Last week I looked at the Trump administration’s recent activities in relation to 3 areas which I had devoted chapters to in my book – the need to work with rather than against nature, to develop a thrift-based economy, and to make decisions based on better ways of thinking. I easily found examples dated from the beginning of 2018 of how the administration was working against all of these deep needs.
This week’s blog covers the subjects of the other 4 chapters on what needs to be done. Three are about power – political power, financial power, and coercive power. And the last is about a fundamental basis for a flourishing society – the need to celebrate and support diversity.
4 More No Trumps
4th No Trump: “Real democracy: The current façade of democracy practised in the Western world needs to be replaced by real democracy, which is based on informed consent, safeguarding of minority rights, and putting power as close to the community it affects as possible.”
Just as Trump is a parody of a President, the United States is now, at the national level at least, a parody of a democracy. In the Senate, two seats per State has handed power to the smaller rural, conservative States which are being depopulated as urban expansion continues; the gerrymandering of congressional seats by both parties, but most effectively by the Republicans, has resulted in locked-in ownership of seats by individual parties; the Electoral College which decides the Presidency broadly reflects these distortions; voter suppression laws still flourish in a number of States; and the Citizens United decision to allow corporations to spend at will on elections has shifted the time-honoured activity of purchasing legislators’ votes to a whole new level, of purchasing elections. The country is now run at the national level by millionaires and billionaires, who largely defend the interests of their own class.
Trump’s election was based partly on the systemic distortions identified above, and partly on his populist appeals to racism, sexism, and the political exclusion and economic pressure felt by the lower middle-classes.
But Trump’s populist plan to “drain the (Washington) swamp” has been actioned only by appealing to people to vote Republican, not Democrat, and by calling the Democrats “treasonous” for not applauding him vigorously enough in his January State of the Union speech. He continues to pander to racism and sexism (see the 7th No Trump), and continues to claim to be helping ease class economic pressure, despite his actions enriching the already wealthy at the expense of rest (see the 5th No Trump).
Lying has long been a political privilege (Ambrose Bierce gave a political definition of “black” as “white” back in the late 1800’s). But the Trump administration has raised this to new levels. The President lies repeatedly with impunity (for example in his State of the Union address, on immigration). Others are following his lead, and the accusation of “fake news” by the very purveyors of it such as Fox News diminishes both media and political credibility.
There are some signs of democratic revival and hope. For example, recent judicial decisions have reversed gerrymanders in Pennsylvania and North Carolina REF. The Electoral Fraud Commission Trump set up to prove that his “true” majority was rubbed out by voter fraud (which gave Hillary Clinton a ‘fraudulent” popular vote majority of 2.9 million, or 2.1% of the votes cast), has been disbanded in disarray. The Commission found no cases of voter fraud. And there is a grassroots democratic backlash underway, as noted in Good News below.
But political power is still firmly in the hands of the wealthy, and the integrity of the voting system itself is suspect. Mainstream media have been covering the question of Russian interference in the 2016 election (which was just yesterday accepted for the first time by Trump), and a new study suggests there is a lot to do to make American voting systems more secure. Definitely, 4 No Trumps.
Phew, I needed to get all that of my chest. The next 3 No Trumps are just about as damaging, but I’ll be a lot briefer about them. Partly because they are, on the whole, more visible in mainstream media as well.
5th No Trump “Restitution and redistribution: The four great thefts committed by the affluent world over the last 500 years (the theft of resources through plunder, of land through empire and “enclosure”, of people through slavery, and of a healthy future through earlier industrialisation and hyperconsumption) need to be reversed. And financial power needs to be redistributed through (for example) more effective tax regimes.”
There are no signs at all of any concept of restitution in the Trump administration, only the opposite (we’ve been too generous to all you s**thole countries, and we will [try to] make America great again by continuing to put up walls).
And the redistribution is all the other way, from poorer to richer. The tax changes passed at the end of 2017 gave only minor (and short term) relief to the lower paid – Speaker Paul Ryan highlighted a secretary’s “pleasant surprise” that she was getting another $1.50 a week ($78 pa)”, not mentioning that he himself benefits by $19,000 pa, and the Koch brothers by a staggering $1.4 billion.
And of course, to fund these handouts (estimated to increase the Federal deficit by $1.5 trillion), services are being slashed in the 2018-19 budget. A report just released on the draft budget shows how it “harms nearly every community across the country”. 5 No Trumps.
6th No Trump: “Deweaponisation: The availability of lethal weapons needs to be minimised, and arms manufacturers put out of business.”
“Arms control” is not just just about limiting the number of countries that can wreak havoc with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, but also about reducing the availability of weapons that can be used to harm or kill individuals and small groups with impunity. A civilised society has no use for this sort of coercive power.
Trump has started a military build up and of course recently tweeted that his nuclear button is bigger than Kim Jong-Un’s. His idea of diplomacy is bullying and threats, and this is being echoed in his administration (for example by his Ambassador to the UN).
The US already spends more on military matters than the rest of the world combined, and is a major exporter of firearms to other countries, where they are used for both state and individual violence, as recently reported by the Center for American Progress.
The US itself is so desentitized to the matter of individual violence that “small” shootings in schools (only a few victims) get little or no coverage outside their local communities – by 24 January, there had been 11 of these in 2018. The large ones, such as the more recent Parklands Florida killing of 17, do get coverage, but Our Glorious Leader’s only substantive response was to blame the victims, by tweet:
“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbours and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
As it happens, they did report, again and again. Watch as the focus shifts to the potential negligence of the FBI and local authorities, once again directing attention away from the insanity of America’s free availability of personal weapons and diseased pro-gun culture, towards the idea that all that is needed is better regulation and better self-defence. 6 No Trumps.
7th No Trump: “Celebrating diversity: We need to learn to make a habit out of celebrating diversity, because it is a key foundation for flourishing societies.”
Trump denying, excusing, and even celebrating, misogynist behaviour. Not being held accountable for numerous accusations of sexual assault. Being fairly described as being the “first white president”, because most of his activities can be traced back to dismantling Obama’s legacy. Starting numerous attacks on American communities of colour, and of course intolerant and racist immigration policies. Being clearly responsible for increases in hate crimes.
Enough said. Possibly the most destructive No Trump of all. And it completes the Grand Slam.
The good news
The good news is that resistance is growing in the United States, not just on the diversity front, but across the whole range of harms that this man, his appointees, and the Republican Party are doing. The resistance is nicely summarised in a post by the Centre for American Progress.
Because he and his administration are doing such awful, even evil, things, across such a wide range of fronts, Trump may in fact trigger genuine resistance to the underlying trends and threats which beset the US and the rest of the affluent world. Not just getting rid of Trump, but helping to change the individualistic, consumerist, extractivist patterns which are threatening our whole human civilisation.
If you want to read any of my 7 chapters on the changes needed to set up a civilised and sustainable society, go here.
And that’s 7 No Trumps – back in about a fortnight….