Trump's election - a scream from the swamp of alienation created by liberal America
The label ‘fascist’ was firmly attached to Donald Trump by his detractors throughout a campaign for the White House during which nativism, bigotry and xenophobia was unleashed. His pledge to place a moratorium on Muslims coming into the United States, to deport millions of illegal Mexican immigrants, and to build a giant wall on the US border with its southern neighbor in order to control immigration was the equivalent of a political hand grenade being let off in a society proud of its respect for freedom of religion, tolerance, and its racial and ethnic diversity.
In less than a year of his participating in the country’s political process, Trump has, his critics believe, succeeded in rolling back the progress made by previous generations in a hard-fought struggle against racial, gender, and religious discrimination. He has legitimized white supremacy and succeeded in sowing the kind of social divisions that are consonant with a society teetering on the edge of implosion.
But surely then the question needs to be asked: if one candidate in one election year is capable of ripping up cultural values considered so entrenched and universal, that Washington decided the rest of the world should also live by those values, up to the point of forcing the issue with cruise missiles, F-15s, and Apache helicopter gunships, how strongly entrenched were they in America in the first place?
Trump represents a backlash against a liberal establishment that had become so fixated with identity politics it refused to tackle a growing ocean of alienation and poverty across large swathes of the country. The likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton presented themselves as leaders in touch with the needs and struggles of the common man, while in truth worshiping at the altar of the free market, cozying up to Wall Street and corporate America in service to the hegemony of neoliberal economics - that extreme variant of capitalism under which the market is accorded a mystical, almost divine-like status.
It is an economic system that acts as a tyrant over the lives of the mass of people rather than one that serves their needs, producing a race to the bottom involving workers around the world competing for the crumbs from the table of an multinational corporate dictatorship that in its ability to destroy or raise living standards arrogated to itself more power than most governments.
The result in the US was manufacturing jobs that once provided a decent income and a sense of dignity and worth in working class communities being exported abroad to China, Mexico, Vietnam, and elsewhere in the Global South. They were replaced by low paid jobs in the new service economy, forcing people to take two even three jobs just in order to survive. And they were the fortunate ones. For far too many Americans joblessness and under-employment became the new normal, leading to the creation of a vast underclass of people across the country’s rust belt seething with hatred for a liberal elite in Washington and on either coast.
With such obscene levels of inequality, alienation, and poverty being the fate of a growing section of the population, exacerbated by the worst economic recession since the 1930s, caused by the ineffable greed of those at the top of this grotesque income scale, something had to give. That something was the election of Donald J. Trump as president, a billionaire with no prior political experience but a disdain for the political correctness and identity politics associated with Washington.
However here a note of caution needs to be struck, one that comes to us from history. For just as the collapse of the Weimar Republic in Germany in the 1930s under similar conditions of economic depression and dislocation gave way to fascism, so the collapse of the liberal order in our time has given way not to international brotherhood and solidarity as the dominant narrative of a denuded and disaffected working class across national, religious, ethnic, or cultural differences, but to nationalism, white supremacy, xenophobia, and the rise and spread of racism.
All across Europe we are witnessing the rise of the far right – in Ukraine, Scandinavia, France, the Netherlands, and elsewhere the ideology of ‘we ourselves’ has filled the space opened up by the collapse of the liberal center ground. Brexit in the UK is merely its British manifestation, while in the US Donald Trump’s election leaves no doubt that not since the 1930s has right wing populism managed to gain such traction and support in the West.
It was Bertolt Brecht who in the 1940s warned of the danger of complacency with regard to the prospect of fascism ever rising again after the Second World War. In words that resonate today, he said, “The womb from which this monster emerged remains fertile.” This is not to suggest that Donald Trump is a fascist, however, or that everyone who voted for him did so motivated by racism or xenophobia. Not at all. It is on the contrary to understand that Trump’s campaign opened up space for the elevation of both to the mainstream, motivated by inchoate anger and rage at the aforementioned liberal establishment.
This is why no one should mourn the demise of the Western liberal order either in the US or across Europe. It has failed, and failed utterly, destroying communities and decimating the lives of millions at home, while creating chaos and instability across the world.
While Donald Trump’s election may not be the solution to all the damage and chaos wrought, it resounds as a rejection of cultural values that amount to lecturing a man on his lack of political correctness and manners while he is drowning in a swamp with no way out.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.