Monday, October 26, 2020

Notes on a World Without Trump


by Thomas Neuburger

I’m working on a book-length project that includes a look at our soon-to-be post-Trump world. These are preliminary notes for that part of the project.

1. The World Without Trump won’t be a world without Trump. (For the exception, see below.) 

Trump will not go away. He'll persist as a pest that’s driven from the desk but not from the room he’s in. His most likely course of action is to go loudly into that good night, keep frothing and fomenting his base, selling his products and shtick, cashing his cachet as former U.S. president, and roiling the Democrat-controlled government to the greatest extent he can.

Trump will be a thorn in the nation’s side — and a profit center for mainstream media — until he dies, at which point his state funeral will be something indeed to behold. 

Trump will always be with us. I would not underestimate his effect. It will pull any Democratic government to the right for as long as his presence persists and the elite media promotes it.

Exception: The only way this won’t be true is if the Democratic Party cuts a no-prosecution deal with Trump that Democratic state attorneys general decide honor — in which case Trump will go tweetless for the rest of his life. 

If the Democratic Party doesn’t cut a no-prosecution deal with Trump, yet no prosecutions emerge anyway because Democrats continue to be members of the “elites don’t prosecute elites” club, Trump is home free. As I wrote when George H.W. Bush died:

Those who run the world we merely inhabit have nothing but respect for each other. And why not? They may pick each other off from time to time (both Saddam Hussein and Moamar Khaddafi were once in high favor), but over the long haul, keeping each member of the ruling circle in a reverential spotlight keeps them all — keeps the circle itself — in reverence as well. Since the circle operates as a system, the system is honored each time its members, no matter how deadly, are honored. And the system sees that the system is always honored.

If this is true, Trump may continue to be hated (Trump hate is still the Democratic Party brand and the media’s cash cow), but he won’t be prosecuted, for the same reasons that arguable-mass-murderer George W. Bush, who turned Iraq into a slaughterhouse, was never impeached in office, never indicted for war crimes after leaving it, and was eventually reborn and embraced by Democratic elites as one of their own as soon as his sins were safely “misremembered.”

2. The regime of soft censorship that kept Biden’s reputation afloat during the 2020 general election will continue. 

Matt Taibbi has been writing about this subject for a while. For example:

The flow of information in the United States has become so politicized -- bottlenecked by an increasingly brazen union of corporate press and tech platforms -- that it’s become impossible for American audiences to see news about certain topics absent thickets of propagandistic contextualizing. Try to look up anything about Burisma, Joe Biden, or Hunter Biden in English, and you’re likely to be shown a pile of “fact-checks” and explainers ahead of the raw information:

Other true information has been scrubbed or de-ranked, either by platforms or by a confederation of press outlets whose loyalty to the Democratic Party far now overshadows its obligations to inform.

Obviously, Fox is not much better, in terms of its willingness to report negative information about Trump and Republicans, but Fox doesn’t have the reach that this emerging partnership between mass media, law enforcement, and tech platforms does. That group’s reaction to the New York Post story is formalizing a decision to abandon the media’s old true/untrue standard for a different test that involves other, more politicized questions, like provenance and editorial intent.

The post-Trump media world will not, as I see it now, fundamentally alter the pattern it set in the soon-to-pass Never Trump era. Big tech platforms and media will continue to see that their loyalty to leaders of the Democratic Party trumps (to borrow a phrase) their obligation to inform the public. Having gone down the censorship road, what would cause them to turn back, especially if Trump, the expressed source of their concern, continues to bleat, media-enhanced, in the never-ending background?

The truth about Biden’s history is as “nuanced” and troubling as the truth about Trump’s. Having acquired the habit of burying it, why would they dig it back up? 

I would not underestimate the effect of this one either. Obama was protected by being Obama. Biden has been protected by everyone unconnected to Fox News and right-wing media. I expect this to continue — the Biden untouchability effect, if you will — for quite some time.

3. The madness that inflicts both political parties — their use of popular anger around identity and cultural issues to deflect from economic issues — will continue.

Let’s not be confused: The nation desperately needs to have a discussion about identity and cultural issues. Our history of violence, physical and economic, against the (usually impoverished) “other” needs urgent addressing, or the country will simply come apart. But that conversation cannot come as a substitute for addressing the underlying structural economic conditions that maintain our impoverishment. The next Trump rides to power on that wave of silence, just as the last one did.

My cynical self believes that mainstream Democratic power brokers are far less committed to actual identity issues (”Hillary-only feminism” is a prime example; more here and here) than they are committed to keeping their donors happy and thus keeping structural changes off the table. An insincere or semi-sincere commitment to addressing the nation’s real identity and cultural problems serves that purpose perfectly.

The same problem exists on the Republican side. The nation does need a serious discussion about immigration policy. For example, should global corporations be allowed to use the H1B visa program to replace well-paid American workers with lower-wage, imported intellectual workers whose visa status often makes them indentured servants of the corporations that employ them?

Mainstream Republican power brokers, however, are using immigration, as well as other identity issues, to keep race-hate and social anger high among their voting base, thus distracting supporters from the party’s fealty to its donor base. This fealty leads to policies similar to the Democratic Party’s policies — both produce more wealth for the global elites who fund them and less wealth for supporters that keep each party in power.

“Free trade” is a perfect example of a policy with bipartisan elite support, yet is never voluntarily discussed by each party’s movers and shakers. It’s not by accident that only Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump made “free trade” a cornerstone of their 2016 campaigns.

4. As we’ve been promised, “nothing will fundamentally change.”

It’s possible that Biden will prove fundamentally different than his 40-plus-year history of corporate allegiance would imply, that Biden will transform himself and “meet the moment.” Some writers certainly think so, and many of my progressive friends have grown quite hopeful.

Yet as I wrote the last time we took a look ahead, “In none of these cases will much of anything change after the election, at least not once Covid has run most of its course. The need for a radical restructured economy will be waved away — by the corporate Republicans as too much 'government interference'; by corporate Democrats, who control the post-Sanders Party, as 'irresponsible' and 'unaffordable' given the glut of spending on the virus crisis itself. ... Trump, if president, will do what Trump will do, or something worse. The Democrat, if president, will do what the Party always does, serve its donors while trying to placate workers they've abandoned. In neither case will workers see relief.”

Will Biden part the wealthy from their wealth? I just don’t see how, even if he’s magically transformed, Biden becomes Sanders or the next FDR — or if he does, how the Party won't simply block his every move. The Party spent the last 30 years frustrating and defeating progressives at every turn. If Biden becomes one — and though I’d love to see it, I think I’d be a fool to expect it — the Party will simply add him to the list of those whose policies they’ll die trying to defeat.

5. The rebellion against both parties’ corruption will continue as before — or as it would have done had the virus not taken its interrupting course. And as before, the soft censorship mentioned above will consign any real resistance to the crazy bin. 

If past is prologue, resistance not grounded in Party-favored identity issues will be painted as eccentric, or worse, a danger to the republic — with all that implies about populist promises broken, billionaire bailouts purchased and passed, and the clash of the newly-desperate against the muscular force of state and judicial machines, all charged with keeping the “peace” at the expense of progress.

6. Finally, the non-electoral portion of the evening (to steal a line from My Favorite Year) — of our decade-long, confused revolt against those who know better than the people what the people really need — I think that will begin in earnest.

With Sanders gone, or self-exiled, as an “existential threat” to Party elites, there’s no one of his stature to take that place, which leaves the ravaged with no good choice at all. If they choose to act anyway, the corporate state will do what it will do, what entrenched power always does when faced with a rebellion — bring in the thugs, many of whom wear badges. At some point that may not be enough and the nation will break. At another point, it could be way too much and the nation will break again, but in a different way. 

Thus the world without Trump begins to take shape. These are just first thoughts, and they only treat the opening part of the path we're starting on. The rest of that path may be just as predictable, but it’s going to take some time and thought to discern it.


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At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stockbroker #1: [looking over the edge of the balcony] I think Alan Swann is beneath us!
Stockbroker #2: Of course he's beneath us. He's an actor!
Stockbroker #1: No! I think Alan Swann is beneath us right now!

At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernie's presence as a national figure is really an artifact of the past 4 years. For a lot of people he came out of nowhere. It's true that there is no one in the wings with the same potential national profile (e.g. as a Senator or Governor). The near horizon is pretty bleak. The Beto/Buttigieg/Harris generation is mostly a wasteland of ambitious, but fairly conventional 1990s style New Dems. But at the local and state level and in the House of Reps things are a lot more promising. Also, unlike Bernie, who pretty much stands alone, or at least in a minority (he would have had some company if Wellstone was still alive and if Feingold had survived politically), the next generation should have a larger foundation and broader support networks. Near term doesn't look great -- a Biden win and flip in control of the Senate will mitigate some harm -- but longer-term there's more reason for hope.

At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trump is leaving behind hundreds of hack "jurists". The "Democrats helped by fast-tracking the confirmations.

For many decades, starting with the hack "jurists" Reagan put on the various benches, "Democrats" have done this to America. Some of these "solons" will still haunt the nation in some variant of a life form for as many as 50 more years (assuming that Mother Nature doesn't take us out first). The "laws" and "decisions" these "deciderers" hand down will contaminate life in America for many more years after that.

And they are the lesser of the two evils that we're supposed to enthusiastically vote back into power.

Stop the world, I want to get off.

At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Thomas made 3 mistakes herein:

1) ID issues are used more to keep the potted flora distracted. If I may paraphrase the late great Molly Ivins, keeping those being ratfucked from realizing just who is doing the ratfucking. Since neither political party has any interest in the potted flora realizing anything of the sort, the ID distractions will, if anything, become more prominent. Their media partners will only be too happy to help.

2) Vastly overestimating what Bernie is and was. He was what the party used to maximize the number of potted flora that showed up in 2016 and again this time. There are ONLY two ways the democraps can win the odd election:
a) run against the most odious existential threat opponent as a 'greater evil'
b) have some charismatic facade of a progressive buffalo a few million of the voters who are not regular participants.

Bernie was not sufficient in 2016, due to the democraps' self-suppression of nominating the greatest bank whore in history and ratfucking Bernie in several primaries to do it (to say nothing of the various firewalls protecting the party from any kind of REAL progressive -- the $uperdelegate$). But it was hoped that his contribution in 2020 would be a hedge against some sort of self-immolation by their latest worst candidate ever who SHOULD be even more hated than the bank whore.

It turns out that trump's covid nonresponse and increasing insanity, paranoia and incoherence is probably enough by itself. we'll see.

3) "With Sanders gone as an “existential threat” to Party elites, there’s no one of his stature to take that place, which leaves the ravaged with no good choice at all."

I'm actually shocked that you forgot about AOC already. Plainly, she is not who she pretends to be, but the potted flora won't ever know this. And she'll be of age in 2024 to run against kamala, who will be running as the incumbent (and both will be running as NOT whomever the nazis puke up). The democraps won't allow her to win if she runs as a progressive, and if she runs as the toned-down centrist that the party might allow, her real progressive base may abandon her as yet another charlatan ... like slick willie and obamanation and biden and harris.

and still the ravaged will have no good choice at all.

otherwise, this is one fine piece.

one wonders when the pundits who see all the trees clearly will finally see the forest for what has to happen -- cut it down, burn it and replant totally.

but it's probably too late for that... 40 years after the DLC and all.

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The republicans have won already. They pay both parties payroll, they run the TV networks, they own the electronic voting companies & own the courts. The Trump/Biden ticket defeated the progressives just like the Trump/Clinton ticket did, one word "Socialist". If you want to write a more cogent book. I'd suggest a title of "Lifestyles of the hard & soft Republicans." or "Whores-R-US".

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

a world without trumpISM is what you mean. since the democraps never undo any evil done before and expand a lot of that, trumpISM isn't going anywhere. It'll be there to take off again like a rocket in 2 or 4 years when the democrap inaction and betrayals will create the next slaughter at the hands of the nazis.

you remember 2010? do you care?

nixon and reagan are dead, but we are still perfecting nixonism (when the president does it, it is NOT illegal...) and reaganism (greed, supply side, voter stupidity, greed... did I forget greed?). trump's syphilitic corpse could be buried tonight but trumpISM will be with us until the whole shithole descends into the vortex for the last time.

democraps' only founding principle is to never, ever undo anything that their donors want.


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