The face of empire unmasked, the pomp and circumstance of our illusions rejected.
There’s something to be said for the efficacy of the right versus the trepidation of the left. Obama, elected in 2008 with the most votes of any President ever, had a mandate. And yet, he played to the center of the political spectrum, adopting a corporate medical insurance plan as his signature achievement. Donald Trump, conversely, has played to his extreme right-wing base, firing off executive orders at a breakneck pace to implement his vicious agenda.
What can be said about Donald Trump? During the election, and until his Presidency officially began, I didn’t like writing about Trump. Everything has already been said. He was widely considered a fascist, a white supremacist, Hitler, Mussolini, a Russian rogue in open revolt against the American deep state, you name it. The media jumped the shark, and the more it likened a Trump presidency to an absolute implosion of the government, the more attractive Trump became. Americans were ready to blow up every norm in sight, and the media was the main focus of that warpath, as it was the main defense of the political establishment. Trump skillfully made the American media into his enemy, but that only worked insofar as he was an outsider.
Now that Trump controls the White House, and the drone commanders, and the deportation forces, he is power incarnate. The paradox of power is that when the rebel runs the machine, he becomes it, and must begin to justify it.
In the long-term, the dismantling of that machine, the corporate-political complex, is the only hope for a legitimate government.
One thing is for certain: the election of Donald Trump is the beginning of a new era, an era without illusions. Trump’s total fusion of state and business interests, the essential foundation for fascism, has been the reality in American politics for decades. Trump is simply bringing that swamp to the surface, reveling in it, making himself a caricature of American greed, excess, and right-wing stupidity. He is a massive effigy waiting to be burned. After Obama, the last pretense of dignity that shields empire from critique has been peeled away, leaving only Trump’s scaled orange visage.
The Women’s March on Washington, the largest protest in American history, was the sleeping giant of democracy, dead since the anti-war movement of the early 2000s. Mass movements of the left faded under Barack Obama, unable to resist his emotional and aesthetic appeal, refusing create mass opposition to the corporate state and its empire.
All that has changed. The right-wing has re-instated itself viscerally as Mammon, the avatar of oil companies, robber barons, and rentiers first and foremost. Trump is the shock doctrine, disaster capitalism, the looting and pillaging of the American treasury and the great American landscape alike. Trampling over the Sioux tribe, the great elephant rams through the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the once-dead Keystone XL, resurrecting fossils for transit, GDP, and climate collapse. Trumpism represents infinite material expansion at the cost of endless spiritual decay.
Trump was inevitable. After the banking collapse of 2008, the lukewarm mediocrity of Barack Obama, and the continued concentration of wealth at the pinnacle of a corporate class that finances all politicians and all implemented agendas, a wrecking ball was in order.
Trump as wrecking ball signals an end to the age of pretense, of a clean exterior hiding a horrific reality.
American empire has strived on its pretense of justice, duty and foresight. No longer will anyone be able to pretend that this is the case. The shallow liberalism of figures such as Harvard’s Steven Pinker, who saw in the 21st century a paradise, a Pax Americana, can no longer pretend that their eternal truce was real.
Trump’s inauguration speech was criticized as dark, hopeless and angry. Perhaps that is because reality is dark, hopeless and angry. The milquetoast speeches of Hillary Clinton are shine on the face of a Palestinian corpse. The only honest choice is to admit decadence, as Trump declared the American dream dead during his campaign, and vowed to bring it back.
He won’t bring it back. The machine that he is a part of is incapable of bringing it back. That machine is the contradiction of postmodern democracy, the incapability of capitalism to support democracy, but rather to ensure that the interests of financial elites always triumph over the people.
All sectors of American society are rising to the role of political activism. Trump is the villain the world needs. Rather than the affability and mask of Barack Obama, empire deserves the brutality of Donald Trump. Only in looking past the mask can we see our world for what it truly is. The gift of Trump is the gift of clarity to those who have pretended.
He has broken all taboos, smashed political correctness, and changed the way language and communication works in the 21st century. Will anyone hesitate at ‘socialism’ or ‘social democracy’ after weathering something so absurd as Trump? Trumpism has the potential to radicalize millions of Americans who otherwise would have accepted Clintonism with a sleepy shrug.
Those who experience betrayal and pain are open to change. Those with great hubris unscathed will never change.