BY JAKE HRIBLJAN
I can’t escape from Donald Trump. No matter how hard I try, the star of everyone’s new favourite television series, ‘U.S. Elections 2016’, follows me like a shadow. Such is life in our instantaneous electronic universe.
YouTube is recommending me Trump joke videos (or should I say Drumpf?), the evening news is telling Trump dick jokes, my coworkers are talking about leaving Canada because apparently the 800km separating the White House and Burlington isn’t far enough if the giant oompa loompa becomes president, and I can no longer talk to friends and family without Tiny Hands dominating the conversation.
Everyone’s got an opinion on the guy. He’s either going to be a stars and stripes Hitler, or the spray tan that made America great again. Or somewhere in between.
The most amazing thing about him though, is that he’s convinced his supporters that he’s anti-establishment. This is absolutely astounding. When I think anti-establishment, I usually conjure up images of Black Bloc protestors throwing fireworks at a WTO meeting, not a billionaire in a baggy suit, brokering manufacturing agreements with Chinese sweatshops, and flying in helicopters to board meetings.
However, anti-establishment seems to be a theme. It’s the driving force of his campaign. People are tired of the status quo. People are sick of politicians lining their pockets in service of the corporate oligarchy. People want a person who will fight not for the growth of an economy, but for the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – for all people – not just the bourgeoisie.
For white, middle Americans this means the man who has broken the perceived lock on national rhetoric controlled by college liberals and the ivory tower. This isn’t simply an issue of race. Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for Truthdig, recently wrote that Trump’s supporters, “Want a kind of freedom—a freedom to hate. They want the freedom to use words like ‘nigger,’ ‘kike,’ ‘spic,’ ‘chink,’ ‘raghead’ and ‘fag.’” Maybe it’s my idealism talking, but I refuse to believe Trump’s millions of supporters are all racists, and that’s where the story ends. Some of them probably are, and Trump might be too. But what’s the heart of his argument that appeals to his supporters? Why do they all swoon like schoolgirls when he mentions The Great Wall of AmericaTM and talks about banning all Muslims from entering the country?
He’s actually tapping into the class-consciousness of his supporters, and appealing to a traditionally left-wing issue within economics, which are the basic issues of labor and capital. As Karl Marx pointed out in 1848, “What is free trade under the present condition of society? It is freedom of capital. When you have overthrown the few national barriers, which still restrict the progress of capital, you will merely have given it complete freedom of action.” Basically in the present condition, capital is free to move across borders, but labour isn’t. The free movement of capital, via free trade agreements, has financially decimated middle class, and poor Americans, of all races. When jobs are exported to Mexico, and more Mexican immigrants are entering the country, this is correctly seen as an act of war by the capitalist owners against the workers who are forced to sell their labour in order to survive. The demand for labour has dropped, but the supply has increased, therefore the value of labour has dropped. This is simple economics, not racism, however the tertiary effect may be antagonism between the races. Especially when those flames are stoked by the corporate controlled media who wish to deflect all attention away from the violence perpetrated by the ruling class against the working class.
So when Trump’s supporters hear their elected officials, who as bourgeoisie live on the backs of labourers, say they want to import Muslim refugees (more labourers), again they recognize this as a further attack on their ability to work and live.
Back in February, this video of Carrier Air Conditioner announcing to its workers that 1,400 jobs will be moving to Mexico went viral. The YouTube comment section was filled with Trump supporters. And why wouldn’t they think Trump would prevent this from happening? Back in September, Trump called NAFTA a “disaster”. Trump said, “Let’s say Ford moves to Mexico. If they want to sell that car in the United States they pay a tax. Here’s what’s going to happen, they’re not going to build their plant there. They’re going to build it in the U.S.”
Trump has also come out in stark criticism of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, the latest free trade behemoth. He said during a Republican presidential debate back in November, “The TPP is horrible deal…it’s a deal that was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone.”
And while everyone laughed, and called Trump ignorant for not even knowing that China wasn’t a part of the TPP, he was actually correct. As a David Dayen of The Intercept pointed out,
“TPP says that all materials that go into a good, outside of a de minimis 10 percent, must derive from TPP countries. However, there are numerous exceptions and exemptions, along with a confusing set of calculations to determine eligibility. Through these cracks in the agreement, as Trump alluded, China can deliver goods to TPP countries without tariffs.
Right now, the U.S. reserves the right to slap large tariffs on China, as it has done on steel (up to 236 percent), solar panels (up to 78 percent) and tires (up to 88 percent). But under TPP, many products, from agriculture to chemicals to plastics to leather seating, can include up to 60 percent of material from a non-TPP country.
As Teamsters President James Hoffa has pointed out, while under NAFTA 62.5 percent of a car had to be made in a member country, with TPP that number goes down to 45 percent. An additional schedule of other parts would be considered as coming from a TPP country regardless of its origins, lowering the rule of origin to as much as 35 percent. A car could even be labeled “Made in America,” despite having the majority of its parts originating from China. That includes Chinese steel, currently subject to massive tariffs for U.S. import.”
By now I’m sure many left leaning readers are ready to hang me for being a Trump-apologist, and to be clear I’m not. It’s not entirely clear whether or not Trump is actually a racist, but he has no problem pretending to be one, so the question is largely irrelevant. His jingoist and violent remarks hint at the type of American fascism his administration would bring, and it’s the kind that makes the Dick Cheney war-hawks cream in their pants. I refuse to believe the man who stands on a podium preaching to the American worker about creating more American jobs, while his own business is manufacturing products in China, gives any fucks about American workers. From his insecure, childlike whining over the size of his penis, his countless petty lawsuits, to his name plastered all over things that aren’t actually his; any person with a pulse should be able to see a megalomaniac with very little self worth, looking to conquer the world with the hope of conquering his deepest insecurities.
Unfortunately, not everyone can see that. Media is a powerful tool of manipulation and propaganda, and for those tuned in to the right channels Trump appears to be the conservative messiah. But he appears this way for some very similar reasons Bernie Sanders appears as the liberal messiah to his supporters. So instead of confronting Trump supporters like this young woman, maybe the technique should be to find the obvious intellectual common ground and work from there. This election isn’t about Trump, or Bernie Sanders, or Hillary Clinton. It’s about a movement. It’s about the people who are supporting these campaigns on the basis that the status quo is failing, and change is needed. And not the lip service brand of change that President Obama brought, but real change. Whether Trump or Sanders can bring that change is doubtful. No individual can bring the kind of social change these candidates are calling for, but millions of individuals can. It wasn’t Martin Luther King that made the civil rights movement succeed, it was the millions of nameless, forgotten individuals who marched, protested, died, went to jail, wrote, spoke, and fought every single day who made the civil rights movement a success. The transformation of our society will only succeed when millions of nameless more fight again. The good news? They’re fighting.