(Neoliberalism, as I use the word in this post, refers to the immoral oligarchies and corporations, which control virtually every aspect of our lives under the false rubric of free market ideology.)
Donald Trump’s daily barrage of relentless craziness, according to the standard narrative of many of his critics, is a deflection from the myriad of problems—the Russian collusion investigation is the most obvious example—faced by the president and his close allies, including the anointed son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The rollercoaster of discombobulation is emotionally draining for anyone with a modicum of intelligence, so the mantra goes, which carries with it the risk that people are eventually going to tune out and normalize the madness, contradictions, and outright lies. Thus “Democracy Dies,” as The Washington Post now puts it in its masthead, “in Darkness,” or by a numbed populace incapable of action because of mental inertia, confusion and fear.
One day, it’s a bizarre sexist tweet about MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski (already dated by the time you’re reading this), and tomorrow it’s on to the next outrageous comment that Trump’s declining number of supporters adore and exult. Don’t ever forget that. This is why they voted for him, and his sexism and racism are exactly why they support him. We are getting close to a point, as more scholarly pundits point out, in which Trump and his sycophants will create the crisis—war, economic calamity, domestic military action, for example—that will entrench his power through visceral modes of unification and nationalistic propaganda.
The overall narrative seems intuitive enough here and elsewhere I guess for anyone with a brain that possesses some moral sense, and the answer seems to be to keep paying attention and fight the descent into chaos however one can fight, which creates its own set of problems and challenges. How does one organize one’s life, for example, around responding to derangement, misinformation, lies and hate disseminated by a sexist, racist despot who holds the throne that many people perceive to be the most powerful in the world? What if the ruler simply starts a war and sends the young people off to die for his hubris? It’s an old story.
I sense the last two questions are haunting many Americans and others throughout the world today. How long can this go on? The short obvious answer is this: For a very, very long time.
These are historic times of the abnormal. The scholar Henry A. Giroux writes recently:
The reality of Trump’s election may be the most momentous development of the age because of its enormity and the shock it has produced. The whole world is watching, pondering how such a dreadful event could have happened. How have we arrived here? What forces have allowed education, if not reason itself, to be undermined as crucial public and political resources, capable of producing the formative culture and critical citizens that could have prevented such a catastrophe from happening in an alleged democracy.
Obviously, those who care about democracy and the United States’ republic and, well, just about other people and humanity in a genuine sense are facing a huge, historic test of basic morality and survival, and, if they can overcome the odds against them and prevail, perhaps the neoliberal order, which has led to vast income inequality and the destruction of the planet, can be defeated.
It’s certainly not too late. The Resistance is just in its infancy. But all great protest movements end up in the streets, and that’s where The Resistance is taking root and must sustain itself. Yet, as well all know, peaceful civil disobedience as history shows carries with it risks that people must now take, including arrest, loss of employment, injury and even death. Everyone has to make a decision at this point.
Dr. Martin Luther King out it this way: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
Here are some ideas to keep in mind as we closer to the abyss of no return.
(1) The presidency of Trump is not normal. It’s not a matter of his flamboyant personality or just ignoring him as he gets used to his new job. No one should ignore evil. Trump is a craven, corrupt liar, a person who epitomizes the neoliberal order that turns greed and callousness into virtues. His campaign’s connections to Russia, his appointment of family members to government positions and his violation of the U.S. Constitution for accepting payments from foreign entities make him an immoral despot, a threat to democracy here and across the world. His tweetstorms, as they get called, are often brazen lies and contradict one other. Sometimes the tweets attack individuals with slimy assertions or have sexist connotations. He will never apologize. He will never change, and, yes, it will get worse.
(2) Waste no time trying to convince a Trump supporter of the president’s obvious lack of morality and his broken promises. For too long, liberals and Democrats have tried to reach out—consider former President Barack Obama, for example—to red-state conservatives, and this strategy has failed miserably. Now is the time to retrench and strengthen ourselves, not time to launch another 50-state policy. I can’t imagine anything more ridiculous than spending millions of dollars to try but failing to win a historically conservative Congressional seat in a red state that voted for Trump. There’s no need to engage in antithetical rhetorics of the deplorables or whatever demeaning term one wants to use to describe Trump supporters, but it’s also foolish to try to reach out to them. Believe me, as a long-time political writer, it has taken me years to get to this point, but Trump’s election proves beyond any doubt the reckless and craven nature of right-wing extremism and the Republican Party in general. It would be much better to focus on making blue states, such as California and New York, even more remarkable and liberal. What if California manages to pass and successfully operate a proposed single-payer system for health care? That would have far-reaching effects on the country that makes a sexist tweet by Trump seem the epitome of mediocrity and smallness.
The scholar Noam Chomsky makes the point like this: “Rational discussion is useful only when there is a significant base of shared assumptions.” Anyone who shares significant assumptions with Trump or his supporters is not worth an argument or the energy.
(3) Don’t expect Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and other well-known and well-intentioned political figures on the so-called left to do anything more than what they’ve already done. This is not a criticism. I love it that Sanders, for example, argues for a single-payer health care system in this country and that Warren speaks truth to power, but the status quo is not going to trump Trump nor do anything beyond what they’ve already done. Really. What can they do, anyway? It’s way past time for the left to stop putting politicians on pedestals or think any particular leader is a savior. It’s also past time to end the Clinton/Sanders war. It’s a waste of precious time. These politicians can’t and won’t make things magically happen. Give up the old frames, the traditions. Get on the streets and yell. Try to get moral, reasonable people to listen and get them engaged.
(4) The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as some other media outlets, have offered up new commitments to the truth. The Times, for example, published an incredible list of Trump’s lies in a recent commentary, and some of the reporting on Trump and his lack of ethics has been outstanding in both newspapers, but never forget they led the way in sensationalizing Clinton’s email server and the Benghazi incident when she served as Secretary of State, two non-scandals. The media essentially legitimatized and normalized a Republican obvious political strategy in order to elect their party’s candidate for president. They are also for-profit corporations and frame narratives for the neoliberal order in an intuitive, almost robotic manner. It’s what they do to sustain themselves and capitalism in general. The real question is this: Will these powerful media outlets urge people to take to the streets in bold headlines when Trump finally goes too far? Probably not if it affects their bottom line.
I recognize these are generalized ideas, but they’re a starting point for at least me to restore some order and stability in viewing the nation’s current dire predicament. We need to get out on the streets as much as possible and speak the truth clearly. We have to take risks. We have no choice. This is where we are.