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Thursday, 10 November 2016

Trump Victory Shock But Not Surprise, Brexit All Over Again

Trump Victory Shock But Not Surprise, Brexit All Over Again
Republican contender Donald Trump has been elected 45th President of the United States – against the odds, and expert pollsters’ predictions – in what seems to many to be another ‘Brexit’ moment in this most tumultuous of years. With almost all votes counted, Trump won by 74 electoral college votes but received 200,000 votes fewer than Hillary Clinton.
There are over 220 million eligible voters in the United States.
About 25% of eligible American voters have thus chosen the leader of the United States, the most powerful political office-holder in the world.
The Republicans have held onto the US Senate and the House of Representatives. A system famously wedded to divided government now has a clean sweep at major reversal of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, to cut social security, slash taxes for the rich, abolish corporate regulation, institute immigration reform, among other things. Don’t even mention climate change.
Stock markets around the world reacted negatively to the news due to Donald Trump’s unpredictability and divisive rhetoric but will likely recover before long as the victor does not take office until January 2017. But they have a way of taking care of themselves.
In the short term, if the analogy to Brexit is viable, hate crime against minorities and immigrants is likely to increase, as indeed it did after candidate Trump began branding Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers early in his campaign. We should expect more street protests.
What does Trump’s victory signify? It signifies nothing less than a rejection of the politics of the past, of politics itself, and of the leadership of the Republican party, and the political and moral bankruptcy of the Hilary Clinton-led Democratic party.
Trump has changed the face of US politics. He has never held elected public office. He has used language that has never been used by a main party candidate. He has legitimised the reduction of women into sex objects and of minorities as suspect and second-class. He has shown that racist appeals to white identity combined with promises of industrial jobs aplenty can still win election to America’s highest office. He has shown that Wall St money alone cannot buy an election.
Yet he was fortunate with his opponent, Hillary Clinton – mired in Wall St donations, the epitome of the establishment politician when it was anti-elitism that was the order of the day. That fact stared her campaign in the face – literally, in the form of Bernie Sanders – but went unheeded.
It was clear from the moment that Clinton selected Tim Kaine as vice presidential running mate that the triumph of Wall St in the Democratic campaign was complete. They had, through numerous machinations, seen off Sanders and prepared Hillary for her long-hoped for coronation. Unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton was not an outsider but the ultimate insider. She proved too cautious, too conservative, too timid to embrace what was an historic opportunity.
What was meant to be a coronation turned into a civil war, one that Trump was better suited to waging.
She promised more of the same to a nation that, after 8 years of Obama’s presidency, was more unequal and seething with discontent on Left and Right. The last thing they wanted was someone attached to the centre-ground. And, on top of that, who had already helped herself, and her family, to vast amounts of corporate funds – over $3 billion over 4 decades of ‘public’ service.
And outsourcing the State Department’s emails to herself, along with the role of the FBI in keeping the issue alive right up until polling day itself, proved the final nail in her political ambition, the Clinton house of cards.
Trump and Sanders each won 13 million votes in the primaries – 26 million in total – to Clinton’s 16 million, and that’s without accounting for Sanders’s victories in caucus states. The anti-establishment tsunami passed Clinton and her centrist strategists by, consigning them to the dustbin of history.
Donald Trump was lucky with his opponent. Had Bernie Sanders been the Democratic candidate, we might have seen a real challenge to Trump’s racist, misogynistic, right-wing campaign. Indeed, in that contest we might have seen the emergence of synergies that seem to have made nonsense out of the Left/Right divide. Perhaps Bernie Sanders Brand New Congress, Our Revolution, and Sanders Institute, will show their mettle in the political struggles to come.
What will Trump do? At home, he has a conservative congress and senate. As he has rowed back on his promise to raise taxes on the rich and big corporations, Republican lawmakers will embrace him like one of their own. As Trump has relied heavily on the Heritage Foundation for his tax policy, attitude to welfare and ‘entitlements’ like social security, we should expect a major attack from the Republican Right.
This would be contrary to promises made and implied on the campaign trail and likely to alienate his political base among workers. But many of them – inspired by Trump’s giving them their country back – might not care, at least in the short run. The psychological wage of white male power has often proved seductive in a racial order based on divide and rule.
Trump will appoint a Supreme Court justice opposed to the landmark Roe vs Wade decision of 1973 which made abortion legal. This would set back women’s rights and is likely to generate massive resistance.
The Heritage Foundation has not only produced its Blueprint for Reform to which the Trump camp appears closely attached, but also seen its former president, Ed Feulner, appointed several months ago to chair of the Trump Transition Team – the group developing policy options and possible appointees to cabinet and other governmental positions.
America is in for 4 years of the most right-wing conservative government since Ronald Reagan; it may leave Reagan in the shade.
Overseas, Donald Trump questioned the whole edifice of the US-led world order since 1945, especially its military alliances and agreements – NATO, the treaties with Japan and South Korea, intervention in Syria, the war on Iraq, the rising confrontation with Russia in the Baltic States and eastern Europe. He has indicated rejection of the Iran nuclear agreement.
He has promised to wipe out ISIS, re-introduce water-boarding and torture as policy against terror suspects, and to bomb and kill their wives and children. His election will strengthen the belief in some circles that the United States is at war with Islam.
Yet, again, Trump appears to have drawn his military policy from the Heritage Foundation. And the Republican party platform adopted at the Convention notes the indispensability of American power, the necessity of “vast superiority” of military power over rivals, of maintaining America’s alliances and treaties, of checking Russian “expansionism”. 
This is contrary to the rhetoric of the Trump campaign and may well be a source of tension with fellow Republicans in the House and Senate. It will test Trump’s deal-making skills.
It is to be hoped that the growing confrontation between NATO forces and Russia might be defused by Trump’s personal negotiation with Putin. It is, after all, NATO that has expanded its operations all the way to the Russian border.
It would also be welcome to many on the Left and in general across America should the United States draw back from and reduce its military commitments around the world. But Trump would have to fight fellow Republicans to achieve that.
America has chosen its mercurial man of destiny to lead it for the next 4 years. His policies at home will re-ignite mass opposition that might regenerate the moribund politics of the Democratic party.
The rest of the world must learn to manage President Donald Trump, whichever one finally shows up.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Trump people: The GOP and the politics of white identity, class and gender

Trump people: The GOP and the politics of white identity, class and gender

Professor Inderjeet Parmar

Why are so many white women supporting Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency against Hillary Clinton, the first female major party candidate for the White House? On top of everything Trump has said about particular women or women in general, he also repudiated Roe vs Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that enabled women’s right to abortion, a right that the GOP has chipped away at for decades.

Why are so many white workers supporting a billionaire elitist who exploits his own workers? Trump uses illegal immigrants in his various companies, undercuts wages and uses Chinese steel to build his hotels, despite his complaints about China dumping goods in the United States.

Why are so many relatively affluent Americans backing Trump?

The big answer, according to new research by Gallup economist Jonathan Rothwell, is a lethal mixture of financial anxiety, fear and hopelessness for the future – of immigrants, globalisation, job insecurity, poor health – and the politics of white identity. They yearn for a mythical golden age of 50 years ago. White Americans, especially men, are intending to vote for Trump not because they believe he is going to solve their problems but because, they believe, he will reverse the privileged treatment bestowed upon those who have destroyed white supremacy: the outsider, the foreigner, the immigrant, the asylum seeker, the terrorist, the African-American enemy within – and even highly successful white women who challenge white male supremacy. In 2008 and 2012, the outsider had a black face  – Barack Obama; now the outsider with a woman’s body is on the verge of electoral victory.

Women supporting Trump tend to be those who occupy the weakest position in the labour market, leading them to see themselves in traditional gender roles as nurturers and carers. The corollary of this is that they see their men as responsible for protecting them, and professionally successful women as competitors for those men’s jobs.

According to women’s historian Stephanie Coontz, the highest proportion of women in America who are stay-at-home mums reside in the bottom 25 per cent income bracket. Their households need two incomes but the woman going out to work finds only low-paying jobs which do not cover child care costs. They are locked into a position of a subordinate in a male-dominated household, resentful of two-income families and strong, successful women.

Combine all this with anxieties about the looming spectre of an America dominated by non-whites – by 2050, the US will be a majority-minority nation – for many, their country is facing an existential crisis. Fears about globalisation, free trade, immigration are real enough as sources of economic insecurity. But combined with white hyper-ethno-nationalist identity politics, those fears become a major threat to American society as a whole, and its global authority – it’s identity as a land of immigrants, of opportunity based on merit not race or colour, its democratic and egalitarian ethos and image – its attractiveness to the world as an advanced society, its soft power.

Donald Trump has fused economic worries, racial and gender resentment into a politics of fear and revenge, a politics fuelled by a desire to “take our country back” from enemies domestic and foreign, and from the elites who gave America away – to Mexicans, Muslims, minorities.

But Trump hardly invented the politics of white identity – the GOP has framed issues of gender and race in such terms for decades. In the 1960s and 1970s, during the rights revolution, Republicans – along with their Dixiecrat allies – contended that unpatriotic blacks, students, pacifists, uppity women were destroying the fabric of America – family, religion, nation, hope. When right-wing Republican Barry Goldwater won five southern states in the 1964 presidential election by opposing civil rights and de-segregation, he blazed a trail followed by successive GOP presidents. It is said that Goldwater lost the election but won the future. And the lesson of 1964 led to the racist ‘southern strategy’ of Richard Nixon and to Ronald Reagan’s coded racism, apparent in his call for the restoration of ‘state’s rights’ – the slogan of southern slavery and segregation – in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980.

This call attracted non-conservative working class white voters to the party of low taxes and small government. It gave them a psychological wage only: economically they lost ground due to deindustrialisation and globalisation, and cuts to welfare programmes – as did, to an even greater extent, African-American workers. The GOP’s coded racism divided black and white workers and offered only hyper-anxiety about others taking what whites were supposed to have by prior right. From that politics of fear and resentment, the Republican Party developed a discourse that has damaged the basic tenets of democratic Americanism. It has been racist, xenophobic and misogynistic. And it has now sprouted a movement with the hallmarks of a “last stand” against a changing America, one that would declare an election stolen before a vote’s been cast and demand their opponent be jailed as a common criminal.

Donald Trump’s rhetoric is not new; he’s just more open with it. Trump’s language, the coarse vulgarity, the lack of recognition of the legitimacy of the opposition – is not his invention. It was pioneered during the 1990s by Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America - a declaration of war against the Democratic Party, bipartisanship, and the Clintons.

Trump’s talk of ‘Crooked Hillary’ and ‘Lying Ted’ is part of a rhetoric that began in the 1990s. The GOP employed Orwellian PR men like Frank Luntz who changed the language and imagery of politics, attaching epithets to everything they opposed  – corrupt, greedy, lazy. Luntz’s claim to fame is that he invented “climate change” as the neutral-sounding term to replace “global warming”.

Whoever wins this election, the country is in for a very tough time. America will survive Donald Trump but at what price? And how will a changing world react –a China that still champs at the thought of its ‘century of humiliation’ at the hands of colonial exploitation, a Middle East seething with the lethal and illegal exercise of American military violence, an India trying to shed its colonial past and enter the top table of world politics – still dominated by the US-led West?