrated as an imposter who has no right to hold office. This is only one of the legions of lies that spewed from Trump’s mouth during his scurrilous election campaign. Only those completely insulated from the news media could have been ignorant of all this. And yet now we see the unmistakeable beginnings of an attempt to burnish his image and lull us into forgetfulness about the loathsomeness of this man and everything he stands for.  British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who is himself a charlatan of similar ilk, albeit with a veneer of sophistication that Trump lacks, said earlier this year when he was still Mayor of London, that Trump’s comments about the supposed “Islamist” dominance in parts of London made him unfit to be president of the US. Now, after leading the successful Brexit campaign and becoming foreign secretary in Theresa May’s government, he says Trump’s election “is a great opportunity for us in the UK to build a better relationship with America that is of fundamental economic importance for the stability and prosperity of the world.” He advises us to put all our gripes about the man behind us and move on. This seems to be the general import of most comment and media coverage: forget all the nasty things he said about so many and we said about him – it’s time to move on. Well, before the “normalization of Trump” operation gets fully into its stride it may help to remind ourselves again of those things about Trump – what he said and the policy commitments he has pledged to fulfill – that render him unfit to hold high office.

  • He will build a wall along the US border with Mexico, for which the Mexican government will pay, to keep out illegal immigrants. He will deport eleven million Mexicans already in the United States. He describes Mexican immigrants as rapists – although some may be “decent people.”
  • A “total shut-down” will be imposed on all Muslims trying to enter the United States until we find out “what the hell is going on.”
  • He rejects anthropogenic climate change as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese government to destroy the US economy.
  • He will abrogate the Obama administration’s signature to the 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming and climate change.
  • He will rip up the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran signed by the US, the UK, Russia, France and China which he describes as “the stupidest deal of all time.”
  • He will cancel Obama’s limited deal to normalize relations with Cuba unless the Cuban government accepts terms that are far worse.
  • He has promised AIPAC that his “number one priority” is to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He fully supports the rights of Jews to live in “Judea and Samaria.”
  • He will give massive tax cuts to the richest 1% and minimal cuts to the bottom 20%

Additionally, following his own admission – indeed his boast – that he has used his wealth, power and fame to harass and sexually assault women, he has preposterously made light of such bragging as “changing room banter”, claiming that no-one respects women more than he does. He has made deeply offensive misogynistic remarks about women who have offended his ego. He has ridiculed disabled people for cheap laughs. All this is plainly on public record. This is the person who will soon hold the office widely described as that of “the most powerful man in the world.”

Who supports Trump? Why do they support him?

November 13 Some media pundits in Britain are suggesting that none of this matters because once in office he will not want, or will not be able to enact, his more “extreme” policies.  His support here comes largely from the right, extending from the Brexit supporters in the Tory party and cabinet, through the xenophobic UKIP to the racist neo-fascist groups. He also elicits support from the same declassed demographic sectors in Britain – many of the four million, predominantly English white working and middle classes who voted for UKIP in 2015 – as those who voted for him in the US. But he also finds some grudging apologists (and one or two actual sympathisers) on the left.

The argument of the small number of left apologists for Trump, who are acutely aware of the depredations that neo-liberal capitalism has wreaked on the lives of millions in the US, goes like this: Of course he is very unpleasant and bigoted but despite being a multi-billionaire reality TV showman, a racist, a misogynist and an authoritarian egomaniac he is also the self-proclaimed champion of millions of declassed white working class people who have over decades had their livelihoods and communities decimated as a result of neo-liberal globalization. They have been left on the scrap-heap, their jobs gone, their skills unwanted, cast aside by corporate capitalism in its insatiable search for ever-higher profits by outsourcing the work they once did to China, Vietnam, India and elsewhere. The political elites responsible for the destruction of the country’s manufacturing base are the Republicans and Democrats who have governed since Reagan. Trump, his leftist supporters believe, could overturn the neo-liberal apple cart and retreat into protectionist isolationism with the promise of restored infrastructures and manufacturing base will create jobs, raise wages and bring greater prosperity. Despite all that is awful about him, on the basis of his claim to champion the dispossessed, he should be given a chance. He might succeed. This led some of them to vote for Trump.

In foreign policy some also think that Trump would be likely to secure a more peaceful, co-operative relationship with Russia by accepting a new “spheres of influence” approach in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, with the pull-back of NATO in the Baltic states. His advocacy of what in the old US-Soviet cold war era was referred to as detente, has persuaded them that he will improve relations with Russia and halt the drift to war.   By contrast Clinton is seen, perfectly accurately on the basis of her record as Secretary of State, as the continuator of neo-liberal capitalism at home and expansionist imperialism abroad. Those holding this view are led to conclude that even though in electoral terms the choice before them may have been between “two evils”, Trump was the lesser evil. But the conclusion drawn from this reasoning is not only naive but profoundly mistaken. It is mistaken not in concluding that it is necessary to vote for the lesser of evils, but in the choice of Trump as the lesser evil.

Is it only worth voting for a genuine Left candidate?

The Editorial Notes in the October issue of the US Marxist journal Monthly Review noted that “both Trump and Clinton are equally the candidates of finance capital in this election. One has notoriously declared her subservience to Wall Street: the other is a multi-billionaire mogul and New York real estate speculator tied directly to Wall Street.” On this basis some on the left have concluded that there was no point in voting for either of them. Some chose to vote for others, such as the Green candidate, Jill Stein, who put climate change at the centre of her campaign.

Monthly Review’s assessment of the two main candidates is incontestable. However, it does not amount to an inducement not to vote. The point of view expressed in what follows concerning the US presidential election is informed by Noam Chomsky’s 8 Point Brief on Lesser Evil Voting (LEV). Chomsky argues that voters should not treat their choice as a form of personal self expression but should consider the consequences of their actions. Thus, where a choice between the two main candidates is between the greater and lesser evil, if voting for neither is likely to increase the likelihood of the “greater evil” (Trump) winning, the only right course is to vote for Clinton. In situations where one of the two main candidates is considered certain to win, then a vote for a third candidate (e.g. Stein) with whose policies one agrees, is justified in order to boost that candidate’s vote as much as possible. But, for example, if in a “swing state” where a vote for a third candidate runs a serious risk of Trump winning, a vote for Stein, or decision not to vote at all, amounts to nothing more than an act of self-expression, a salving of one’s conscience [and an objective act of deligitimation of the vote in a fraudulent system.—Editor]. Doing the “right thing” in terms of personal self expression is to do the wrong thing, as it increases the likelihood of producing the worse outcome. It follows that it is logically inconsistent for those who argue that it is never justified to vote on the basis of LEV to also claim that they do not want Trump to win.

November 15 Those taken in by the attempts to “normalize” Trump are likely to be rather discomfited by the news released today that he has appointed as his White House chief strategist a white supremacist, racist and anti-Semite. Stephen Bannon is the executive chairman of the far-right website Breitbart News. His earlier appointment as Trump’s election campaign chief was celebrated by the Ku Klux Klan. He and Trump are kindred spirits in other respects also, apparently sharing the same attitude towards women; both men have been accused by former wives of violence and sexual assault.

2017: The Looming Menace of a Trump Presidency

There is no room for complacency or illusions. There is a possibility that he will not carry through many of the most alarming things he has promised – the wall on the Mexican border and the deportation of millions of “illegal” immigrants,  the ban on Muslims entering the US, abrogating the nuclear deal with Iran and the normalization of relations with Cuba. But such will be his grip on Congress and Republican dominance of the Supreme Court that, with the support of a rabidly right-wing administration and more appointees like Bannon, in these cases there will be little to stop him. His tax relief promises to the poor are pure fraud. The bottom 20% of tax payers will receive a cut of 2% – amounting to $200 a year, while for the richest 1% the tax cut will be 44% – making a saving of $88,410.

Far less likely is it that he will be able to make the infrastructural changes and job-creation programmes he has promised to the millions of largely white lower-middle and working class voters that voted him into office. Also, it is highly questionable that he will really be prepared to stand up to the military brass at home or the NATO states abroad in order to pursue the detente he claims to want with Russia. It is equally unlikely that he will dismantle or scuttle the neo-liberal international trade deals, NAFTA and TTIP. But Trump is himself a member of the finance monopoly capitalist ruling class that has brought the United States to the critical economic and political state it is in today. Even in the 1920s the self-proclaimed isolationism of the Republican administrations was more a myth than reality. Even if Trump wanted to pull the US back from its global imperial ambitions (which is very doubtful) he is unlikely to be able to do so.

When it becomes clear that he is not going to deliver on the promises he has made so confidently to those who put him in office, it is likely to provoke a serious back-lash.  It is in this situation that the ugly face of unbridled racism and xenophobia is likely to be revealed. Deportations will begin; open and violent racist attacks on blacks, latinos, “illegals” and other ethnic minorities may be expected; armed groups and vigilantes may proliferate. And “foreign enemies” will be blamed – China, for swamping the US with cheaply produced goods which destroy jobs in the US; Iran as a looming nuclear menace; Cuba, which should be liberated by the United States from “communist tyranny”. Any demagogic stunt will suffice which helps to distract attention from the real causes of inequality, depressed living standards and hopelessness.

The Biggest Issue – Climate Change

The biggest threat that Trump poses is to the already seriously compromised prospects for dealing effectively with climate change. He rejects climate change science completely, believing it to be a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese government to destroy the US economy. His electoral victory is the biggest threat to the prospects of keeping global warming below 2 degrees C to have emerged so far. He says he will pull the US out of the 2015 Paris agreement. If this happens it will give the green light to India and other developing countries to renege on their commitments and to all the global extractive industries to continue to extract with impunity. However tenuous the Paris agreement may have been, the US withdrawal will lead to its complete collapse and spell global disaster. Trump represents a threat to the future of mankind.

Who won the Popular Vote?

This is what Trump tweeted in November 2012 after Obama won his second term:

“We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided. This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy. The electoral college is a disaster for democracy. Let’s fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice. The world is laughing at us.”

Apparently he thought, mistakenly, that Obama had failed to win a majority of the popular vote. If he were to apply the same standard to his own election he would have to say that his victory was “a total sham.” The voter turnout at the November 2016 election was 55%,  the lowest in 2 decades. It would have taken another 18.7 million votes to bring it to the level reached at Obama’s victory in 2008. As the popular vote is still being counted, it seems that Clinton is set to have received more votes than any other US presidential candidate in history except Obama. 63.4 million will have voted for Clinton; 61.2 million will have voted for Trump. Clinton will have a winning margin of 1.5%.

What Now?

Trump has no more of a mandate to subject the US and the rest of the world to irreversible and catastrophic climate change than George W. Bush, who was selected by the Supreme Court as US President in 2000, had to subject the people of Iraq to catastrophic invasion. In Trump we have – and we should never for a moment forget it – a proto-fascist, ego maniacal ignoramus who is destined to be the worst president in US history. Any and everyone with an ounce of human decency can only be repelled by his boorishness, his racism and his unashamed lying. No excuse is made here for becoming very personal in describing him. His deplorable personal qualities are displayed by him as virtues. He is a misogynist and it is entirely understandable – indeed it is laudable – that so many women in the US and throughout the world are appalled and repelled by him. It is also a matter of great concern and sadness that 47% of white women voters in the US voted for him. This is a worrying indication of the failure of feminism to enter the consciousness of so many of those who one would have expected to find harassment and sexual assaults on women intolerable in any man, let alone one seeking the highest office in the land.

There must be a fight back. The admirable demonstrations by so many against this deplorable man and everything he stands for, must continue and grow. Bernie Sanders mobilized millions in his support in the campaign he waged for the Democrat nomination. He was a candidate thoroughly worthy of support and he fired the imaginations and expectations of so many. Unlike the charlatan Trump, who dealt in hate, racism, smearing and lies, Sanders offered a message of hope. So, two movements were activated, one by a demagogic egoist appealing to the basest of human emotions; the other by a genuine social-democrat appealing to all that is best, most noble and co-operative in his largely young supporters. Not the vision of a fully fledged socialism, but a huge stride in the right direction.

It can only be hoped that the movement he helped to create will grow and thrive and tip the balance in the direction of progress. If not, the future looks bleak indeed. 


Mike Faulkner
is a Senior Contributing Edior and our London Correspondent. He MikeFaulkneris a British citizen living in London. For  many years he taught history and political science at Barnet College, until his retirement in 2002. He has written a two-weekly column,  Letter from the UK, for The Political Junkies Magazine since 2008. Over the years his articles have appeared in such publications as Marxism Today, Monthly Review and China Now. He is a regular visitor to the United States where he has friends and family in New York City. Contact Mike at mikefaulkner@greanvillepost.com

READ MORE ABOUT MIKE FAULKNER



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