Rational Voters and Irrational Experts
Large swaths of the US electorate are voting for rational choices against a system controlled by an economic and political oligarchy.
Rational choice is based on their experience with political leaders who have pursued policies leading to a trillion dollar financial crisis and bank bailouts while impoverishing millions of mortgage holders and working families – the US tax payers.
Their rejection of the established leadership of both major parties is rational. It reflects an understanding that campaign promises are worthless.
They want rational commitments to address growing inequality and end the series of overseas wars which have weakened America. They identify with the slogan to ‘make America strong again’, emphasizing a dramatic transformation of the domestic economy and security system.
An army of political pundits have ignored the rational socio-economic and political choices exercised by the American electorate and repeatedly turn to psycho-babble, pontificating that contemporary voters are really reacting out of ‘anger’ and ‘irrational emotionalism’ or even ‘racism’ in their preference for non-establishment political figures like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The experts deny the objective bases for popular voter choice.
Sanders and Trump: Appeals to the New Rationality?
The woeful and wilful blindness of political experts is a product of their own arrogance and hostility to the emergence of two Presidential candidates: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, who challenge the established party and economic leadership.
The Sanders campaign has proceeded along the lines of a political polarization between big business and the working class; demanding higher taxes for the wealthy and greater social spending for public health and education for the working class.
Sanders has sought to unify racial and ethnic minorities and majoritarian workers with progressive gender, religious and environmental movements.
The Trump campaign, on the other hand, has sought to mobilize the white American majority among workers, small businesspeople and professionals, who have seen their living standards decline over the decades and have been marginalized by globalization and the ‘politics of identity’.
Sanders emphasizes a refurbished class identity. Trump promotes new nationalist symbols. Yet in many ways the establishment opposition, the parties, mass media and the economic elite, are far more hostile to Trump’s ‘nationalist politics’ than Sanders’ democratic socialist program and class appeal, which they view as weak and easily manipulated – like the huge anti-war movement was manipulated during the Bush and Obama Administrations.
Sanders apparent willingness to come to terms with the Democratic Party elite and back Clinton’s candidacy when he loses the nomination is far more acceptable to the establishment than Trump. As in all previous presidential campaigns, the Democratic Party will allow progressive candidates to propose advanced socio-economic campaign platforms in order to secure working class and middle class votes, and drop the progressive façade in favor of corporate-warmonger policies once in office.
Trump’s initial nationalist-anti-globalist rhetoric has aroused greater animosity from business, liberal and militarist elites than Sanders occasional critical comments.
Trump’s nationalism was rooted in popular and reactionary sentiments. On the one hand he would speak of relocatingmulti-national corporations back to the US. On the other hand, he would demand the expulsion of over ten million Mexican immigrants from the US labor market.
His anti-globalization-business relocation strategy is vague and lacks several essential ingredients: He did not specify which multi-nationals would be affected and he did not describe what policies he would implement to force the trillion-dollar corporate return.
In contrast, Trump was brutally clear about which immigrants would be expelled and his methods of expulsion and exclusion leave no ambiguities. ‘Build the Wall!’, has become his rallying cry to keep out migrant workers from the southern border.
Trump’s Electoral Victory and Neoliberal Right Turn
Trump’s unorthodox, controversial and successful campaign to secure the nomination for the Republican Party’s candidate for president has led him to appeal to the big donors for campaign funding and endorsements from Republican neo-liberal establishment leaders like Congressional Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. This quest for ‘respectability’ has caused Trump to shed his anti- globalization rhetoric and economic nationalist politics, and focus on his more chauvinist ethno-racist appeals.
Trump’s current electoral strategy seeks to unify the hard neo-liberal political elite with the ‘patriotic’ white working class.
Trump’s ideological road to the Presidency is no longer paved with economic-nationalist attacks on globalization. Instead he relies on arousing public support by stigmatizing minorities as ‘anti-American’ and targeting Clinton’s personal ‘corruption’ and lies, rather than her domestic and foreign policies.
Trumps’ “Make America Strong” rhetoric ties in neatly with President Obama’s tariff wars against China’s steel exports to US markets.
Trump’s “Make America Strong” proposals mirror Obama’s systematic assault on the World Trade Organization’s role in negotiating trade agreement and the recent imposition of Washington’s dictates of the WTO’s settlement process.
Obama blocked the reappointment of an objectionable (read independent) South Korean lawyer who opposed Washington’s blatant violation of WTO rules. Trump would endorse Obama’s promotion of US business lobbies against the WTO.
Trump also echoes Obama’s policy of favoring globalization only insofar as Washington maintains control of the key international institutions controlling the global economy. Trump would continue Washington’s policy of packing global institutions with its vassals.
Trump in the Footstep of Sanders
Trump’s embrace of the neo-liberal business elite mirrors Sanders submission to the Democratic Party bosses. Trump seems to believe that his mass base of supporters will be fooled by his increasing provocations against immigrants accusing them of stealing jobs while spreading crimes and drugs…and not notice his new embrace of the establishment economic elites.
Trump’s mass meetings are composed almost exclusively of white working and middle class voters – especially in parts of California and the Southwest with huge Hispanic and immigrant populations. These are clearly designed to provoke violent protests.
Trump gains nationalist support by circulating videos of NBC, CNN and ABC reports depicting his peaceful white supporters being ‘terrorized and beaten up by mobs of (Mexican-American) protestors waving Mexican flags and sporting gang insignia.’
Trump calls on his American supporters to ‘stand strong’ against demonstrators who grab and burn the Stars and Stripesand stomp on his “Make America Great” campaign hats.
Trump’s turn to the neo-liberal Republican elite means he will intensify his repressive and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Trump’s appeal will be aided by mindless violent protestors and provocateurs as they conveniently “overwhelm the police” at anti-Trump rallies. He effectively promotes in the “propaganda of the deed”: linking disloyal immigrants who wave the Mexican and not the US flag.
The recent realignment of the Republican Party will bring Trump into the arms of the hardline neo-liberal Congressional-Wall Street elite. This shift means Trump’s ideological and mass base will focus on ‘domestic enemies’ – Mexicans, Muslims, women and ecologists rather than the economic elite and the devastating foreign policies of previous administrations.
Trump expects a wholesale incorporation of the Sanders support machine into the Clinton campaign. In this scenario, marginalized White workers and downwardly mobile middle class voters will confront the real face of Wall Street’s darling warmonger Mme. Clinton and be less likely to reject Trump’s opportunism with the rightwing Congressional business alliance.
Any working class opposition to his embrace of the neo-liberal Congressional Republicans will be deflected by revelations of Clinton’s big business dealings and covert operations with foreign leaders. If pursued by the FBI, Clinton’s blatant violation of federal security regulations, her ‘private’ and illegal system of communication and liaison with foreign officials while Secretary of State could blow up her campaign and hand the presidency to Donald Trump.
Trump has gained working class voter support in West Virginia, Ohio and many other rust-belt states because of Clinton’s free trade and anti-working class history, which has shattered any residual illusions about the Democratic Party.
Trump’s electoral victory will hinge on his capacity to mask his turn to the neo-liberal elite and to focus voter attention on Clinton’s militarist, pro-Wall Street politics, her corrupt conspiratorial behavior and her anti-working class policies.