Trumpmania: Has America gone mad?
Nope – it was already mad.
Americans are angry mad at the fact that the government – and the corporates who run it – have their sticky fingers in everything their citizens do and everything they think, and all the citizens get is another day older and deeper in debt.
And America is batshit crazy mad in that it doesn’t believe in global warming and diplomacy but does believe in angels, insurance agents charging $2,000/month per family to look after their health (not counting the costs of treatments), and it still believes it’s the best country on Earth.
Okay, let’s stop this thought-train right there: something’s wrong with all the stuff I just wrote, which is that ‘America’ doesn’t exist, and nor do ‘Americans’.
‘America’ is a wide stripe of the North American continent, about the same area (omitting Alaska) as Australia with 13 times as many people, who are more diverse and disconnected than Australians are.
I went to the US in 1976 to see if I could figure out how much ‘they – the Americans’ had to do with undermining the Whitlam ALP government and, more generally, why ‘it – America’ behaves the way it does. The short answers to those two questions, I conclude 40 years later, are:
Of course the bullying paranoid president Nixon and his equally power-mad secretary of state Henry Kissinger wanted to get rid of Whitlam and his goddamn communist cabinet ministers, and of course the CIA did all it could, short of having him shot, to help the lords of Canberra and London toss Gough off the cliff. Whitlam himself said later, ‘I got off lightly’, compared to Chilean president Salvador Allende who died in the US-backed coup of 1973.
As I unravelled the facts about which politicos in Washington and bankers in New York screwed Whitlam and Australia over, an image of how America works formed in my mind, a moving image, like a live-feed. It goes like this:
The whole country consists of shifting alliances of people engaged in a never-ending battle for ascendency, in which the most valuable weapons are money, access, and strategic knowledge.
These alliances might be economic or class based, such as recently laid-off auto-workers (over 100,000), or family based, like the Kennedys or the Rockefellers, or a social movement such as LGBT activists, or geographically based such as people living in the Rocky Mountains, or alliances of common interests such as former defence or state department officials now working for weapons manufacturers, or weapons manufacturers invested in drones and other cyber-warfare industries, or teachers and educational managers working in charter schools, or the alliance of second wave feminists that grew in the 60s whose ‘bosses’ include Gloria Steinem, who recently damaged Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid by dissing younger feminists, or Christian fundamentalists … organic farmers …
These alliances are ever-changing and there are no guarantees nor any agreed-on overall goals.
There are various rules, variously obeyed or dishonored, including the Constitution, Congress, the vast bureaucracies, the courts, the military and intelligence agencies with their own secret laws, and so on one – but in practice, life proceeds like the warlord societies of China in the early 1900s, or Japan in the 16th century.
Now this image of alliances that drift along with shifts in who is exerting power over whom could describe Australian society, or any other society, but what distinguishes the American system is that it has more diversity than any country in a similar stage of ‘development’. It is a country shared by hundreds or thousands of distinguishable cultures, full of disparities and inequalities. It might be a paradise of political correctness, or a multicultural morass, but what it is not is a community of shared experiences, myths, priorities, and, ultimately, loyalties.
There are unifying notions about what America ought to be about, and they compete for the people’s allegiance: constitutionalists strive to organise the populace around the noble ideals of the founding documents, but Bernie Sanders and the late Supreme Court Justice Scalia would have agreed on that while drastically disagreeing on what it meant. And Donald Trump couldn’t give a shit about founders or documents; he believes Americans are united around the lusty battle to make money, or more accurately, to take it from others – the more you take the better you are.
It’s a donnybrook among crooked warlords, idealists, crooked idealists, and idealistic warlords.
Okay, so where are we in the 2016 presidential election?
Donald Trump is hanging on as a loose cannon über-capitalist with an army of mostly white folks who are united by diminishing wealth, income, and hope. His two Christian crusader challengers, Senators Cruz and Rubio, look more looney toons by the day. Watch out for Mike Bloomberg, John Kasich, Mitt Romney and Gary Johnson. Any one of them could be nominated at the Republican Convention in July.
Democrat Hillary Clinton says she represents the middle class, poor people, women, blacks, Latinos, Wall Street, and everyone really. In the real world, she and Bill are members of the Washington/New York power elite. If she loses this year, all those dinner party invites, board directorships, and deals behind closed doors will finally cease and desist.
Bernie Sanders is still a chance to beat Hillary for their party’s nomination. He has been more popular than Hillary or Trump in every poll for the last six months, and he still is. He has come from obscurity by building an alliance of people tending younger and more ethnically diverse than anyone else’s followers, arguing calmly for taxing the super rich to pay for free tertiary education and health care for all.
But it’s not about a rational choice for the good of the country. It’s about shifts on the battlegrounds of warlordism, right up to November 8.
Phillip Frazer is a dual Australian/American citizen who will send his presidential ballot to the USA in November. See more at www.coorabellridge.com.