Dear Off Guardian readers,
Warm greetings, my name is Bill Martin. You can read a little about me at the end of this article. I have been writing about the Trump phenomenon and related matters since March 2016, at CounterPunch.org.
Increasingly, I have found myself out of step with most of what is written there, and the editor there has now determined that it would be best if I moved on. The editors at OffGuardian have kindly offered to continue my series, and for this I am very grateful.
The basic argument in these articles is that the presidency of Donald Trump represents a clarification regarding how our social system works and a disruption of business-as-usual in this system.
(Of course, I go into many specifics in the articles, and if you would care to read more deeply on my larger perspective, please see especially “The Trump Experiment” and “The Fourth Hypothesis” at CounterPunch.org.)
For his efforts, Trump is opposed by the far greater part of the Deep State, neoconservatives in the Republic Party, the neoliberal globalist core of the Democratic Party, and the elements that make up the Deep State, with the “intelligence community” at its core.
“The Left” is little help here, having now attached to Identity Politics and the Democratic Party, whether wittingly or unwittingly.
Lastly, let me say that while I support the Trump Disruption and Clarification, I think it is also very important to press the case that, the people who believe in the idea that Trump must be got rid of at all costs either have no clue as to the real costs, or they are themselves agents of the Deep State.
Of course, it is the former among “ordinary Democrats” and Leftists, and my articles are meant as a challenge to their delusions.
Ultimately these articles will be edited and made into a book, which I hope to title, The Trump Clarification: Disruption at the Edge of the System.
* * *
The impeach Trump people don’t understand that if the coup against the elected president succeeds, every future president will know that if he attempts to “drain the swamp” or bring any changes not acceptable to the ruling elite, he, too, will be destroyed.
Voters who want real change will also get the message and give up trying to elect a president or members of the House and Senate who will be responsive to voters. It will mean the end of democracy and accountable government. Unhindered rule by the Deep State and associated elites will take democracy’s place.
Paul Craig Roberts (Russia-insider.com, 11.8.19
Paul Craig Roberts is completely right about the Deep State; where he is just a little bit wrong is in this idea of “losing our democracy”— an expression he uses later in the article and that is often used by liberals and the Left in America when talking about Trump.
For sure, the election of Donald Trump could very well turn out to be the last gasp of what “democracy” there is, and obviously we see how the establishment and the Deep State have responded to that.
However, I do think we need to reach a consensus that when almost anyone (I’m willing to make an exception for Roberts, certainly here) leads into an argument with something about “losing our democracy,” what follows is almost always bullshit.
Certainly that is true when Democrats or the allied Left use this or a similar expression, but let’s cut it out altogether, as it detracts from focusing on where the real power is in the United States and in the world, and what we can do about it.
Here my aim is to say something more direct regarding the current “impeachment process”.
The term “process” has to be placed in scare-quotes because this is a carefully-organized and –timed maneuver of the establishment and the Deep State, stage-managed by the leadership of the Democratic Party.
It resembles thus far certain “processes” in academia that are Star Chamber proceedings, without even the pretense of fairness. But of course fairness is a principle, and this “process” is about power.
Sean Wilentz, in his recent piece in Rolling Stone (Nov. 2019), couches his argument for impeachment in historical terms that, more often than not (e.g., the cases of John Adams and Andrew Johnson), tell against his argument — but he knows he can get away with this because any claim or “argument” will suffice for the anti-Trumper (and, after all: this is a Princeton History Professor we’re talking about!).
The article’s title is “Why We Must Impeach.” Writing in the middle of Kansas, I will invoke Tonto here: Who do you mean, Prof. Wilentz, by that “we”?
Wilentz’s article is an excellent primer in establishment “thought,” both as an exercise in self-justification for the establishment (e.g., many students at Princeton and other elite institutions) and in the bullshit that “blue no matter who”-types lap up as if it was manna from heaven.
One hilarious bit of such bullshit is Wilentz’s assertion, “Trump is said to fear Joe Biden” (p.46).
In the same issue of Rolling Stone, two pages later, Matt Taibbi writes that, “All year, Trump has displayed an almost grastrointestinal eagerness to face Biden in the general election” (“The Biden Paradox,” p.48).
This seems more likely the case to me, and certainly that’s what I thought when the “Blue People,” as I’ll call them, started raving about Trump’s trying to discredit/take down “a political opponent.”
By the way, that’s it for any discussion of Biden by Wilentz: no reference to his manipulation of foreign aid to get Hunter a high-paying no-work/no-show job, and to further strengthen the anti-Russia agenda of the neoliberal and neoconservative military alliance (well represented by the Clintons and Bushes).
No mention of how this same alliance has worked tirelessly to take down Trump since before he was elected, and certainly since then. No mention of how all of this is yet another extension of the “Russia” narrative.
No mention of the relationship of the impeachment “process” to the fact that the Democrats have no one to run against Trump and no actual proposals (Elizabeth Warren’s bizarre fantasies aside — does she really think people are going to vote for a “plan” that has a $52-trillion price tag attached to it?; and Bernie Sanders, on whom more later, also aside, as the DNC is undoubtedly working overtime to deal him out one way or another — note that Mayor Pete recently declared that he is now in a two-way race with Warren, with no mention of Biden or Sanders), and so would prefer to head off running against Trump altogether if they can, and to at least drag out the “inquiry” stage of the “process” as long as possible to try to undermine Trump on the way to an election—if they have to have one.
Instead, Wilentz disparages Trump’s references to “Congress’ lawful investigation” as a “coup.” Wilentz also pulls the standard Blue ploy of dismissing talk of the Deep State as some kind of lunatic conspiracy theory.
Here is another of the central dangers of permitting Trump to stay in office. According to Wilentz, he has shown he will stop at nothing to taint the 2020 election. And more profoundly, he is trying to subvert the American government. Trump and his supporters like to rail against what they call the “deep state” as an un-American force.
But that “deep state” is, in fact, nothing more than the government of the United States of America, which he and his supporters hold in open contempt and which the Trump White House has done its utmost to decimate, replacing responsible officials with flunkies. (p.47)
In the same moment that this article came out, the Deep State itself (with the help of the establishment and Democratic Party leadership) began an open effort to redefine itself, at least as far as the public imagination is concerned.
Here is a helpful guide from Edward Curtin (a sociology professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and excellent debunker of the establishment and Deep State); I have placed the third paragraph of the piece first, then the first two paragraphs:
It was two years ago, early in the Trump administration, when The New Yorker and Salon, among many others, were asserting in no uncertain terms that there was no deep state in the United States, and so Trump had nothing to fear from that quarter since it was a figment of his paranoia.
It gets funny, this shallow analysis of the deep state that is currently big news. There’s something ghoulish about it, perfectly timed for Halloween and masked jokers. What was once ridiculed by the CIA and its attendant lackeys in the media as the paranoia of “conspiracy theorists” is now openly admitted in reverent tones of patriotic fervor. But with a twisted twist.
The “Deep State” has been redefined as career bureaucrats doing their patriotic duty.
– The Metamorphosis of the Deep State, off-guardian.org, 10.31.19
Curtin summarizes at the end of the article, “To think that the deep state is government employees just doing their patriotic duty is plain idiocy and plainer propaganda.”
The thing is, Wilentz doesn’t need to cover anymore for the CIA and other parts of the “intelligence community” among his Blue fan base — they’re fine with a CIA coup against Trump.
And, of course, “responsible officials,” as Wilentz puts it, means people willing to do the bureaucratic, administrative, “political,” police, military, and most of all the secret-police work of advancing the neoliberal/neoconservative military economic compact.
These people are as much “flunkies” as anyone, though they are often highly competent and effective—just like Hillary Clinton is “competent” in ways that Donald Trump is not.
If you’re on the Left, you’re supposed to be able to see through this establishment bullshit.
Therefore, by modus ponens, the “real Left” does see through it and doesn’t get involved in any way (including cheerleading for impeachment) with these machinations; therefore, by modus tolens, if one is not able to see through this bullshit, one is not really on the Left.
Unfortunately, the valid conclusion is elsewhere: This is what the American Left is today.
As for those who do see through the bullshit and refuse to be a part of it, we will have to reconstitute ourselves as a radical force in new terms and new ways.
(I have tried to contribute to this effort. It is difficult work, in theory and practice, and I am feeling my way toward things as best I can. That is why my articles in this series are so long, complicated, diffuse, the latter in the sense of going in many directions—and notwithstanding the need for some good editing heading into the final versions.)
Facebook discussion continues to be a helpful grist for my mill regarding my Trump Clarification project.
The following bit of Facebook dialogue began with a post by a fellow from NYC, who now lives in a small city near Reykjavik, Iceland. He is a poet and Buddhist priest, a meditation teacher, and a fellow CounterPunch writer.
The post referred to Trump as a huckster for his recent move from New York to Florida. The writer says that Trump will probably be reelected, though he “can’t fathom why.” On further thought he attributes this to the ignorance of “USAmericans.”
Two women, with whom I am also friends on FB, make the following contributions:
1. Trump will be reelected because of the corruption of the Democrats, their insane and insidious obsession with Russia, combined with decades of neoliberalism and utter neglect of much of “flyover country”. These people have been subjected to a form of what a friend called ” capitalist nihilism”; they’re now returning the favor.
2. All they have ever done for the past thirty years is shift to the right and try to become more like the Republicans to win elections. Now they have copied the worst elements of the right with these Tea Party conspiracy-mongering tactics, replete with their own woke version of Rush Limbaugh in Rachel Maddow, peddling nonsense every night on MSDNC.
That term, “capitalist nihilism,” deserves to enter our general political category! My own contribution to the thread:
The terms “left” and “right” have now completely outlived their usefulness, but if they must be used, let’s just recognize that there is now a “Left” (“developing”/devolving for roughly thirty years now) that is to the right of the Right.
We now see a “Left” that, wittingly or unwittingly, is on board with an impeachment “process” that is nothing more than a rolling coup to put the CIA-led Deep State back into full control.
This is not about Republicans or Democrats, except that the latter is at present the leading “political” steering media for this restoration of the establishment.
Once this restoration occurs, it will become much harder to loosen things up again. Perhaps, though, when the establishment/Deep State reasserts itself, under Democratic Party leadership, the conditions will be ripe for the emergence of a Yellow Jersey-type movement of working people in the U.S.
(But note the general lack of enthusiasm by the U.S. Left for the Gilets Jaunes in France. This mainly shows the instinctive way that the U.S. Left now folds itself into the Democrats, as the Gilets Jaunes are not protesting France’s Trump but rather France’s Hillary.)
Whether Donald Trump is a true spanner in the works of the establishment/Deep State or simply a loose screw in the mechanism, there is no excuse for getting behind the Democrats and this impeachment “process.” None whatsoever.
As this “process” goes forward, however, it should be obvious to those with eyes and ears with which to see and hear, or, more to the point a brain with which to think, that the establishment and the Deep State do see Trump as a threat. “God bless the Deep State,” said former CIA deputy director/acting director John McLachlan last week, regarding the impeachment drive.
Trump’s main effectiveness in disruption and clarification has been “rhetorical.” What this means is that what he has mainly done is to pull the curtain back on how things really work with the establishment and Deep State. (Tulsi Gabbard did a good job with this a couple weeks earlier, and this was a good thing quite apart from anything else that can be discussed regarding Gabbard.) My view is, Keep going, Toto!
The view of today’s Left, that supports this “impeachment process”/establishment coup is that they are fine with, or at least can accept, what they see behind the curtain. “Because Trump … .” That’s ridiculous. In fact, one would want to say it’s insane, truly crazy.
One last thing that I hope concentrates how crazy liberals and the Left are these days: Comparing Trump with Hitler (or the “Trump regime” with the Third Reich) is not only crazy and ridiculous, it is anti-Semitic. It is a complete trivialization of the Holocaust and much else that is horrible besides.
To pick up on the Facebook conversation I began this section with: my fellow Buddhist and CounterPunch writer then responded especially on the “Left” question:
“[T]he “left” you refer to are not “Left” at all. They are US liberals and neo-liberals and a large group of center-Rightists. The Left barely exists in the US and this is clear from every[where] else in the world that there is a Left. The US Left (what there is) DOES support the popular movements we see in France and elsewhere.
All my comrades do certainly and are actually careful and critical in their thinking (a sign of a real Leftists, imho). Personally though, I do not refer to the impeachment activities as a “coup” nor do I think it helpful to say as it most certainly is not, by any definition.
That there are divided sectors of the US ruling establishment explains both Trump’s rise, longevity and present circumstances. He is benefiting many within the ruling class (see his judiciary appointments and his anti-environmentalism stances) but his anti-interventionist instincts (less global worldview and sort-of “America First”-ism à la Lindbergh) puts him at odds with other elements of the establishment.
Either way, the ruling class, made of both Reps and Dems remains unchallenged. A Left, would and does [challenge the ruling class?] in areas around the US but in far smaller numbers than elsewhere. My 2 cents…
One screwy thing on my part was that, because my contribution was predicated upon the other two comments, I had forgotten that the writer of this last part was also the one who initiated the conversation in the first place. So, I looked up this person and asked them if we had met previously in Iceland, as I had been there for a philosophy conference in 2014. However, not thinking about the original post, about how Trump will be reelected, I propose that some of our disagreement is perhaps more “semantic.”
I appreciate the spirit of what you were saying, but I disagree quite a bit, but perhaps there are some semantic aspects that could be cleared up.
The “Left” I refer to is not “left” at all–of course, on some level, and as I’ve said, they are to the right of the Right. However, they are “the Left” as it exists in the U.S.–they are largely folded into this “impeachment process” and the Democratic Party agenda of neoliberal globalism. As far as a “Left” that is other than this goes, perhaps there are a few anarchists.
What I am calling a “coup” is the attempt, through the “impeachment process,” to remove Donald Trump from the White House, because he is perceived as a threat to the smooth functioning of the Deep State, the establishment, the ruling class, and the neoliberal/neoconservative compact on the globalist economic and military agenda.
To what extent has he affected the power of the establishment, etc.?
I would say not very much – perhaps more than an ant stepping on an elephant’s toe, perhaps “1-2%” if there was any possibility of quantifying things. But this does not mean that he is not perceived as a threat. There’s a joke in Chicago politics about the Dalys (former mayors Richard M. and Rich Daly):
“What do the Dalys call 99% loyalty?” Answer: “Disloyalty.”
Anything departing from the neoliberal globalist agenda cannot be tolerated. With the Democrats, any departure from that agenda will not get a candidate anywhere near the White House, almost certainly not even near the nomination.
If, with a mass movement, Bernie Sanders manages to prove me wrong on this point, I will be quite pleased – and not because he is a “real socialist” or even an anti-imperialist (he’s neither), but because he will also be a disruption to the smooth running of the agenda.
In any case, I think the disruption and clarification brought about by Trump, mainly in the “Toto”/pulling back the curtain-mode, is real and good and to be supported. I’m not saying that there aren’t some bad things that go into this deal – there are.
But there is much more to this than the accepted binaries of the establishment and the system–Democrats and Republicans, factions of the ruling class that are representative of different sectors of capital (which is what the Clinton impeachment was about, along with different views of American power in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union; though, yes, this is in play in the present, too, especially in terms of finance capital and its relation to other sectors of capital, perhaps especially manufacturing and other areas where ordinary workers are employed), and “left” and “right.”
On some level what ought to really frighten us is not the idea that Trump is “like Hitler” or that “U.S. history is at its lowest ebb” (as a friend of mine wrote the other day). These are assertions that could simply be regarded as silly products of ignorance, if they weren’t so ludicrous, obnoxious, and offensive. What is actually much more frightening is that all elements of the establishment, including the ideological apparatus and “the Left,” have whipped up a significant number of people who thoughtlessly reach for these desperate “comparisons,” all in an effort whose effect, if it comes about, will do no more than restore the full strength, without exposure, of the neoliberal agenda.
And then the Left can go back to sleep, while the liberals cheer on the destruction of the working class (of all colors, genders, religions, sexualities, etc.) and the military invasions and interventions that will be necessary to keep the neoliberal globalist agenda running for the benefit of the U.S. ruling class, political establishment, Deep State, and, yes, the professional middle class who say they prefer Warren to Biden but will vote for Biden if it comes to that, etc.
The rogue element at the edge of the system is qualitatively better than any of what I just mentioned. What is hopeful here is that Trump’s only hope of beating this impeachment “process” is to follow the lead of Toto and to keep pulling the curtain back. That and the tens of millions of people who know what a sham this thing is.
Bottom line: Whatever anyone thinks of my analysis of the Trump disruption, clarification, etc., and whatever one thinks of my analysis of terms such as “the Left,” there is nothing good that will come from getting mixed up in the power-machinations of the establishment and Deep State–and there is much bad that will come from this.
Thinking afterward, though, about the original post, it seems I did just wander into the territory of “who will be the best Democratic candidate to take on Trump?”
Of those who are plausible candidates, the only one worth thinking about is Bernie Sanders, because that will increase the disruption factor at the edge of the system.
When I question the Hitler-Trump comparison, I sometimes receive responses that are both fantastically over-the-top but that, at the same time, serve to show how ridiculous this comparison is.
Here I will cite the example of someone who is a friend in real life, here in Salina, Kansas (population 48k) — a town where this person has spent the greater part of his life, though I should mention that he has a doctorate in his field and has lived for some years in San Francisco and Ann Arbor.
He hates Salina and almost all of the people here, and feels that he is superior to almost all of them — he’s a very good example of the deployment of the term “rural” in recent years to refer to all but a handful of coastal cities, and certainly to flyover territory.
He constantly says that he hates the United States, too — for instance, his response to Trump’s having served fast-food to Clemson football players after they won the national championship. Of course, he hates those same players, too, so it’s unclear what the problem is, exactly.
He constantly says on Facebook that he wants to leave the U.S., and leave our mostly-pleasant little city here in the middle of the U.S., as if it is the U.S. itself that is stopping him.
A few days ago, my friend posted on Facebook some story from aol.com with the headline, “The stock market could be ‘halved’ if Elizabeth Warren becomes president: Anthony Scaramucci.”
My friend’s comment at the head of the post: “But, of course! Would one expect anything other from a Wall Street representative? Does one expect Nazis to advocate Jewish rights?” Here’s the ensuing conversation:
Me: How do you get from an economic prediction to Nazis and Jews?
My friend: Simply: both Trump and Hitler are in opposition to human rights, particularly those of minorities (e.g., those who are not super-rich, and those who are not Jews). Trump is a documented anti-Semite who reportedly studied Mein Kampf; Hitler also nurtured anti-Semitic tendencies.
Me: I think the comparison itself is anti-Semitic, it trivializes the Holocaust.
My friend: Given that Trump strives to terminate the planet’s life, notably through his denial of climate change, he is worse than Hitler, who limited his ministrations to six-million Jews. Also, there is much documentation of the parallels between Trump’s and Hitler’s strategies, notably from Holocaust survivors. The difference between Trump and Hitler is that Trump’s plans, while in progress, have not yet come to fruition.
“Nurtured anti-Semitic tendencies”? – you think? Obviously, what we have here is a very advanced case of the Trump Derangement Syndrome — but the advanced case reveals the essence of Trump-haters who are attached to the Democratic Party.
The essence is: Say, think, believe anything, no matter how crazy on the face of it, if it is anti-Trump or at least serves to undermine Trump with the aim of getting him out of the White House. We’re a long way from Malcolm X with this current version of “By Any Means Necessary.”
(That we are dealing with advanced TDS here is the reason I won’t take the time to pick apart all the mistaken assertions my friend makes, from his association of Wall St. more with Trump than with neoliberal Democrats such as Hillary Clinton, to the idea that “Hitler limited his ministrations [!] to six-million Jews.” Just on this last bit, I can’t even begin …)
I suppose there is a distinction to be made between advanced/hyper-TDS, where the person actually believes this stuff (Trump is like Hitler or even “worse than Hitler”), and a more “pragmatic” form where spreading this bullshit is just a means to the power-aims of the Democrats, and, in reality, the establishment and Deep State behind the official faces.
Here is Trump Derangement Syndrome in a nutshell — while I’ve had these Facebook interactions in the last few days, this has also been going on: “Visiting Morocco for the first time, Ivanka Trump received a warm welcome Thursday from housewives, widows and other women who are benefiting from new laws that allow them to own land” (apnews.com, Nov. 7, 2019).
The person afflicted with TDS will have one of three reactions to this story: either this is somehow a bad thing, or it isn’t real (it just looks like Ivanka is helping these women, but really she isn’t), or the story will just be ignored altogether if it isn’t possible to go with either of the first two options.
It is quite significant to me that so many TDS-infused “arguments” against Trump, whether it is my friend or Sean Wilentz (who is more or less a Deep State operative, given how he is situated), and all sorts in-between have a significant psychological component. Trump’s plans, Trump’s intentions, his character, etc. — “Trump strives to terminate the planet’s life”: I guess this is what about sixty-two million evil and/or irredeemably stupid people voted for.
In fact, this is what my friend thinks, but it isn’t too far from the path Hillary Clinton opened up with her “basket of deplorables” statement, which includes at least tens of millions, and which she has defended many times since she made the remark.
But my real point has to do with what is going on with this constant recourse to psychology, which includes the role that professional psychologists and psychotherapists are playing as well. My own view is that this is largely an anti-philosophical effort to apply the intentional fallacy to structural issues.
This all bears further discussion, but the main question here is why “the Left” would get mixed up with this TDS, whether advanced/maniacal or pragmatic.
Trump outplayed the system, at least to the point that he got to where the curtain has been pulled back in important ways. For the existing Left, the tragic outcome is that it has been outplayed by the Democrats, and the latter has now played a very important card with this impeachment nonsense.
Almost certainly — or is this wishful thinking on my part? — the only other card the Democrats have to play is impeachment itself.
Sean Wilentz’s (and others’) hyperbolic, tendentious propagandizing aside, it should be taken as significant that the decision was made at some level to go with a “case” that is not only flimsy but also so susceptible to exposure for its many ties to the establishment/Deep State’s ongoing coup attempt.
Those deeply-afflicted with TDS, whether confirmed Democrats or people simply hoping that impeachment will deliver the world from Trump, are not to be reasoned with.
For everyone else in the anti-Trump camp, “the Left” or whatever one wants to call it, I guess you can try to further convince yourself that Trump is some sort of evil that positively requires you to side with institutions that are among the worst things ever, starting with the CIA. Or you can recoil from this tragic dog’s dinner of a turn and try to look and think in other directions.