Among many things people have called Donald Trump, a disturbing number of the commentariat have said he’s a populist. They are wrong.
He certainly isn’t a populist in the American tradition of people and politicians who were exercising populism when they drove the movements of the 19th and 20th century to expand the vote to include all white men and not just landowners, then to abolish slavery, then to extend voting rights to blacks and all races, to grant votes to women in 1920, and to win civil rights and stop the war on Vietnam in the ‘60s and ‘70s. These movements were all driven by people united in their determination to make American democracy live up to its name.
Trump isn’t a movement -- he represents himself – and there’s nothing participatory or democratic about his relationship with those who voted for him. They wanted to kick out the establishment, and in his fetid id, he understood their anger and dog whistled his way into the White House.
While many Americans have had it with corporatist parties promising more prosperity then delivering more austerity, Trump seems to think his being a rogue corporate is enough to keep his followers cheering. Meanwhile, what he’s delivering is a bonanza of infrastructure spending to enrich the construction and manufacturing industries, tax cuts for the rich, and a regulation-demolition derby that will profit corporations and make life more miserable for the poor and middle classes – all wrapped in rhetoric about getting government off our backs.
Now what’s emerging as a major Trump goal, however, is to supplant the Washington/Wall St “deep state” of global corporates, the state department, the intelligence agencies, and the military, with his own deep state whose mission is to contain or crush China and any other nations who are business or military rivals for control of the world. His global compadres in this white-man’s crusade are Putin, a few soulmates like Zeman of the Czech Republic and Orban of Hungary, lapdogs like Theresa May and the Turnbull government, and the filipino thug Duterte.
All this is interpreted by neoliberals as Trump abandoning the liberal international order and returning the world to a nasty and brutish competition among self-interested states. Which assumes that the liberal international world has been not-nasty and not-brutish, which would be a hard story to sell in what used to be called the Third World, especially to, say, the Vietnamese or the Iraqis. It is the brutishness of corporate interests in their pursuit of cheap raw materials, cheap labour, and compliant governments around the world that has engendered angry disillusionment abroad and the metastasizing povertisation of the masses in what used to be called the First World.
In fact, Trump and his gang are willing to piss off just about anyone -- even the large portion of their voters in the rust belt and the south who have long received more government money than they’ve contributed, and will thus be hardest hit by the Republican’s savage cuts in social programs.
Regardless, Trump and his co-pilot Stephen Bannon fly on like hijackers aiming their plane at the towers of power in China, desperate to crash-bomb their way to victory before the “liberal internationalists” and “enlightened interventionists” figure out how to stop them.
Congress, besieged by millions of angry citizens, just destroyed the Republicans’ plan to gut health care while judges have stymied Trump’s ban-Muslims edicts, so the President is reeling from their blows. But he’s going to be a big bull to bring down.
If we-the-people of the whole world could have our say, I reckon we’d tell all these über- corporates and their political enablers that we’d rather they saw their not-so-United States as less exceptional; spare us your enlightened and liberal interventions, please.