What do you get when you
fall in love build a self-referential neoliberal bubble? A guy with a pin to prick it.
The only ‘stunning upset’ about Trump’s election was that it left a lot of people stunningly upset. If they’d pulled their heads out of each other’s backsides they could easily have seen it coming.
One fears for America’s corvidae family. It looks like turkey will be out, and crow in, on many Thanksgiving tables on the 24th of November.
Take this example of groupthink from December 2015:
Firstly, he [Trump] will not be the next President of the United States and secondly, he will not get even close to securing the Republican nomination. By spring, he will have packed his bags and said goodbye to the circus. There are forces with more power, wealth, intelligence, guile and all encompassing self-interest that will not allow this showboating huckster anywhere near 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC. The GOP would never in a million years adopt an erratic train wreck like Trump to go head-to-head against Hillary Clinton for fear of electoral collapse and decades of obscurity.
Alas for the dump-Trumpsters, it was the Democrats who used their “power, wealth, intelligence, guile and all encompassing self-interest” to flirt with oblivion by crowbarring Lady Blood Diamond into the candidacy over Bernie, the membership’s choice.
Trump would probably still have beaten Bernie in the electoral college. Americans in general are resolutely misled over the difference between socialism and totalitarianism. But I’d wager that Bernie would have picked up a bigger margin in the popular vote than Clinton.
As one of those not in the least surprised by Brexit or the Trumpster (even though I’m instinctively Remain/Bernie/Corbyn), it was refreshing to see a stale, corrupt political elite successfully challenged for the first time I can think of in my lifetime.
Remember that Bliar and Hopey-Changey were both absolute con-jobs whose actions completely belied their rhetoric. Trump, Brexit, Sanders and Corbyn are all focal points of popular frustration with a paradigm that looks like nothing so much as the elites withdrawing into a shining city on a hill and preparing to pull up the drawbridge.
Ordinary – or better still ‘ordinary hard-working’ – people have no place in the city. They just get to pay for the elites’ pleasures while listening to mainstream media propaganda telling them they’ve never had it so good.
Since the 1960s, the elites have worked hard at ‘perfecting’ – as they saw it – the democratic process. In essence that means ensuring that the government always gets in, whoever the people vote for. In terms of the quote above, idea is that the elites use their ‘power and wealth’ to co-opt bright young men and women as politicos and pundits. These charming flacks employ their ‘intelligence and guile’ to maintain what Joe Bageant characterised as a “hologram” in which every citizen props up an iniquitous structure in order to protect a redundant dream of personal wealth and self-actualisation.
Drink the Kool-Aid
Going back to the Abe Lincoln-attributed quote in the last post, when you’re trying to fool all of the people all of the time, you have to be very careful not to fool yourself too. Abe wouldn’t know what Flavor Aid is but he’d recognise the expression ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ meaning to believe your own peer group’s propaganda at whatever cost to society and yourself.
Even my very thinly-populated social media stream was full of apocalyptic wails on Wednesday morning. They came from people who are white, middle class and, generally, close enough to the shelter of the city on the hill not to need to worry about immediate fallout from President Trump or Article 50. Yet you’d have thought black vans were already en route to their homes, loaded with government-sanctioned redneck lynch mobs.
In many cases, these reactions came from people seeing their pensions eroded, local services shut down and their children priced out of home ownership and forced into massive debt in return for an often second-rate higher education.
Not that the problems underlying those problems are fixable in the sense that real growth will come back for decades or centuries (it’s to do with net energy available to industrial civilisation). The point is that the world went through an inflection point not when American electors chose Trump this week but when it rolled over into The Long Descent somewhere between 1995 and 2005.
The folks in the city on the hill realise that the cake will slowly but steadily shrink from now on. Moreover they’ve understood why for around 20 years. Did they start a grown-up, “liberal-progressive” debate about how society might get together to find ways to mitigate the effects of its predicament?
Did they fuck. They went to war over the last remaining decent-sized stocks of oil and natural gas (high-quality energy) in the Middle East. All the while spinning out pipe dreams about self-driving cars and Elon Musk’s frankly bonkers man-on-Mars plan. The game is to prevent thinking people from thinking too hard about what’s actually happening in their own lives. And also engaging people in endless debates about which flavour of Kool-Aid ‘matters’ most – black lives, LGBT rights, Disabled Access, First Nation land rights or whatever.
Well, durrr. They all matter. But they are also being used as a smokescreen to distract everyone in the 99% from the scale of the ongoing theft of real wealth and its substitution with IOUs that the elites know they cannot honour in a resource-constrained future.
Now it seems that even the best bread and circuses that technology can provide aren’t enough. Trump and Brexit were moments when ‘ordinary hard-working’ people turned round and bit the hand that was feeding them a diet of mass media bullshit.
The shame on all of us is that we’ve gone along with it for so long that the only way for Americans to register their disgust with a democratic process systematic rigged against them was to elect a showboating huckster.
Abe never said it
As a postscript, there’s no record anywhere of Abraham Lincoln uttering the famous quip about fooling people all the time. It’s very likely the phrase was invented, long after Abe was assassinated, as an adversing gimmick to sell false teeth, tobacco and booze among many other things.
Like they say, believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.