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Notes on the Revolution / Column 17

Notes on the Revolution / Column 17

October 11, 2019


Donald Trump versus the U.S. political establishment


By Charles McKelvey

From the moment that he took office, even before, Donald Trump has been under continuous attack by the U.S. political establishment. This has been evident in the pages of the New York Times, that venerable newspaper that claims to speak the truth, but which in fact distills its version of the truth framed from the perspective of the U.S. upper class and power elite, which in some issues results in a leaving aside of relevant questions and thus a fundamental distortion of reality. During the last five or six years, I have fulfilled a commitment to read the news reporting and editorial commentaries of the New York Times on a regular basis, in order that I would know how the U.S. political establishment is thinking. I have to say, I sometimes have been taken aback by the continuous and hostile criticism of the highly respected newspaper toward the President of the United States. I have asked myself, how can a nation function, if every proposal coming from its highest office is rejected out of hand by the major media of communication? Moreover, it has seemed to me that the office of the presidency should be treated with more respect, regardless of the qualities of the man who holds the office, out of respect for the people of the United States who elected him, however flawed the electoral process.

How could this have happened? The problem, of course, is Donald Trump himself. He started the fight in 2016, when, for whatever motives, he took on the political establishment by formulating a program of economic nationalism combined with a reactionary political discourse that has elements of white nationalism and neofascism. Since taking office, his economic nationalism has been evident: in his seeking of new international agreements that he presents as more for fair to the United States, tearing up of international agreements that the USA made when it was governed with the stamp of neoliberal globalism; in his trade war with China; and in his insistence on new arrangements with Europe that are less costly to the United States. And his reactionary politics have been evident in his scapegoating of immigrants; his aggressive enforcement and strengthening of immigration laws, sometimes violating the human rights of immigrants in the process; and his siding with the police in the issue of police violence with respect to unarmed citizens, perceived by many as an attack on young black men.

The neoconservative sector of the political establishment did not support Trump during the Republican primaries. But when he emerged as the standard bearer of the party, on the basis of support by a significant sector of the people, many neoconservatives came on board. Some associated with the administrations of Reagan and Bush II have occupied important positions in his administration, although through a revolving door, reflecting internal debates within the administration as it searches for the right road in the uncharted waters that the ship of state has entered. His alliance with the neoconservatives has led to an emphasis on military expenditures and an involvement in conflicts in the Middle East that are greater than what was projected in his 2016 electoral campaign.

The moderate wing of the political establishment, defined by the politics of the Clintons, Obama, and Biden, has found his economic nationalism, his militarism, and his reactionary politics unacceptable. Beginning in the 1990s with Bill Clinton, the moderates have embraced neoliberal globalism, unconcerned for the negative consequences with respect to national economic development or the needs of the people. They have participated with the neoconservatives in the neoliberal elimination on a global scale of national controls of production, commerce, currencies, and financial flows, which has left the elite with enormous profits in an era of stagnating economic growth, declining real incomes, and increasing levels of poverty. The moderate wing of the political establishment has combined its neoliberal economics with an inclusive discourse and policy with respect to blacks, Latinos, women, and gays, reflecting the post-1960s changes in attitudes and laws with respect to discrimination. They thus combine reactionary economic policies with a superficial liberalism that is not truly progressive. In foreign policy, they tend toward multilateralism and negotiation, rather than militarism, to some extent accepting the relative economic decline of the nation from its dominant position in the world-system in the 1950s. With respect to immigration, they tend toward laxity in the enforcement of immigration laws, as consistent with their inclusive discourse and as having economic benefits for the nation.

Distinct from the moderates, the progressive wing of the political establishment, represented by presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, stand against some of the negative consequences of the neoliberal project. They have made important progressive proposals with respect to education and health, seeking to make them more affordable. They are not a true Left in the Latin American sense, even though Sanders calls himself socialist, inasmuch as they do not have an anti-imperialist approach to U.S. foreign policy, nor do they have a proposal for the taking of power by the people. They contest for control of the corporate-backed Democratic Party with the moderate wing of the political establishment.

Prior to the revelations with respect to Trump’s pressuring of Ukraine, the moderate wing and some of the progressive wing were against impeachment, believing that it would not be a good political strategy. But evidence that Trump was requesting a foreign leader, with foreign aid conditioned on the reply, to investigate a political rival has compelled the moderates toward the impeachment option. This move by the moderates may have been propelled by a desire to avoid a break with the progressives, which likely would be fatal for prospects of the Democratic Party in the 2020 elections. But impeachment may not be the most politically intelligent option, taking into account that it will deepen the division in the national political culture. And it could backfire for the Democratic Party, inasmuch as it could be perceived by the people as undercutting the possibility that the people would decide in the ballot box in the 2020 elections; and inasmuch as an impeachment process during an election year could function as a distraction from issues in which the Democrats have the advantage, such as health care, education, and other social and economic needs of the people. Some have argued that Trump relishes an impeachment fight, because it would open the door for counterattacks by Trump on the prevailing soft corruption of his opponents, such as the Clinton Foundation’s influence peddling and the activities of Biden and his son in the Ukraine.

Much depends on the extent to which the allegations against Trump have validity in the eyes of the people. We will look next week at the allegations and the response of the Trump administration. But before doing so, we on Monday will look at the October 10 elections by the National Assembly of the President and Vice-President of the Republic and the Council of State in Cuba, a nation that cancelled the electoral farce of representative democracy sixty years ago, opting instead for a political process of popular power, in which, as incredible as its seems for those accustomed to the shortcomings of representative democracy, the people are the highest authority.

This is Charles McKelvey, reflecting on the unfolding global popular socialist revolution forged by our peoples in defense of humanity.


Edited by Lena Valverde Jordi
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