This is my effort to understand the meaning and direction of the Trump Administration, based primarily on his cabinet nominations and executive office appointments. I’m doing this as part of an effort by many others to look for organizing strategies that might preserve some form of democratic life in the United States and some measure of peace in the world.
- His election signals the end or failure of the US effort to dominate the world economy via neo-liberal finance regimes (NAFTA, FTAA,WTO, TPP) which reached its apex and then collapse in the 2008 meltdown of finance capital that, among other things, destroyed the wealth of much of the US middle and working class and left devastated public institutions and dispossessed people in much of the world, especially in Mexico and Latin America.
- The European Union has also been effected by the 2008 collapse and is no longer willing or capable of absorbing the war refugees created by the US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, let alone the remainder of the 65 million internally displaced refugees like those from sub-Saharan Africa. The EU’s current policy of “return,” which means keeping refugees in place, contradicts all their humanitarian laws and rules with regard to war refugees and asylum seekers.
- The vast movement of US war refugees to the borders of Europe has also challenged the notion that the EU was creating a “European” entity that would supersede “nationalism.” The Brexit vote, based in part on fear of war refugees and in part due to the hollowing out of the English countryside, chose to re-nationalize rather than be European. Additionally, EU member states have growing political movements choosing to re-nationalize rather than absorb four to five million war refugees waiting at its borders. Many of those member states are closing their borders to refugees and refusing to accept their allocation of refugees mandated by the EU authorities.
- Re-nationalizing in the US means direct corporate rule, as symbolized by Trump’s billionaire cabinet, to allow militarized extraction of both physical resources (Tillerson, Ross and Zinke) and socially held public wealth at home and overseas. Capital is anxiously awaiting the increased deregulation of fossil fuels (Pruitt), the elimination of climate constraints, labor and social welfare costs (Price and Carson), the opening of the billion dollar public school market (DeVos), the removal of financial regulation (Mnuchin and Cohn) and the police state this extraction will require (Sessions and Kelly).
- This direct corporate rule requires a new political order born out of the implosion of the Republican and Democratic parties. It is a rule by executive order that argues for the judicial unreviewability of its executive actions, hollows out the federal civil service and federal agencies, devolves non-military authority to a “states-based” system led by ALEC’s demand for a constitutional convention of the states and mobilizes armed militias to reinforce its police policies.
- There needs to be a rationale for both this new political order and the sacrifices the American people will suffer as they lose wages, receive fewer social benefits, go deeper in debt, suffer environmental devastation and increased social conflict.
- The Trump administration will argue that the reason for this deterioration of citizen well being is the deleterious effect of “illegals”, in the United States and therefore the need to deport them and make sure they don’t come back. The US will be following the EU policy in this regard. The current expansion of ICE powers to use expedited removal (no notice, no hearing) in an expanded (non-criminal) population is the first step.
- The second step, depending on how operational Steve Bannon’s world view becomes, is the registration, criminalization and deportation of the Muslim “5th column” that is already active and inimical to the United States according to Bannon. This is required because, in Bannon’s thinking,the “Western Judeo Christian world” which is the bedrock of economic nationalism is in an apocalyptic world war with a metastasizing Islamic radicalism. As part of this war, it will be necessary to reinforce our Christian heritage here at home by implementing elements of “bible law” such as man/wife marriage, outlawing abortion, LGBT rights, etc. (Pence and Ryan).
- The final step will be a public campaign for a US war against ISIS initiated by an expanded, on the ground military dedicated to total war in both Iraq (Mosul) and Syria (Raqqa) that is approved by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and perhaps Russia. Trump has already issued a memorandum to this effect and CIA Director Pompeo has already visited Turkey and Saudi Arabia. This will again require increased military expenditures to the detriment of domestic social and economic needs. Exactly how a US war against a Sunni insurgency (ISIS) will lead to war with a Shi’a dominated Iran I don’t know, but I do believe Iran is the main target.
10.Re-nationalizing also means recognizing other re-nationalizing nation states, such as Russia and political movements within Europe which are nationalistic and anti-immigrant. Hillary and her allies were definitely targeting Russia and perhaps planning offensive military action as symbolized by the NATO maneuvers hosted by Poland. It appears, however, Trump and his cabinet are looking for economic (Arctic oil drilling) and military alliances with Russia (Tillerson) which is meeting stiff resistance from the Democratic party establishment.
- Trump himself is best suited for creating the atmosphere within which all this can take place. As a friend said to me, Trump is a loose Bannon. He will attempt to establish himself as the only source of truth and all those that disagree with him as the enemy. Domestically, his most dangerous attribute is his ability to mobilize armed civilian militias in support of his policies.
Exactly how to counter and replace this emerging new political order will require careful discussion among friends and neighbors about what we actually believe in, action to defend local governmental institutions we can reach and the construction of new political organizations with an electoral component.
It is my firm belief that the national Democratic Party and all its allied corporate sponsors not only lost the election, but due to Obama’s eight years of neo-liberal economic and war policies represented by candidate Hillary Clinton actually delivered Donald Trump. Attempts to resurrect, reform, take over the Democratic Party is going down a systemic blind alley.
The massive and periodic demonstrations against Trump’s policies will, at some point, need to coalesce into a new political formations that represents an articulated counter world view and a new electoral strategy. This will require skilled organizers who have both the patience to listen for commonalities and the mechanics of how to build organizations. As always, we need to define who we are, what we want and act where we are with some idea of strategy and tactics.
Dan Leahy is a retired Professor of Political Economy and Social Movements from The Evergreen State College and founder and former Executive Director of Washington State’s Labor Education and Research Center.