It’s official. The latest of America’s grotesque parodies of democracy has delivered its verdict. Three Strikes Joe, who championed the war on Iraq with its million slain1 and its descent into chaos and terror amid the asset grabs of wholesale privatisation,2 will in January become the forty-sixth commander of the US Empire.
Never mind voter fraud issues raised by Team Trump – baseless, we’re assured, by media I can barely trust with the football scores.3 Never mind the manufacture of opinion, vital to squaring class rule with the trappings of democracy, by media whose business model puts them in thrall to market forces.4 To these aspects of the circus now winding down we can add that the cost of running for the top job currently stands – How Much Does it Cost to Become US President? – at $2-3 billion.5
Meditate on that fact. It says all we need to know about ‘bipartisan’ commitment to the end, though there be growing division over means,6 of preserving Wall Street dominance of the planet and all its resources.
So excuse me while I don’t kiss the sky. Here’s Caitlin Johnstone (yes, again!) this morning:
The hysterical exaggerations of the threat Trump posed weren’t destructive because unfair to Trump, but because they created the false impression that those who came before and those who will come after are not equally depraved.
There’s no chance of Trump challenging the election with any efficacy unless (A) he badly wants to remain president and (B) sufficiently large power structures want him to do so.7 Neither is true. He’s out. Those who spent four years being wrong about Trump draining the swamp are now laboring under the delusion he’d be willing and able to stop the entire swamp from stealing an election from him. He isn’t.
“I voted against fascism.”
No you voted against what you saw as a more dangerous fascism. To pretend that a lifelong murderous authoritarian like Biden is fascism-free is to deceive yourself into future complacency.
And here’s me in August 2016, with Hillary Clinton still the bookies’ favourite for POTUS No. 45:
HRC may not even be the lesser evil. And if she is, it’s by so narrow a margin as to make it a non consideration in electoral choice. Don’t assume I back Trump. He’s unleashed humanity’s basest instincts, as right wing populists do. But what would I do if I were an American? I’d throw heart and soul into exposing a phoney democracy that promises more of the same: imperialist wars and a trail of chaos across the globe …
I never went so far as to declare Trump the lesser evil, though a weak case might have been made for that. On the one hand Clinton was pushing for no-fly zones in Syria of the kind which had helped reduce Libya to chaos, terror and slavery – and now promised to place two nuclear powers in head on confrontation. On the other, Trump had repeatedly expressed a wish to work with Putin against Isis.
I say “a weak case” for two reasons. I doubted – see my 2017 post, Why Trump Rolled Over on Russia – that Trump in office would have either the political capital or the political skills to take on a deep state committed to containing Russia for reasons I’ve set out often – most recently here. Two, other aspects of Trump’s rhetoric suggested that, were he to defy the odds and carry through any such rapprochement, it would be at the cost of – indeed, motivated by – worsening relations with Beijing.
(On both counts – cave-in on Russia, continuation of Obama’s ‘pivot to China’ – we were right, though for all his excesses DRT did not do as HRC had vowed to do. There was no attempt, not even with the doctrine of US Exceptionalism finding terrifying corollary in that of Full Spectrum Dominance, to impose no-fly zones on Syria. No replay – to a chorus of media paeons to that euphemism for Wall Street known as ‘the international community’ – of Cuba ’62.)
In one of my many exchanges as November 2016 approached, an American friend appealed to my sense of taste and decorum. Trump, she insisted, is just so embarrassing! This person, warm hearted and highly intelligent, was voicing the same superficiality, the same blithe indifference to global realpolitik – mirroring, though with less excuse, the tunnel vision of Trump supporters – that the liberal intelligentsia brings habitually to bear on such issues.
Embarrassing! But of course. We don’t do embarrassing in the Oval Office …
And now? Now these giddy liberals are dancing, metaphorically at least, in the streets. There’s a zillion ways I could say why I won’t be out there with them. Here I’ll settle for a list of questions set out on November 4, one day after Big Tuesday, in the Black Agenda Report:
- Will either candidate really have the ability to restore the millions of jobs lost during the current economic crisis?
- Will illegal subversion of Venezuela and Nicaragua stop, and blockade of Cuba end?
- Will the prison-industrial complex that is housing tens of thousands of the Black and Brown economically redundant be closed?
- Will the charges be dropped against Edward Snowden and the extradition demand for Julian Assange end?
- Will Gaza continue to be the largest open-air prison on the planet?8
- Will the U.S. reverse its decision to deploy new intermediate-range missiles equipped with nuclear warheads targeting Russia in Europe and China in the Asia-Pacific?9
- Will the Saudi and Obama-originated war on Yemen end?
- Will the U.S. settler-colonial state really defund the police and the military?
* * *
- One million Iraqi dead is a conservative estimate and does not include the half million under-5 deaths from Bill Clinton’s sanctions; deaths his Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, described as a “price worth paying”.
- The privatisation of post invasion Iraq was overseen by Paul Bremer, on whom the Bush administration conferred powers of literally life and death. As with privatisation in Chile, Poland, South Africa and other states beholden to Washington, hence to Wall Street, Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine (2007) is excellent. I have little interest in Klein’s wider views but her mix of meticulous documentation with a lucidly gripping narrative makes this an invaluable source. On only one matter has history shown her wrong on Iraq. She writes of the victors steering clear of oil, since asset grabs there would be too blatant. But evidence available even as Shock Doctrine went to print shows oil to have indeed been an offer Wall Street could not refuse.
- “Media I can barely trust”? I do not say individual journalists are conscious liars. A few are. Most, I suspect, aren’t. But journalists, fewer and fewer of whom actually get out and investigate, are no less credulous than the next guy. Worse, journos who know what’s good for them please editors. Editors who know what’s good for them please proprietors. And proprietors? Be they Citizen Kane style kingmakers like Murdoch and Rothermere, or Trusts like Guardian Media Group, footnote 4 applies.
- Noam Chomsky: “media are big businesses selling privileged audiences to other big businesses. Now the question is, what pictures of the world would a rational person expect from this arrangement?”
- Update June 2021. I unintentionally misled readers with the implication that running for president requires $2-3bn in sponsorship. That figure, I later realised, refers to the overall cost of conducting the US presidential election. The difference is too large to leave unamended, but too small to negate my wider point that in the USA, even more than in the West at large, democracy is a charade. One reason for saying so was given in a post on the media in the wake of poor showing by Britain’s Labour Party in June 2021: I can think of no more cogent argument for insisting that Western democracy is ninety-five percent bogus than that (a) democracy implies consent, (b) consent is meaningless if not informed, and (c) informed consent implies truly independent media. That last we do not have when they are “large corporations selling privileged audiences to other large corporations”. To which we can add that when an election costs billions, mostly spent on airtime, the large corporations buying those privileged audiences are the two front-running camps.
- In a recent post, needlessly fogged up by my lifelong vice of trying to say too many different things, I cited an 8,000 worder by Dimitrus Konstantakopoulos. This former Syriza leading light points to a serious rift within the imperialist camp, not just in the USA but across the global north, between neocon and neoliberal. (A divide reflected loosely at best in that between Democrats and Republicans.) It is in this context that the Biden-Trump play off should be seen.
- The much touted fantasy of Trump Refusing To Go is a textbook case of lust, probably hard wired into our species, for comic book villains. We can get seriously high on the righteous indignation of it all, and on a vision of the Good Guys storming in, Navy Seal style, to evict the Bad Guy. (Our narrative managers play on this addiction to childish morality tales – Assad, Assange, Mugabe, Putin et al.) The truth, as Caitlin says, is that Trump lacks the power base for any such thing. Any usefulness he may once have had for US imperialism’s neocon wing is spent. He has no viable plan – which would have outweighed any amount of embarrassment – for stopping China’s rise.
- This from the centrist Al-Monitor, November 6: “If Netanyahu were eligible to vote in the USA he would have voted for Trump. On the other hand, Netanyahu [may have] squeezed all he can from this US president and might prefer a first Biden term to a second Trump one. “A second-term president is dangerous,” a senior Israeli source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “Especially when that president is Trump who is unpredictable to begin with.”
- This from CounterPunch, November 6: “The Obama regime’s deplorable trade and military “pivot to China” – along with its sanctions against high-ranking Russians and Russian energy, financial and defense firms, and the Trump regime’s provocations, sanctions and insults aimed at both countries – have born fruit: There is talk of a military alliance between China and Russia. Both countries deny such is in the offing, but that it is even discussed reveals how effectively U.S. foreign policy has created and united enemies … China and Russia cannot ignore the advantage of teaming up in the face of U.S. hostility.”