By Doug Porter
In some deep, dark corner of hell, Osama Bin Laden must be having a good laugh. Fifteen-plus years after his group leveraged a half-million dollars in costs into a $4 trillion hit on the global economy, the after-shocks continue to eat away at the core of the secular democracy he so despised.
While a good part of the al-Qaeda plan may have been to provoke the United States to increase its military and cultural presence in the Middle East, it also spawned a rot domestically.
I would argue there is a definable link from much of the US response to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center with the economic and political conditions making possible the election of Donald J. Trump as President.
It’s not the only reason or even the main reason. But there’s a connection.
On an economic level, the decision to invade Iraq and pay for it by running up the national debt made it impossible to even consider the kinds of intervention, whether it was building domestic infrastructure or massive training programs, needed to mitigate the impacts of globalization.
On a cultural level, the ginning up of fear of the ‘other’ in response to the metastasization of jihadi attacks following the failure of western efforts in that part of the world, set the stage for a rationalization of racism and misogyny.
On an institutional level, the sense of a constant state of emergency made possible the public-private partnerships in law enforcement and the intelligence industrial complex making social control and oppression an easy option.
Thus we end up with the beginnings of an authoritarian state. An autocratic personality now holds sway over the executive branch of the federal government. Big Daddy is in Washington to save the day.
Who’s on First?
Reports in the major media indicate that the man with a plan didn’t actually have one.
Sunday’s The Wall Street Journal reports Trump’s advisers failed to prep the president-elect in the day-to-day operations of the West Wing. As a result, Trump now has to have a crash course in how to president:
During their private White House meeting on Thursday, Mr. Obama walked his successor through the duties of running the country, and Mr. Trump seemed surprised by the scope, said people familiar with the meeting. Trump aides were described by those people as unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama’s term.
An Olive Branch to Congress
The appointment of Reince Priebus as Trump’s Chief of Staff gives the incoming administration a pipeline to the Congression leaders eager to fill the void of campaign promises with policy proposals. They’ll be re-packaged to shine brightly for the new President, who will claim them as his own.
Make no mistake about this: there is nothing new coming from Republicans. The only question remaining is the order in which these policies will be implemented.
My best guess is that lining their own pockets comes first. A proposal to re-build infrastructure is forthcoming. The promise of jobs makes this an easy first sell. It’s also a sure-fire way to dull political resistance.
But if you look underneath the hood of the Trump program as defined in his campaign promises, the financing for all this wonderfulness will come via some form of revenue bonds.
The reconstruction of the nation’s infrastructure will include (automated) toll booths.
The rest of Trump’s agenda will get rolled out in waves, starting with new executive orders (or eliminating old ones) mandating the round-up of immigrants of the brown persuasion. The details will be left to soon-to-be-announced appointees.
The Executive Branch
The second part of the picture for the incoming administration is filled out via the appointment of Steve Bannon, the Trump campaign CEO and executive chairman of Breitbart News, as chief strategist and senior counselor.
…Trump ran an outsider campaign and Bannon’s hiring signals an intention to keep the insurgent sentiment that propelled his campaign close.
Bannon is a former Navy officer and Goldman Sachs investment banker and has been an executive in the right-wing media for years. His website Breitbart News, which Bannon has been associated with since its start in 2007, has been vehemently pro-Trump throughout his presidential campaign, and is also known for pushing nationalist policy positions, as well as conspiracy theories, and has been criticized as being racist, sexist and anti-Semitic.
Bannon’s wife has also accused Bannon himself in court documents of making anti-Semitic comments.
Bannon’s appointment–and trust me when I say similar ones are coming–creates a second pipeline running from the fringes of domestic politics to the executive branch.
Sadly, too much of the American news media is already trying to normalize the abnormal. The New York Times called the new president’chief strategist a “firebrand.” USA Today described Bannon as an “ally” and “loyalist.” The Wall Street Journal said he’s an “outsider.”
People who know better have been sharply critical of the appointment.
From the Washington Post:
“President-elect Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon as his top aide signals that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House,” said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), in a statement Sunday night.
“It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion when Trump appoints one of the foremost peddlers of White Supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide. Bannon was ‘the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill,’ according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
The statement echoed sentiments from leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, other Capitol Hill Democrats and some Republican Trump critics such as Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who tweeted: “Is there precedent for such a disreputable & unstable extremist in [White House] senior ranks before Bannon?”
And then there’s this:
In June, Gingrich proposed reviving the House Un-American Activities Committee. This morning on Breitbart: pic.twitter.com/tmvv15ngIW
— Alana HorowitzSatlin (@achorowitz) November 14, 2016
Quite a juxtaposition… pic.twitter.com/khbFdet27p
— Joshua Holland (@JoshuaHol) November 12, 2016
A Trump Survival Guide
There’s going to be an ongoing stream of bad news coming out of the nation’s capitol. The question for progressives lies in how respond.
First up: Know Your Enemy.
For understanding Trump, the autocrat, I strongly suggest Masha Gessen’s article in the New York Review of Books. She’s studied the rise of Russia’s current leadership (the one Trump likes so much) and wrote The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin.
Here’s my much-condensed version:
Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization.
Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. Consider the financial markets this week, which, having tanked overnight, rebounded following the Clinton and Obama speeches.
Rule #3: Institutions will not save you. It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system; the judiciary collapsed unnoticed.
Rule #4: Be outraged. If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock.
Rule #5: Don’t make compromises. In an autocracy, politics as the art of the possible is in fact utterly amoral.
Rule #6: Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. Failure to imagine the future may have lost the Democrats this election.
Secondly: It’s time to get to work.
While I know it’s important to learn from the mistakes of the past, I’m already overstuffed with post-election analysis.
Jim Miller’s SDFP write-up is about all you need. Really.
Those who feel we just needed to Fact Check the Trump campaign a little more should read Jesse Andrews’ Storytelling Won the Election.
I am an idiot novelist and screenwriter and I know the dumb reason why Trump won.
Some of the articles I’m seeing are little more than replays of the Bernie Bros vs HillaryBots hatefests we saw on social media last summer.
Democratic strategist Peter Daou is waging a social media campaign to purge anybody who didn’t support Hillary Clinton.
By the time these factions get through arguing, the Trump administration will have consolidated power.
Some mainstream types are arguing for a wait and see attitude. NY Daily News columnist and civil rights activist Shaun King (who told everybody for months that Trump could win) gets it right:
Now, I am hearing people say that we should wait and see what a Donald Trump administration actually does before we mobilize our opposition to him. Frankly, that is the dumbest, most aloof, disconnected, privileged thing I’ve heard the past two years. If you believe we need to wait and see what Donald Trump and his team stand for, it is probably because you feel pretty strongly that you and your loved ones will not be targets of his administration or their policies. With few exceptions, the only people I see encouraging Americans to give Donald Trump a chance before they are outraged are white heterosexuals. Everybody else is panicking.
It’s hard to plan when you’re panicking, but hear me and hear me well — we should be gravely concerned. We should be sounding the alarms. We should be protesting and planning fresh boycotts of Donald Trump and everything he touches. We should be organizing action plans against every possible policy and executive order we expect to be coming down the pipeline.
The San Diego Free Press/OB Rag will make it Job One to share the news about people organizing protests and responding in other ways to the Trump administration.
We will, however, do so with the vision that it will take a huge coalition of people doing things on many different levels to oppose the coming wave of injustice. Don’t ask us to disrespect activities you may feel are beneath you.
In the coming days, we’ll be serving as a platform for a variety of organizations interested in working to oppose Trump.
In the meantime:
- Show up, in your community.
- Make stopping Trump a regular habit.
- Take care of yourself and others.
On This Day: 1900 – Composer Aaron Copland was born. 1978– Jimmy Carter-era OSHA published standard reducing permissible exposure of lead, protecting 835,000 workers from damage to nervous, urinary and reproductive systems. 1995 – The US government instituted a partial shutdown, closing national parks and museums while most government offices operated with skeleton crews. (Remember Newt?)
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