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Brewing Second-Wave Trumpism
The ruling class appears to have just barely flattened the Trumpism curve. A powerful second-wave Trumpism is inevitable.
We have to carefully distinguish between two very different concepts, both based on the word “Trump”. First there is “Trumpism” which is an ideology. The overarching idea behind Trumpism is to make the GOP a working-class oriented party. The key policy aims of Trumpism are worker scarcity and anti-imperialism. Worker scarcity is achieved through immigration restriction and protectionist trade policies. This is called macro-scarcity as it happens at the level of the nation-state. Labor unions attempt to create "micro-scarcity" at the level of the factory floor. Micro-scarcity is nearly impossible within a larger context of labor abundance.
So together in terms of policy, we have the Trumpist Trinity, anti-immigration, trade restriction, and anti-imperialism. This is the ideology that Trump ran on and rode to victory in 2016. This is the idea behind Trumpism.
The US has always featured two political parties that serve ruling class interests; Huey Long described it thusly, “They've got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side, but no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen." Trumpism attempts to force one group of waiters to get their grub from the working class’ kitchen. This is obviously an ambitious goal. And a goal that threatens ruling class economic interests. This is one reason Trumpism is so ferociously bashed by ruling class media outlets.
Now comes a crucial distinction. In addition to the ideology of “Trumpism” there is “Trump”, the man and his brand. At best there is only a tenuous relationship between Trumpism and Trump. To some extent this is natural as ideas never remain pure for long when poured into the cauldron of reality. With that in mind, we can see that 2016 candidate Trump was relatively Trumpist but President Trump was less so. Nonetheless, salaries for the bottom 25% of workers did have the highest rate in increase during his term (through 2019). This represents the first true redistribution of wealth downwards in the 21st century. But in 2020, Trump put Trumpism on the backburner and instead ran mainly against the ruling class media but crucially downplayed subversive Trumpism in the process.
Now of course Trump is an oligarch and so belongs to the ruling class. But within oligarchy, the only people who can challenge the existing order are oligarchs. He committed massive class treason in 2016 in order to serve his narcissistic need for recognition and power. In no way should Trump be idealized as altruistically caring about the working class. Trumpism was not much more than a means to an end. Trump’s end is and always will be Trump, not Trumpism per se. But none the less Trump exploited and brought to life Trumpism and his motives for doing so are irrelevant. And in the end the working class did benefit, particularly the Latino working class.
Trumpism is not a revolutionary ideology in the correct sense of the term. It is an incrementalist approach that seeks to better the material conditions of the working class but within the current capitalist power structure. It posits a class struggle ideological superstructure which is radical opposition to the globalist ruling classes insistence on an identitarian (politics of race, sex, etc) perspective. The ruling class strategy in the US is to decorate with masks of “diversity” the ugly visages of class dominance. Thus Obama’s and soon Kamala’s pro-ruling class policies cannot be criticized for fear of being abused as a “racist”.
Trumpism’s non-revolutionary aspect is similar to social democracy, as was championed by Bernie Sanders in 2016. In 2020 Bernie unfortunately fell to the dark side of identitarian politics, which are necessarily the enemy of class politics and the most effective class warfare sludge hammer in the ruling class’ tool box. The key difference with social democracy is that Trumpism relies on labor markets to improve the material conditions of the working class. A tight labor market necessarily transfers wealth from the rich to the poor in the form of decreased profits for the rich through increased salaries for the poor. In fact far from there being any contradiction between Trumpism and social democracy there is a mutual dependence between them. The public education, health, and support institutions of social democracy can only be supported and revitalized by a prosperous working class. The key idea of Trumpism is that the state asserts its borders to create labor scarcity. The great problem of Trumpism is that the state is everywhere a tool of ruling class oppression. Borders are the battle lines of the struggle. Often called nationalism, Trumpism would be more precisely labelled as "borderism".
Trumpism stands in opposition to globalization; whose goal is worker abundance which necessarily drives wages down and increases oligarchic wealth. Workers of the world compete. US led imperialism, especially in the Middle East is also a striking feature of globalization. The new Biden coalition is a reactionary mix of Neoliberals and NeoConsevatives. Their mission statement is: Invade the World / Invite the World. Trumpism stands in opposition to both Neoliberalism and Neoconsevatism. The place of a nations army in Trumpism is within a nations borders, not spread out over the globe in nearly 800 military bases located in 70 different nations.
Neoliberalism is Capitalism’s attempt to destroy the nation-state's ability to limit Capitalist profits through borders and regulation. Worker abundance is just one of many Neoliberal goals. National borders represent barriers hindering capitalism’s fundmental mission of maximizing profit by producing commodifies with the cheapest labor and selling them to the wealthiest consumers. Nation-states can also impose regulations (environmental, worker, etc) which also limit capitalist profit. Free trade allows corporations to relocate factories to nations with the lowest salaries and the worst environmental and worker protections. For those jobs that cannot be transferred, policies such as California's Prop 22 is the thin edge of the neoliberal wedge that is constraining the nation-state from protecting workers.
NeoConservatism is the ideology behind on the one hand US military’s global full spectrum dominance and more particularly a mechanism that sends healthy young Americans to die for Israeli interests in the Middle East. Neocons were the architects of the Iraqi invasion, but were shocked by candidate Trump's attempts at vilifying them. The ruling class media instituted a reconciliation process where by evil neocon war pigs were transmuted into shiny knights in armor through their denunciations of Trump. St. John McCain is a prime example of this as is George W. Bush. Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger are held in high regard by Joe Biden.
Ruling class elements within the GOP have traditionally attacked unions in order to minimize worker micro-scarcity. What is inexplicable is when unions attack Trumpist attempts to create macro-scarcity through the use of national borders. A united Union/Trumpist front is required against ruling class interests. Struggling for worker scarcity does not mean one “hates” the workers the ruling class is importing in order to create worker abundance. This is to accept the ruling elite’s identitarian frame, which boils down to: class struggle is racist. The ruling class present themselves as benevolent and kind and only for the purist altruistic motives does it import loads of poor, docile 3d world workers. In sharp contrast to the compassionate ruling class, the working class is presented as malevolently hating these low wage workers because of racism. Oligarchs + cheap labor immigrants = good. Native workers militating for their class interests = bad. The key goal for Trumpism is to flip these equations.
Worker abundance necessarily means job scarcity from the worker’s point of view. There are too many workers chasing too few jobs. This makes workers desperate and willing to accept lower wages. This has been happening for the last 40 years at least since the end of the Cold War, if not a little sooner. Worker scarcity means job abundance, from the worker’s point of view. Too few workers for too many jobs means management has to bid up salaries to attract workers.
Trump the ruler was presented with the greatest gift a border-loving Trumpist politician could ever ask for: Covid-19. But instead of exploiting this crisis like Viktor Orbán did in Hungary, Trump stabbed Trumpism in the back by turning himself into a useless libertarian during the crisis by refusing for example to push a law that requires home manufacturing of all critical supplies and in never closing the borders properly. He acted like a narcissistic clown in the early days of the crisis and deserves to lose just for that reason.
The ruling class response to Trumpism is always identitarian politics: noble ruling class oligarchs and their spokespeople screaming that the dirty peasants are racist. What the US ruling class must always do is project their racism onto the peasants, who white or black, both suffer economically from racial oppression. Mao Tse-Tung gave this astute analysis of US racism:
In the final analysis, national struggle is a matter of class struggle. Among the whites in the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling circles who oppress the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are oppressing, committing aggression against and menacing the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world. We are in the majority and they are in the minority.
So US racism is fully owned and perpetuated by the ruling class: wealthy oligarchs (including Trump), the media, Wall Street, CIA, FBI, the military industrial complex, multi-national corporations, Silicone Valley Tech, Hollywood, etc. Where there is power there is racism, where there is powerlessness there may be bigotry but not racism. The above lineup of ruling class racists, except for Trump, is the Biden coalition. The multi-racial and multi-religious ruling class goal is to place an “enlightened person” mask over naked and rapacious ruling class greed and oppression.
Under Biden, globalization will once again increase the pace and amplitude of the immiseration of the working class. As a result, resistance to the dominant economic paradigm of Neoliberalism will only grow on both the progressive left and the popular right. Previously elections in the US were between center left and center right factions fighting for the right to serve the ruling class. Looking at 2020 from a bird’s eye perspective, roughly speaking the Biden coalition consists of most progressives, the center left, and many elements of the center right (Neocon elements close to the Bush family). The Trump coalition is portions of the center right and the popular right. The ruling class was going to be fine whatever the result, but a Biden presidency constrained by a GOP Senate is ideal in some ways to the ruling class.
A key strategic objective of the ruling class is to keep the far left and right at each other’s throats. The polarizing nature of Trump helped the media achieve this rigid politically binary orthodoxy. In contrast, in the future, anti-ruling class progressives and popularists have to find a way to combine their forces and energy in opposition to the ruling class and stop engaging in the pointless stalemate of playing “socialists” vs; “fascists”, a battle whose only possible winner is the ruling class.
The problem moving forwards, from the ruling class point of view, is the unbearable whiteness of Joe Biden. In their desperation to unseat Trump, there is now no diversity mask for the ruling class to hide behind as anger mounts over ever-increasing ruling class perfidy. What’s fascinating to study is the impact BLM, urban riots, and defunding the police narratives had on the election. One reading is that these phenomena turned a potential Biden landslide into a near stalemate.
Florida voted for Trump and a $15 minimum wage law. California voted for Biden along with the neo-feudal Prop 22 which strips protection from workers so that Tech Baron profits can soar higher.
I grew up in a California that was an example of social justice and economic prosperity for the world. The ruling class of at that time was wise and generous: they, for example, created the California public university system. Alexandre Kojève is a Stalinist intellectual who helped plan the European Union. A famous quote of his is that "Henry Ford is the one great authentic Marxist of the twentieth century". In this he subversively is saying that the great capitalist industrialist did far more for the working classes than any Marxist intellectuals ever did. I would adapt this to say Edmund Brown, the moderate Republican most responsible for the success of California is the second great authentic Marxist. And just to be clear, I mean this as a compliment. But this was during the Cold War when the ruling class feared the Communists and so created relatively economically fair and prosperous society. Those days are far behind us.
So we must face facts. California today is a disaster and is exactly what America needs to avoid becoming. California has the highest poverty rate in all of America once adjusted for cost of living. It is close to becoming a third world country. The rich have it good. But there is a massive brown and white proletariat that is a massive breeding ground for Trumpism. California today, smug as it is, is exactly what America does not want to become. Even California as late as1980 would be a much better model to aspire towards. Or Utah, which amazingly enough has one of the smallest differences between rich and poor in the US.
One of the most interesting outcomes of the 2020 election is the specter of Latinos embracing Trumpism. In the borderlands of Texas, Starr County is 96% Latino and it swung towards Trump by an absolutely stunning 55 points. These kind of demographic sea changes do not just happen. Trump actually carried Zapata County, which he lost by 33 points in 2016. And remember this sea change happened with TRUMP running! This sea change will become a tsunami when a Trumpist candidate runs on popular Trumpist policies while not crippled with Trump's negatives with Latinos.
What's fascinating about this is that Latinos embracing Trumpism turns the immigration question on its head. Are liberal Democrats really going to be excited about opening the borders and granting citizenship to crypto-Trumpist Latinos? And by the same token perhaps future Trumpist politicians will openly embrace Latinos as a demographic, when combined with rural/working class whites, is a coalition they can ride to the White House? Latinos embracing Trumpism potentially shatters the Democrats "Coalition of Color" which attempts to unify wealthy urban cosmopolitan elites with minorities in a united front against rural and working class whites. In 2024 this lineup could become urban elites and blacks against the latino and white rural and working class masses.
There are three reasons for this stunning Latino sea change: the worker scarcity economics of Trumpism, the cultural machoism of Trumpism, and anti-black feeling among Latinos. This Latino/black rift is well-known in Los Angeles and many black commentators mention it. It's not going away any time soon and future Trumpist politicians will exploit it to the hilt.
The Dreamers or Amnesty question points out a glaring contradiction in the Liberal position on immigration. On the one hand they say we need immigrants to do the work Americans will just not do. But on the other hand lets emancipate these semi-slaves so that they can become Americans. Which means they will then refuse to do the work Americans will just not do. So we are back to square one and have to let in masses of more illegal immigrants to do the work the recently made Americans will now just not do. All this within a context of increased automation which means we need fewer low skilled workers, and during the Covid crisis which is causing mass unemployment. This is a great time for Trumpists to be out of power and to let Biden deal with these extremely unpopular conundrums. Trumpists are in a win-win situation. Granting citizenship to Latinos means potentially a greater pool of Trumpist voters and it will also exasperate the current economic malaise in favor of Trumpist popularism in 2024.
It’s vital to see the current immigration situation through the lens of slavery. There are parallels between the current apologists for illegal immigration and those who defended 19th century slavery as economically inevitable. Immigration restrictionists can be seen in the same light as those who struggled to end the slave trade. In 1808, the US banned the importation of slaves. This created a scarcity of slaves. As a result, black slave's values as commodities shot up and their material conditions improved, albeit within the context of slavery. Not because slave owners cared about them as humans, their treatment improved because they now had intrinsic value created by the scarcity created by banning the importation of slaves. In contrast, poor white sharecroppers had zero value to the Southern ruling elite and in fact were a form of competition to the slave system. A white sharecropper was happily allowed to die of starvation since he had no value. A black slave would have at least received subsistence support. In the end slavery was damaging to both black and white workers because it lowered the social floor of labor in general.
By restricting the "immigrant trade" it necessarily improves the material conditions of the most recent immigrants. This is one of the reasons Trumpism is popular in Latino communities. Only when the immigration trade is stopped, can the current illegals be "emancipated". Just think of how pointless it would have been to emancipate black slaves while the slave trade was still flowing. The freed slaves would soon be replaced by new slaves shipped in over the border. This is exactly what will happen if amnesty is given to illegals with the borders still wide open.
Just imagine if the concept of racism existed in 1808. The ruling class of that day would have called slavery restrictionists "racist" for attempting to block the importation of blacks into America! The ruling class would have declared how terrible life is in Africa was and even though they were coming in as slaves, they would be better off in the US. The motives of slave trade restrictionists, those who wanted to build a metaphorical seawall to block the slave trade, would have been declared to be racist.
One of the most corrosive social impacts of slavery or semi-slavery is that the labor slaves perform becomes stigmatized and full citizens refuse to participate in it. When I was growing up in California, the only job Americans would not perform is that of hot tar roofing. Even as a kid I noticed that only fresh over the border Mexicans would do this work. I had paper routes as a kid but when I was 16 I was replaced by a poor Mexican guy who delivered papers out of a station wagon. Back then teenagers did gardening work or babysitting. It was common for teenagers to spend some of their summer vacation picking crops in fields for pocket money. I knew something was wrong when adults started doing teenager work. Now everyone in America wants to be a lawyer or a doctor but not pick food. This is a dangerous trend that will not end well. Immigrants scrape by doing the difficult teenager work.
Now just to be clear, Trump had no intention of truly stopping the immigrant trade, he only wanted to slow it down a bit. This is why he concentrated on the bombastic wall instead of the very simple device of E-Verify, a system that would make it nearly impossible to employ illegals. Trump used Trumpism to gain power but never had any intention of fully implementing Trumpism. In a sense, his initial attack on Mexicans can be seen as cleverly creating an identitarian firebreak so that the popularism of Trumpist policies would not spread widely enough to become dangerous to the ruling class. If he had not undermined his own Trumpist policies, Trump would have won a second term. On the other hand, if had strongly implemented Trumpist policies, his social class, the ruling class, would have lost a huge battle in the omnipresent class struggle. In the end Trump chose his class interests over his own personal political interests and this is why he lost, albeit barely.
The only way for recent Latino immigrants to reach a level of equality with the rest of America is through actual existing Trumpism -- through the creation of worker scarcity that will mean, because of worker shortages, the recent immigrant moves up to doing a proper adult job while teenagers get off their screens and go out an mow some lawns! And now the only way to progress down the road towards real Trumpism is to get rid of Trump!
California is a now a de facto one-party state but I can see that conditions are ripe for the rise of a popularist yet macho, Latino based, Trumpist style political faction to oppose the cosmopolitan urban Democratic hegemony. Back in the 60’s, Cesar Chavez was endeavoring to increase the QUALITY of Hispanic life in the US by increasing the salaries of farm workers through a strategy of worker scarcity. Ruling class institutions, threatened by the potential of having portions of their wealth transferred to poor peasants, created an organization called “La Raza” as an alternative to Chavez. La Raza wanted QUANTITY, they wanted more and more Latinos to build up their base of political power. And all the better if these Latinos stayed poor: not only do their ruling class paymasters stay happy, this would also keep the Latino masses dependent on their identitarian political leaders. Caitlin Flanagan puts it so:
In fact, no one could be more irrelevant to the California of today, and particularly to its poor, Hispanic immigrant population, than Chavez. He linked improvement of workers’ lives to a limitation on the bottomless labor pool, but today, low-wage, marginalized, and exploited workers from Mexico and Central America number not in the tens of thousands, as in the ’60s, but in the millions. Globalization is the epitome of capitalism, and nowhere is it more alive than in California. When I was a child in the ’60s, professional-class families did not have a variety of Hispanic workers—maids, nannies, gardeners—toiling in and around their households. Most faculty wives in Berkeley had a once-a-week “cleaning lady,” but those women were blacks, not Latinas. A few of the posher families had gardeners, but those men were Japanese, and they were employed for their expertise in cultivating California plants, not for their willingness to “mow, blow, and go.”
So one of the key outcomes of the 2020 election is that in ever larger numbers, Latinos are rejecting Quantity of Latinos and opting for Quality of life for Latinos.
And so in order to further Trumpism, Trump must go. In a sense the Biden presidency will be a reactionary movement in that will attempt restore the pre-Trumpism ancien regime. The fallout from this will only further cement the soundness of Trumpism as an ideology. But Trump as a leader is a much more mixed bag. New Trumpists will arise, for example Tucker Carlson or podcaster Joe Rogan. They must reach out to progressives with appropriate health care proposals. A patriot such as Tulsi Gabbard would play a crucial role in bringing the two sides together. 2024 will be a great year for Trumpism because this time Trump will not be leading it.