Notes on the Revolution
December 11, 2019
Impeachment is not the way
By Charles McKelvey
The social and political dynamics that brought Donald Trump to the Oval Office are more important than the irresponsible, unethical, and illegal behavior of Trump. The Trump phenomenon will continue with or without Trump. All of us who are committed to a more just, democratic, and sustainable world have the duty to develop a politically effective response to the phenomenon, and not focus on the person. Since Trump took office in 2016, the mainstream political establishment, the Democratic Party, and liberal pundits have indulged in a virulent campaign against Trump, focusing on his conduct. The unveiling of two articles of impeachment by Congressional Democratic Party leaders on December 10 continues this tendency.
The focus on the personal conduct of Trump is an historic error. The focus ought to be on attempting to explain to the people that the direction in which Trump is taking the nation, although understandable in some of its aspects, is not an intelligent response to the challenges that the nation and humanity confront. The focus ought to be on formulating a coherent and politically intelligent alternative and progressive direction for the nation, an alternative formulation that addresses the concerns of the people that are the source of the Trump phenomenon, thereby enabling the marshalling of a popular consensus that would overcome the deep division of the nation.
The fundamental source of the emergence of the Trump phenomenon is the relative economic decline of the United States since the 1950s. The United States is no longer the unchallenged economic superpower that it was. The political establishment has responded to the relative commercial and productive decline not by promoting investment in new economically and ecologically sustainable industries and in education and training in these new sectors, but by facilitating international capital flow and financial speculation. This abandonment of the people and the nation by the power elite has led to a loss of faith in the government. There has emerged among the people a profound sense of loss; the nation that they once knew is no longer.
The sense of decline and loss was compounded by the factor of race. The period of decline has been characterized by gains for middle class minorities but not for whites. The focus of black leaders and academics on surviving expressions of racism, subtle forms of prejudice, and identity politics tend to undermine possibilities for the development of a comprehensive progressive project for the protection of the social and economic rights of all, in which the white middle and working classes would be invited to join. Devalued by the political establishment as well as by social movement, intellectual, and cultural tendencies, a significant percentage of whites are no longer at ease.
The Trump project responds to the economic decline and to the sense of loss, promising to make America great again. It seeks to restore U.S. domination of Latin America, adopting new and aggressive strategies designed bring down governments that seek a sovereign road to development, such as Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. With respect to Europe and Asia, it wages trade wars, imposes or threatens to impose tariffs, and withdraws from international agreements, defending or pretending to defend U.S. economic interests. It wants to avoid interminable wars in the Middle East, but it does not forget the historic U.S. control of the region, rooted in its interests in oil. The Trump administration expands military strength, which enables strategic military support of U.S. imperialist interests in Latin America and its trade interests throughout the world; and it also provides economic support to the arms industry, an area of production in which the United States preserves its global dominance. And the Trump administration attacks what it views as unnecessary environmental regulations, thus providing incentives for investment in domestic production.
At the same time, Trump’s immoral scapegoating of immigrants and Muslims taps into white resentment and sense of loss. It connects to emotions related to the issues of terrorism and uncontrolled international migration, with respect to which the political establishment has been complicit and has managed irresponsibly.
The Trump administration, therefore, has developed a coherent response to the relative economic decline of the nation, the structural crisis of the world-system, white resentment, and the self-interested comportment of the political establishment. The Trump project is misguided; it is based on a misreading of national and international dynamics, as a result of its profound ignorance of the world. But it is a coherent and logical response that connects to the growing loss of faith among the people in the institutions of the nation and the established politicians and political parties.
The high crimes of which Trump is accused do not include the scapegoating of the marginal, the violations of international law, the promotion of conflict and destabilization in the world, the non-cooperation with international efforts to combat climate change, nor the damage done to the prestige of the nation in the eyes of the peoples and governments of the world. The impeachment has a limited scope. Trump is accused of pressuring a foreign government to dig up information that would be damaging to a political rival. Such conduct violates established procedures. However, for the most part, it is consistent with established patterns of behavior. High-level U.S. public officials normally pressure governments, by withholding aid and other measures, to do what the U.S. government wants them to do, even though this widely-practiced custom violates international norms concerning respect for the sovereignty of nations and not interfering in the internal affairs of nations. At the same time, using various strategies to uncover dirt on a political rival also is commonly done in U.S. politics, even though it damages the nation by generating popular disgust with the political process. What Trump did wrong was to combine these two common vices by pressuring a foreign government to dig up dirt against a political rival. But given the prevalence of these vices, it could appear to some to be little more than a technicality, not really a big deal, particularly for people who believe that Trump is taking decisive steps to make America great again. It only requires a recasting of some details to make it fully in accordance with established norms.
The impeachment investigation confirmed the truth of the accusations, but it did not result in any revelations of further misconduct. As a result, a bipartisan consensus on impeachment has not emerged. The House and the Senate are divided along party lines. Opinion polls show that the people are similarly divided along party lines, and they show that narrow majorities are opposed to the handling of the affair both by Trump and by the Democratic Party leadership. The impeachment process has the image of partisan politics, and it is far from a helpful response to the Trump phenomenon.
Rather than criticizing or impeaching Trump for his irresponsible, unethical, and illegal conduct, we need to call our people, with respect for their concerns and anxieties, to an alternative direction. The logic of Trump has to be destroyed through a comprehensive critique of his policies as well as the formulation of an alternative direction for the nation, an alternative not only to the extremist right-wing policies of Trump and his clique, but also an alternative to the direction of the political establishment since the founding of the nation. We will look at some possibilities in our next episode.
This is Charles McKelvey, reflecting on the unfolding global popular socialist revolution forged by our peoples in defense of humanity.
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