I don’t co-sign with everything that the author Paul Street said in the following article written for counterpunch, but I think that it is a must read for every serious thinker in America.
“In the 2016 presidential election cycle, two “populist” candidates running outside and against the nation’s reigning financial power centers launched remarkable insurgencies within the nation’s two dominant state-capitalist political organizations. One of those contenders, Bernie Sanders, pushed Wall Street’s number one presidential aspirant, Hillary Clinton, much closer to possible defeat than probably he himself expected. After welcoming Sanders in as a token opponent to help Mrs. Clinton’s nomination as the Democrats’ presidential candidate seem at least partly contested, the Clinton campaign and its allies in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had to resort to dirty tricks to make sure he didn’t steal their prize.
Sanders’ message of reducing economic inequality resonated with millions of voters. In retrospect, this is less than surprising in a time when the top tenth of the upper U.S. One Percent owns as much as much wealth as the bottom U.S. 90 percent while half the nation’s population is either poor or near-poor (living at less than half the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level). A shocking 94 percent of the jobs created in the U.S. economy during the Obama years were part-time, contract, and/or temporary positions.
Sanders’ appeal proved potent enough to force Hillary to change her position on numerous issues, including her prior support for the arch-corporate-globalist Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In the end, however, the Bernie revolution came up short. He lacked an established organizational base to match up with the formidable Clinton machine and its allies in the Democratic Party. He did not possess the killer instinct required to deal that machine a fatal blow (as seen in his excessive willingness to provide Mrs. Clinton cover on her email scandal). He made critical errors with critical Black voters. And he faced persistent media bias thanks in part to his self-identification as a “democratic socialist.”
The Frankenstein “Populist” Who Won
The other “populist” major party candidate was Donald Trump. He was richly endowed at least when it came to killer instinct regarding his opponents – or, as he likes to call them, his “enemies.” With no small help from a corporate media that gave him absurd amounts of free public exposure (helping thereby to create a Frankenstein from which that media would later recoil), Trump defeated and indeed humiliated Wall Street’s chosen Republican contenders, including first and foremost Jeb Bush.
He did this by running outside the traditional Republican Wall Street formula that Bush followed and in ways that sparked consternation in Wall Street executive suites and in other “elite” outposts of concentrated wealth and power. He denounced globalist “free trade,” NAFTA, and the TPP. He claimed to speak for working class “forgotten Americans” abandoned by big globalist corporations. He said that “free trade” had cost untold masses of working Americans their livelihoods. He said that the American political system was “broken” by big money special interests that undermine and distort democracy (something Trump said he knew all about because of his own history as a wealthy funder of politicians). Much of the country’s infrastructure was crumbling under the reign of those interests, he noted.
Along the way, Trump’s frothing promise to deport millions of illegal immigrants and build an anti-immigrant wall on the southern U.S. border troubled business interests who rely on cheap and compliant immigrant labor. It also threatened Republican efforts to win over more Latino voters
Trump also articulated a protectionist “America First” foreign policy and trade vision that won him enemies in U.S. imperial establishment, which is intimately tied in to the nation’s globalist financial and corporate oligarchy. Adding the bipartisan imperial “national security elite” to those he irked, Trump criticized George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton for advancing costly, jihad-spreading regime-change fiascos in Iraq and Libya. He hinted that he’d drop U.S. support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and criticized Hillary and the foreign policy elite’s provocation of Moscow.
A Loose Cannon Bad for the National Brand
Beneath all this, Trump was something else the ruling class really doesn’t like – a loose cannon full of individualist chutzpah and bile. As Mike Lofgren noted in his important book The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (2016) last summer, “His painfully visible erratic unpredictability and thirst for confrontation made him anything but the sort of team player who would give due consideration to the needs of the vested interests. Dividend drawers want a reliable caretaker to run their affairs, not an insult comedian juggling sticks of dynamite.”
And Trump threatened to ruin Brand America. It is longstanding bipartisan U.S. ruling class doctrine that the United States is the world’s great beacon and agent of democracy, human rights, justice, and freedom. American Reality has never matched the doctrine, of course, but it was especially difficult indeed to square those claims with a candidate like Trump, who openly exhibited racist, nativist, sexist, arch-authoritarian and even neo-fascist sentiments and values while openly praising torture. “If our system of government is an oligarchy with a façade of democratic and constitutional process,” Lofgren wrote in the preface to his book’s paperback edition, “Trump would not only rip that façade away for the entire world to behold; he would take our system’s ugliest features and intensify them.”
The “dividend drawers” and the overlapping imperial elite prefer people like Obama. Beneath his carefully crafted people’s and “fresh” outsider imagery, he was in fact a well-vetted, Harvard Law-minted and establishment-vetted team player who understood very well that his job was to smoothly serve his Wall Street and Pentagon masters and keep populist and anti-war sentiments at bay while pretending to embrace them both for his own electoral advantage and for broader system-rebranding effect. The neoliberal, silver-tongued Obama was the empire’s sophisticated, fake-progressive, fake-constitutional, and multicultural new clothes. He enjoyed and embraced the deceptive role. He told the nation’s financial elite early on in his presidency that, as he remarked to the nation’s top 13 financial executives after he called them to the White House in the wake of the financial collapse they caused, “you guys have a public relations problem and I’m here to help.”
Trump, by contrast, threatened to remove the democratic, legal, post-racial, peaceful, and ethnically diverse, cloak in particularly glaring ways. He harkened a crisis of legitimacy for the system’s false claims to represent noble and egalitarian ideals – something that promised to be bad for business at home and abroad. A Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio presidency might have inflicted some of the same damage, to some degree, but not to anything like the same extent as Trump. The Republican Party has trucked in racist, sexist, nativist, and militarist white nationalism and authoritarianism for more than half a century. (The Bush family was no exception, to say the least). Still, no serious Republican presidential contender in memory had gone as far as Trump in making these terrible tendencies so explicit and pronounced, with the effect enhanced by Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and 24/7 cable news. Trump threatened to rip the last remaining shreds of civilizational legitimacy from the ever more apocalyptic and radically reactionary GOP.” [More]
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