Up Against Trump: From Fragmentation to Unity
The day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, “The Resistance” was born in the streets of cities and towns across the United States. The grassroots-organized Women’s Marches, held on January 21, 2017, saw the largest-ever demonstrations in the country’s history. Since then, the anti-Trump protests have been joined by many other groups and constituencies, especially by those most affected by the policies of the Trump administration, including immigrants, LGBT people, victims of gun violence, the poor, environmentalists, and even scientists. Over the course of the past eighteen months, however, the protests have lost some of their steam.
Trump’s repeated distortions and lies, his sheer meanness (as in the case of DACA recipients), and the constant assaults by his administration seem to have worn out the millions of activists fighting
against the country’s shift toward an authoritarian government. After all, resistance is not futile, but it can be tiresome. In this analysis, Ethan Young examines the state of resistance to the Trump administration. In doing so, he refuses to buy into the centrist notion that the current President of the United States will eventually be rejected, or maybe even impeached, for his deeds. In fact, Trump might be gaining ground, given the relatively strong macroeconomic indicators and the tax reform (including small benefits for many). How, then, can Trump be resisted? First and foremost, Trump and his cronies must be defeated at the polls in the upcoming midterm elections. However, voting Trump out of office will not be enough to defend democracy against the Trumpists.
In this paper, Ethan Young demonstrates that the resistance to Trump’s “new authoritarianism”—which is diverse, ranging from the radical left to the establishment center—only stands a chance if
it is able to combine opposition to the far right with a rejection of neoliberal policies. In order to do so, we have to overcome the competition and fragmentation that exists among the political groups that are opposed to Trump. Only then is a new united front—outside of or beyond the political mold of twentieth-century socialism—possible. Only once democratic political power has been defended against the onslaught of right-wing populism and neoliberalism can we move toward the task of creating a new politics based on equality, justice, and solidarity.
By Albert Scharenberg.
Robert Zaretsky recently commented in The New York Times that Donald Trump’s presidency marks the coming of age of The Society of the Spectacle—a society in which truth is essentially reduced to a mere hypothesis and consistently subordinated to orchestration.
Indeed, lies and deception reign in the White House. During his first year in office alone, The Washington Post counted more than 2,000 cases in which Trump lied or made misleading statements—equating to roughly five times per day.
The 45th President of the United States, sworn into office one year ago today, may be a notorious denier of truth and understand next to nothing about politics—as a reality TV star and celebrity, however, he definitely commands the media. Under his presidency, politics has been replaced by a frantic scramble for media coverage. This Twitter-President has made it his habit to hurl out daily insults against his domestic and foreign adversaries. Here, even scandals serve a purpose by drawing in the public as a consumer (i.e. audience), thus including them as part of the spectacle.
Scandals Without End
With scandals following the President’s every move, there is little time to analyze one incident before the next one makes the headlines.
The Marxist cultural critic Walter Benjamin once argued that every rise of fascism bears witness to a failed revolution. Benjamin was not only addressing elements of a failed political revolution, but also the failure of language, values, courage, vision and a critical consciousness. In the midst of a moment when an older social order is crumbling and a new one is struggling to define itself, there is always a moment of confusion and danger. We have arrived at such a moment in which two worlds are colliding.
First, there is the harsh and crumbling world of neoliberal globalization and its mobilizing passions that fuel a US-style fascism. Second, there is a counter movement with its search for a new politics that can rethink, reclaim and invent a new understanding of democratic socialism, untainted by capitalism. In the midst of this struggle, a new political movement and social order will be born, though one without guarantees. Something sinister and horrifying is happening to liberal democracies all over the globe. The global architecture of democracy is giving way to authoritarian tyrannies. As alarming as the signs may be, we cannot look away and allow the terrors of the unforeseen to be given free rein. We cannot allow the power of dreams to turn into nightmares.
It is hard to imagine a more urgent moment for developing a language of critique and possibility that would serve to awaken our critical and imaginative senses and help free us from the tyrannical nightmare that has descended upon the United States under the rule of Donald Trump. In an age of social isolation, information overflow, a culture of immediacy, consumer glut and spectacularized violence, reading critical books and other representational texts coupled with thinking analytically remain necessary if we are to take seriously the notion that a democracy cannot exist or be defended without informed and engaged citizens. This is especially true at a time when denial has become a national pastime matched only by the increasing normalization of one of the most alarming administrations ever to take hold of the US presidency.
Against a numbing indifference, despair or withdrawal into the private orbits of the isolated self, there is a need to create those formative cultures that are humanizing, foster the capacity to hear others, sustain complex thoughts and engage social problems. We have no other choice if we are to resist the increasing destabilization of democratic institutions, the assault on reason, the collapse of the distinction between fact and fiction, and the taste for brutality that now spreads across the US like a plague. Reading critically means not only learning how to read the world, but also learning how to think analytically while refusing to succumb to the unthinkable.
Reading is not only valuable as a form of translation, but also, as George Steiner observes, follows language as “the main instrument of [people’s] refusal to accept the world as it is.” The pedagogical lesson here is that fascism begins with hateful words, the demonization of others considered disposable, and moves to an attack on ideas, the burning of books, the disappearance of intellectuals, and the emergence of the carceral state and the horrors of detention jails and camps. As Jon Nixon suggests, reading as a form of critical “education provides us with a protected space within which to think against the grain of received opinion: a space to question and challenge, to imagine the world from different standpoints and perspectives, to reflect upon ourselves in relation to others and, in so doing, to understand what it means to ‘assume responsibility’.”
Reading against the grain offers opportunities for people to break out of their own experiences at a time when neoliberal ideology not only constrains our imagination, but also imprisons them in almost impenetrable orbits of self-interest and hyper-individualism.
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Raul Zelik and Elmar Altvater discuss the nature of utopia, economics, how growth and work became fetishes, how what is rational in micro-economics can become irrational in macro-economics, time prosperity, how the financial crisis shows the self-destructiveness of capitalism and how Marx recognized the contradictions in capitalism. Alternatives are possible and necessary. Viva Occupy!
The bank crisis became a state revenue crisis. The state that made itself poor by injecting trillion into "too-big-to-fail" banks made private risks into public risks. Now Republican fearmongers Ryan & Co. are threatening cuts to food stamps, social security, Medicaid and Medicare, third-rails of our country. The GOP tax heist gave trillion to households with more than a million dollars income. Did Voodoo economics become the new normal or moral cowardice and fear?
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