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The Trump Phenomenon Explained

by Will Denayer

I do not fear the return of the fascists as fascists, what I fear is the return of the fascists dressed up as democrats. T.W. Adorno

Read American newspapers and you will learn that Doomsday is close. These days, the end of the world is not being predicted by astrologers, but by political commentators. Because who knows what will happen if Trump, the bigot narcissist, ever gets elected as president and commander in chief? Donald Trump is perceived as the biggest danger to American democracy since the Civil War. Fascism is knocking at the door of the White House. The American Mussolini has arrived. Be afraid.

This hysteria is nonsense and it makes everything worse than it already is. While Sanders keeps losing in the South because the media ignore him so that people do not know him, Trump became enemy number One to many well-thinking Americans – not the neocons, not the banks, not the austerians, not the frackers, not the religious zealots, the man to attack is Trump the fascist. This divide and rule strategy is as old as the street.

While people are losing their minds over Donald Trump, key leaders of the Democratic Party, Obama included, are making a deal with Republicans for a corporate giveaway of $400 billion (see here and here). It is part of a post-facto tax ‘forgiveness’ for America’s companies. You can read all about the plan and which companies and which sums are involved here. Most voters heard nothing about it because the elites and the media are keeping it silent. In essence, thanks to a loophole in the tax code, multinationals do not have to pay US taxes on profits they have earned in foreign countries. According to William Greider in The Nation, altogether these companies accumulated $2.1 trillion in untaxed profits (see here). They refuse to pay until the politicians steeply reduce the rate. The companies also demand a permanently lowered tax rate on future earnings.

As Greider writes, the revenue loss from the giveaway will inevitably be dumped on other taxpayers by cutting domestic programs. It will therefore without any doubt increase income inequality. The money will end up with those who have already done fabulously well at the expense of other Americans.

No one in Washington opposes this plan, except some Democrats from the left of the party, such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who called the plan ‘a giant wet kiss for the tax dodgers.’ For the rest, there is nobody. It also shows Trump’s hypocrisy. Trump tells his audiences that corporate inversions – give us what we want or we give up US citizenship and move to Ireland – is a terrible problem, but the people that Trump is connected to want Congress to enact the monster tax reduction that the multinationals are demanding (see here). And what does Clinton think about it? No one knows. The journalists forget to ask. Are you sure that it is Trump who is the big danger to American democracy?

The thesis of nearly everybody is that Trump is different in nature from all other politicians. Trump crossed the line of what is admissible in a liberal democracy. Trump insults and belittles people. He insulted Mexicans and wants to deport them. He wants to close the borders to Muslims. He is a compulsive liar and a misogynist. Trump has these idiotic plans like building a wall between the US and Mexico and carpet bomb IS. All of this is true. My sympathy for Donald Trump is exactly zero, which is just as much as for all the others, except for Sanders, who would get my vote. For the rest I disagree: Trump is not different.

I would not want to be black in Trump’s America. But Obama, who is black, has now been president for nearly eight years. One in three black American men will still go to prison in their lifetime (see here). The incarceration rate is still rising. Half of the prison population in the US has been convicted for non-violent crime. According to the Guardian, 1.134 black people were killed by the police in 2015 (see here). Black men are nine times more at risk for being shot by the police than other Americans. To put this in an even more chilling manner, about 1 in every 65 deaths of a young African American man in the US is a killing by police. Unemployment of black men is twice as high as unemployment of white men, even when their levels of educational attainment are identical (see here). This ratio did not change in over more than a decade.

I wouldn’t want to be a Muslim or a Mexican in Trump’s America either. Trump’s statements about Muslims caused a lot of outrage and deservedly so, because they are disgusting. But how many voters agree with it? A poll found that 25% of Democrats support a proposal to ban Muslims if Trump’s name is attached to it. But remove Trump’s name and the support increases to 45% (see here). For Republicans, the percentage is 71. That does in no way excuse Trump, but it shows the hypocrisy.  It is much easier to blame to bogeyman than to confront your own pathologies.

As for Mexicans and illegals from Latin America, Obama deported more of them than G.W. Bush. This is especially bad because since 2014 many people have been fleeing violence and persecution in El Salvador, Guatemala and other Latin American countries. These people have the right to ask for political asylum in the US – they are refugees. Although several senators and members of congress, human right lawyers and activists have asked Obama to stop the deportations, they have since the start of the year again increased, although it is illegal under international law to deport people and especially vulnerable women and young children back to countries where their lives are in danger.

I wouldn’t want to be a woman in Trump’s America either, although there is every reason to expect that, as a woman, I would be much better off under Trump than having to live in Cruz’s insane fundamentalist theocracy or in Rubio’s perverted world in which I would be imprisoned when there would be reasonable suspicion that I would consider abortion after having been raped. And if you want to bet on Hillary Clinton to defend your rights over your own body, you could be in for a nasty surprise (here and here). Here is the latest discussion on Clinton’s and Sanders’s views on abortion (here and here).

Republican congressman Ringell recently wrote wrote an open letter arguing that a Trump presidency would be ‘reckless, embarrassing and ultimately dangerous.’ This view is very widely shared and it may well be true. Who knows what Trump will do? Voting for Clinton, on the other hand, is not considered reckless, embarrassing and ultimately dangerous, although skeletons keep falling out of the closet – the last one is about the coup in Honduras that Clinton actively supported (see here). It has become clear that it was the first lady who pushed Bill Clinton into bombing Serbia in 1999. It was Hillary Clinton who persuaded Obama to attack Libya in 2011 (see here and here and here for two extremely detailed articles in The New York Times). It was Clinton who never relaxed her original point of view that Assad had to go, thereby making a cease fire and pacification in Syria impossible (see here and here).

It is by far not only the political establishment and the press. ‘Perhaps the only surprising thing about the populist backlash that has overwhelmed the politics of many advanced democracies is that it has taken so long,’ writes Harvard economist Dani Rodrik (see here). Something similar happened during the Great Depression. But things are a lot better now: ‘Advanced democracies have built – and retain (despite recent setbacks) – extensive social safety nets in the form of unemployment insurance, retirement pensions, and family benefits’ (see here). This is of course true. The overall situation is nowhere as bad as it was during the Great Depression. But go explain ‘extensive social safety nets’ to the millions of homeless in the US. Thousands of people, mainly men over 50, take their life because of economic factors (see here). There are inner city areas in the US where life expectancy is lower than in Bangladesh. Millions of families live below the bread-line – they are not just poor, they are too poor to buy food. There is no doubt that the system failed millions, not since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, but for the last four decades that wages have basically stagnated. But what is the problem according to Rodrik? It is the populist backlash and ‘the politics of anger:’

‘(To Trump or Sanders), there is a clear “other” toward which anger can be directed. You can barely make ends meet? It is the Chinese who have been stealing your jobs. (…) Political corruption? What do you expect when the big banks are bankrolling our political system? Unlike mainstream political elites, populists can easily point to the culprits responsible for the masses’ ills. (…) (The populists) offer a grand narrative as well as concrete, if misleading and often dangerous, solutions’ (here).

Let me rephrase: Sanders and Trump are both populists. No solutions can be expected from either side. Democracy is a great good as long as it does not endanger the position of the political elites and one shall refrain from pointing the finger at those that are responsible for the economic and social failures of the country. Because to do so smells of a grand narrative, socialism or fascism, and that is dangerous (see also here).

MacWilliams from Amherst organised a national poll last December, sampling 1,800 registered voters across the country (see here). He found that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a Republican voter’s preferred candidate. Only two of the variables were statistically significant: authoritarianism and the fear of terrorism and the former is far more important than the latter.

So, now we know. People are voting for Trump because they are authoritarians looking for a strong leader, not because of wrong policies.

MacWilliams asked a set of four survey questions that measure inclination toward authoritarianism. The questions all pertain to child-rearing: whether it is more important for the voter to have a child who is respectful or independent; obedient or self-reliant; well-behaved or considerate; and well-mannered or curious. Respondents who pick the first option in each of these questions are strongly authoritarian (see here).

I do not want to pick on MacWilliams’s work, but it seems to me that all of his questions are false dichotomies. Is it not possible to be obedient and self-reliant at the same? What is the difference – and the significance – between being a well-behaved or a considerate child and why can well-mannered children not be curious? Why do these questions only pertain to child-rearing preferences? We all grow all our lives, our personalities are not fixed. People become more or less authoritarian over time. To which degree are authoritarian beliefs associated with authoritarian behaviour?

Much of this goes back to the central idea of Adorno et al. in The Authoritarian Personality. Authoritarianism is the result of excessively harsh and punitive parenting. This causes children to feel immense anger towards their parents, yet fear of parental disapproval or punishment causes them to not directly confront their parents, but rather to identify with and idolize authority figures. Adorno’s et al. major hypothesis was that the authoritarian syndrome is predisposed to right wing and fascist ideology and that it produces hostility towards racial, religious or ethnic minorities. It suffices to say that it is all way more complicated. The prototypical fascist leader was not Hitler, it was Mussolini, but fascist Italy was not characterized by anti-Semitism until Hitler forced the hand of the Italians. Even the thesis that people in Germany voted en masse for Hitler because of authoritarian submission is highly disputed. Hannah Arendt did not agree with it. It is clear that people voted for Hitler (or for the NSDAP) for many different reasons.

But the press swallows it. As Amanda Taub wrote in Vox: ‘(T)he extreme nature of authoritarians’ fears, and of their desire to challenge threats with force, would lead them toward a candidate whose temperament was totally unlike anything we usually see in American politics — and whose policies went far beyond the acceptable norms’ (see here).

Because before Trump surfaced onto the political scene the same policies were acceptable.


29 Comments

      • Thank you for your reply. I agree that Bill Clinton has a high charm factor, and Barack Obama not so much. We know Bill Clinton also has a history of covering up his personal indiscretions. There are other controversial statements I’m sure you could make. However, they both lack the intense personality and constant pathological lying, among other characteristics, of a sociopath. Lying to cover up fooling around, for example, is far short of sociopathic pathological lying. Clearly, Trump engages in pathological lying, meaning lying for the sake of lying, and telling one whopper after another. I hope you have read my article. If you did, I’d like you to answer back with a civil and well-thought out argument to support your point. Finally, I will leave diagnosis to the pros.

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        • I don’t understand how anyone who has followed the political statements and doings of both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama can come away with the impression that they are not pathological liars. In fact, I’m at a loss to quote a single non-trivial statement Obama’s ever made about Ukraine and the Baltics, for example, that wasn’t a lie. Furthermore, it’s under his administration that it has become legal for US governments to mislead and lie to the public — an achievement signally ignored in all of our mainstream media and most of the alternative media, too. I am referring to the amendment to the defense budget bill proposed in 2012 and passed in 2013 which removes the long-standing ban on pushing propaganda and deliberate lies onto the American public. Buzzfeed broke the story in 2012. The bill was subsequently passed and Obama let it stand, without using his power of veto.

          http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/07/14/u-s-repeals-propaganda-ban-spreads-government-made-news-to-americans/

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          • Whether those presidents, or other presidents have lied, is another topic. Pathological lying, however, is different than lying in general. I know a person who is a pathological liar, and it is different. These people lie constantly. They tell obvious whoppers like children. They will lie about the weather. They will make up things on the spot, and their lies are often incoherent. Think of Donald Trump being caught on tape, and then reflexively saying he never said what everyone heard him say, or claiming to witness thousands and thousands of people cheering on 911 (and so forth). Without disagreeing with your points above, I do beg to differ that you have described a pathological liar personality. Perhaps a liar, but not a pathological one.

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  1. Lucas white says

    In fact, when you look at the MSM propaganda over that last few years since the travon martin killing…you will see a blatantly obvious media bias. That bias is so clear that only the most idiotic wouldn’t be able to see it.
    But nobody asks Why? Why would a predominantly white and let’s be frank Jewish owned MSM be so bothered about black people being killed by white cops? Why?
    Especially when you know the probably results of continually fuelling the black communities, long standing, pre existing, suspicions and fears. A black community that is still predominantly ghettoised and undereducated (yes that’s where mass ignorance stems from and not me being racist) and poor.
    Most reasonable people would say it was an obvious attempt ignite a tinderbox.
    You can then look at what the affect of all this negative propaganda will have had on the MAJORITY white community. It’s not hard to figure out. Only a fraction of the most die hard politically correct white middle classes would have enough self hate to consider marching for black lives matter after all that. Remember it’s now a taboo to say “all lives matter” why even mark zuckerberg berates his employees for suggesting such a repulsive thing.
    See this is the brainwash and it’s designed to cause devision. It’s quite easy to see.
    Throw a donald trump into this mix and it’s no surprise at what’s happening what so ever. In short trump is in all likleyhood the chosen one.
    The public have been prepped and directed to note for him. It’s quite clear to see.
    America was already a police state, all it needs is a corporate head and trump is the guy.
    And even knowing all this he is still more electable than sanders. Sanders really needs to get his shit togeather fast and broaden his appeal. As for Hillary, I would vote for trump faster than her as atleast it’s a 50/50 for WW3 with trump where as it’s a guarantee with Clinton.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lucas white says

    I want to like sanders as I’m a liberal with socialist tendencies and I don’t want to see anything positive with such an ignorant narcissistic asshole, as Trump is.
    However sanders is too politically correct in my view and the type of guy that has swallowed the guardian style cool aid for too many years, even though that very paper is anti him and Corybn.
    Sanders also panders to the black community and unfortunately for me that’s just as decisive as pandering to the white community or to feminists and if your going to force me to choose sides then I’m going to be forced into choosing based on those dividing principles..and im pretty sure that’s exactly where trumps support is actually coming from.
    You allude to it yourself by pointing out statistics on blacks being target by police more than whites and being incarcerated to far higher rates.
    You however do not deal with the issue that blacks commit more crime percentage wise, because this statistic is a politically correct hot potato and not up for discussion.
    Even when it may well turn out that generations of blacks have faced social exclusion and have been brough up in deprived ghettos which psychologically predetermines them to statistically higher crime rates…for instance…I mean I dunno im not a psychologist.
    Regardless of all this the media have gone full tilt on blowing white on black violent crime out of all reality, for example Zimmerman (a Hispanic Jew) killing travon martin (a 12 year old, well according to the original photo the MSM repeatedly showed) or Barack Obamas son…not a thug with a record of trouble though.
    See sanders buys this kind bullhshit narrative.
    Everyone else is sick of it and unless your black you couldn’t in good conscience vote for sanders. This is what it’s come down to. The MSM (and chiefly the guardian) have succeeded in their divide and concur games and this is exactly where the bulk of trumps support is comming from. Don’t kid yourself otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alan says

    An interesting read although not too sure if there is a phenomenon : certainly the media would have us believe there is or an explanation, if any, is required. The theatrics involved support the belief of many former Presidents, notably FDR
    “The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson.”
    in a letter to Colonel Edward M House dated November 21, 1933, as quoted in F.D.R.: His Personal Letters, 1928-1945.
    Must we understand the antics of puppets?

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  4. Lisa Simeone says

    Excellent analysis, wrapping up many different threads. I’ll send it to my mailing list, but as with almost everything I send, I don’t think it’ll make a dent.

    Cocktail-party liberals don’t want to face the truth about the Democratic Party or about the reasons why Clown Trump is gaining so much ground. They, like Republicans, pledge their allegiance based on one thing and one thing only: whether someone has a “D” or an “R” after his/her name.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Seamus Padraig says

    “Even the thesis that people in Germany voted en masse for Hitler because of authoritarian submission is highly disputed.”

    In fact, in a truly open and fair election, no absolute majority of Germans ever voted for the Nazis at all. Their best showing in such an election came in 1932, when they won around 40% of the vote. That gave them a PLURALITY, but not an absolute majority.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. John says

    I would just make two points.
    First: Hitler was a lot smoother than Trump. Hitler was a politician’s politician. He understood the necessity of staying within what public opinion found acceptable. When his regime started liquidating what they regarded as mental defectives, there was a significant public backlash against the policy, which was quietly dropped and re-started later.
    Second: the article mentions ‘…since 2014 many people have been fleeing violence and persecution in El Salvador, Guatemala and other Latin American countries.’ Who started off the processes of violence and persecution? Was it not the US? Should they not therefore be opening their borders to all those fleeing the fruits of their own interventions?
    While they are at it, should not the US also be opening its borders to all the people fleeing violence and persecution the US started in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria too?
    When will the US political “elite” – to use a questionable term – start accepting responsibility for their own blunderings?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Seamus Padraig says

      No, the US should not be admitting all the refugees in the world. What the US government needs to do is to STOP BOMBING AND INVADING ALL THESE COUNTRIES IN THE FIRST PLACE. I am not at all cool with a policy of ‘invade the world, invite the world’.

      Liked by 2 people

      • John says

        While I agree with you that the US should stop bombing and invading other countries, should they not be held accountable for those countries they have already bombed and invaded?
        The knock-on effects of US aggression has seen Merkel in Germany losing ground electorally.
        Is that what the self-styled US political neo-traitor “elite” actually wants?
        If not, they should take in all the migrants presently flooding into Europe.

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        • elenits says

          I think it is clear by now that Merkel losing power IS what the US political elite wants – Stratfor has long “predicted” Poland taking over from Germany. And migrants flooding Europe and especially Greece – where NATO has stood down the Greek navy and is occupying the Aegean 0 is also part of the grand plan. The EU has not been sufficiently obedient re Russia [Minsk!] or Syria or TTP, and the US nightmare is that EU makes the logical trade connections with Eurasia. This must be prevented at all costs.

          Liked by 1 person

          • John says

            If you are correct, then the self-styled US political elite appear to have forgotten that it was Poland that was the cause of World War Two. Is this their way of starting World War Three? Do they have any real idea as to what they may be initiating? Based on what happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – I very much doubt that they do.

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            • elenits says

              I don’t think neocons do irony or are much concerned with history except its misuse for propaganda. The fact is that Poland entered the EU on the cheap – with minimal EU investment – and is still very poor, which is useful. More important, it is perceived to be ultra-grateful to the USA/ NATO for guaranteeing its independence. Poland is also closer to the Russian border than Germany and has significant ports [US is predominately a naval power]. Add into the mix Brzezinsky and his Polish-American protogees such as ex-power couple neocon Anne Applebaum and husband Radislaw Sikorski, [ex-foreign minister and now professor at Harvard, see John Helmer] and voila, sorted!

              However there has been a temporary set back in Poland’s triumphant accession when Poles voted in the Law and Justice party last summer, following citizens horrified reaction to NATO’s Operation Dragonfly convoy through Poland: Poles really really do not want war with Russia. As it happens, the last time Law and Justice was in power the PM and half the cabinet died in a plane crash which was loudly blamed on Russia.

              Stratfor’s crystal ball also predicts that Poland will take back Brzezinsky’s home province Galicia from Ukraine.

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              • Over the past 20 years, Poland is estimated to have received 200 billion euros from the EU in the form of direct transfers, grants, etc. In fact, the EU has propped up no other country to the extent it has done Poland. It’s membership has certainly not been on the cheap.

                Liked by 1 person

        • Seamus Padraig says

          “While I agree with you that the US should stop bombing and invading other countries, should they not be held accountable for those countries they have already bombed and invaded?”

          I’m all in favor of accountability, but who is to be held accountable here? And how? Refugees aren’t a burden on the elites who made the decision to bomb/invade in the first place; they’re a burden on the rest of us. And in the case of Germany, they had nothing to do with the Syrian and Libyan quagmires at all. Why should they be punished?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Jen says

          The US government should be held responsible and accountable for the bombing and destruction it has caused around the world … by footing the bill for the reconstruction of the countries it has bombed and destroyed.

          The money that Jeb Bush got for his presidential campaign from super PACs in early 2016, before he had to call it off, alone could help buy books, computers and study materials for Afghanistan’s schoolchildren.
          http://graphics.wsj.com/elections/2016/campaign-super-pacs/

          Taking in refugees and migrants (including ISIS sleeper cells nurtured in Turkey) is the last thing the US should do. This puts the burden of accommodating all these people onto local communities and local governments. The Federal government could wash its hands of responsibility for caring, sheltering, feeding and educating these people. The people flooding into Europe need to return to their countries of origin to participate in reconciliation and reconstruction projects.

          It is true that in a lot of cases these migrants were fleeing dictatorships … that is, dictatorships allowed to govern by the US and enjoined by Washington to oppress their people. It’s arguable that if the US had not tried to control the Middle East both directly and indirectly through proxy governments, the instability that prevails in that region would be far less.

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    • “When will the US political “elite” – to use a questionable term – start accepting responsibility for their own blunderings?”

      Never. Nor do I believe any of it is blunder (or “accident”) – it is well planned policy.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. In deed a brilliant article! To the same directions goes my short statement: “US Elections: No Illusions, Deadly Politics Will be Increased!”: https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2016/03/06/us-elections-no-illusions-deadly-politics-will-be-increased/ And for the Fascist agenda of the Neocons, whose spearhead in the Dem Party Hillary is, see:
    “US Power Elite Declared War on the Southern Hemisphere, East Asia and all Non-Western Countries in September 2000”: https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/us-power-elite-declared-war-on-the-southern-hemisphere-east-asia-and-all-non-western-countries-in-september-2000/
    Andreas Schlüter
    Sociologist
    Berlin, Germany

    Liked by 2 people

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