The shock of Donald Trump’s unexpected victory is prompting a lot of soul searching among academics, journalists and politicians. The prevailing view is that the new, inexperienced president is unwisely rocking a boat it took the United States seventy years to build. Any initiative he may take is examined under that light and criticized. The summit meeting in Helsinki is a case in point. Few ask themselves why voters sided with him, and fewer why Hillary Clinton lost. No one wonders whether neoliberalism and neoconservatism – the two ideologies which underlined most government’s decisions over the last half a century – had anything to do with it. Instead, critics adhere to a bogus inquiry involving Russia which produced no evidence to this day. Before going any further, let’s clear the air: Donald Trump is a narcissistic individual, a loose-cannon who does not belong in the White House. His election is a testimony to the failing of the U.S. government, of the very people who resent his election. That’s where the drama lies.
Hillary Clinton blamed FBI Director James Comey for her defeat. Breaking his word a few days before the election, he suggested that an inquiry on Hillary’s emails while at State might be warranted after all. Polls tend to bear out Hillary’s claim. But, there is more. Her program, her lack of charisma, her well paid speeches to Wall Street bankers, and her questionable dealings with the Clinton Foundation which are under investigation by the Department of Justice as well as the sudden resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the President of the Democratic National Convention, have also something to do with her defeat.
Her loss is also the result of her opponent’s method. Interestingly, while most everyone in Washington DC dissects statements coming out of Deputy General Attorney Rod Rosenstein’s or special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s mouth, no one pays much attention to the Cambridge Analytica scandal which explains in part Donald Trump’s success. Cambridge Analytica is owned by billionaire Robert Mercer who contributed $25.6 million to Trump’s campaign. The British political consulting firm had access to Facebook data of 87 million Americans without their knowledge. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, publicly apologized for this breach of privacy. But, no formal inquiry is being conducted. Worthy of note, Robert Mercer is contesting a $6.8 billion tax bill with the Internal Revenue Service. Why does the Department of Justice concentrate on a supposed Russian interference in the 2016 election for the benefit of Donald Trump while ignoring this scandal at home? It’s a mystery.
Donald Trump does not owe his success to Cambridge Analytica as much as he does to disgruntled America. According to the mainstream media, his voters are located in the Rust Belt states: Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Afflicted by a high rate of unemployment, they would have massively voted for Trump. Statistics do not bear out the story. In the year preceding the election, their unemployment rate is 5.3% against 4.9% for the United States. Overtime, the level of their unemployment mirrors that of the United State with the exception of a two year period. From December 2008 to December 2010, their unemployment rate is 0.9% higher (10.5% vs. 9.6%). The rest of the time it parallels that of the country. Those states did not vote massively for Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton gets 51.6% of the votes in the Rust Belt states against 39.3% for Donald Trump. As always, Americans voted along the party lines: 89% of the Democrats voted for Hillary Clinton, 90% of the Republicans for Donald Trump. Blacks, Hispanics and Asians voted massively for Clinton, while a majority of whites (58%) voted for Trump. Jews and atheists voted for Clinton, Mormons and Protestants for Trump. Younger people voted for Clinton, older for Trump. Foreign policy was the most important issue for Clinton voters while it was immigration for Trump.
These statistics dispel the spiel and sales pitch often heard about Donald Trump’s voters. There is nothing new under the sky. His voters are Nixon’s silent majority – the people who rightly or wrongly feel they are never heard by the political elite and yawn for a change which would improve their lot. Of course, they are rarely heard. They were during a forty year period: from Franklin D. Roosevelt to London B. Johnson. Richard M. Nixon who once declared “we are all Keynesians” collected their votes but did nothing for them. Today, their resentment originates in the offshoring of jobs, and the Great recession which arose from the Subprime crisis. The crisis which is due to Wall Street bankers’ disregard for their fiduciary duties. They escaped prosecution while people on Main Street lost their jobs and homes. Meanwhile, medium incomes stagnate, inequality rises along with a feeling that the political class simply does not care.
How this came about? Ronald Reagan’s election gave rise to what is known as the Reagan Revolution. It is presented as a peaceful and beneficial revolution. It was peaceful, but it certainly was not beneficial for most Americans. Its objective was twofold: undo Franklin Roosevelt’s heritage and erase the Vietnam Syndrome in people’s mind. Two words sums it up: neoliberalism and neoconservatism. While globally adhering to both, Donald Trump questions some of their tenets as detrimental to the interests of the United States and its people. There lies his problems with the powers-to-be in Washington DC.
Neoliberalism is a misnomer. It is not a new Left, as its name implies but a return to capitalism in its purest form. It’s about globalization, the rise of transnational corporations, the disintegration of the nation-state and the social programs which go with it. Donald Trump adheres to neoliberalism when he signs the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which provides tax cuts for the wealthy. Neoconservatism is about hegemony. It’s “Pax Americana” for the entire world. Donald Trump is in line with neoconservative policies when it tears up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
But, he is locking horns with neoliberals and neoconservatives when he declares NATO obsolete, initiates a trade war with China, or wants to improve relations with Russia. His basic assumption is that the post-World War II world order is outdated and costly. It must be replaced by binational relations which will benefit the United States in view of its size relative to that of other nations. But, even though some American grievances are funded, applying this vision to trade relations won’t work. Firstly, because the United States’ trade deficit is due to an excess of consumption over investment. Secondly, because China will respond in kind to Trump’s unilateralism. Thirdly, because one country alone, were it the United States, cannot take on a system of trade relations which has been built over a seventy year period and which has proven its worth in spite of glaring faults. The solution can only come from an international settlement through the World Trade Organization. Finally, contrary to Trump’s oft-repeated statement, bilateral trade will do nothing to bring back jobs to the United States. Worse, it might lead to a world economic crisis of humongous proportions if the trade war gains momentum, as it did the 1930s.
If Trump is right with regard to NATO and Russia, he is wrong when it comes to Iran, the Paris climate accord or Jerusalem. NATO has outlived its usefulness since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dismemberment of the Warsaw Pact. Neoconservatives now use it to impose Pax America around the world. With respect to Russia, Trump does not innovate. He follows in Nixon’s and Kissinger’s footsteps. Détente originated in the Cuban crisis when Kennedy and Khrushchev, having seen the depth of the nuclear abyss, decided it was time to lower tension between the two nations. In a 2016 conference, Kissinger restated that serene relations between the United States and Russia are key to world peace. Throwing out JCPOA – a treaty signed by five nations in addition to the United States – makes no sense unless viewed in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Recognizing Jerusalem makes a mockery of the so-called benevolent go-between role played by the United States. Now, everyone knows which side the United States is on, assuming one did not before.
Neoliberalism and neoconservatism run counter to the vital interests of the United States and its people. They brought us Donald Trump. His nonsensical policies which hopefully won’t do any irremediable damage, will bring back the neoconservatives. What will they do then? The United States’ present situation is a testimony to the malfunctioning of its political institutions. An elite controls and runs the government for its own benefit with scant attention paid to the people. The soul searching presently going on does not bode well for the future. Expect more of the same when Trump departs.
Jean-Luc BASLE – OpedNews – 13 August 2018