Donald Trump surges into tie with Hillary Clinton as Bernie Sanders supporters switch sides


Keith Preston

It is interesting how this election is essentially unfolding according to the ATS playbook. Ten years ago, I predicted that U.S. society would continue moving leftward until the Clinton Democrats began to be considered conservative, and liberalism would come to be dominated by trends more closely resembling the academic Left or the Green Party. This is essentially happening now that Hillary is courting the neocons on foreign policy and has become the candidate of the neoliberals on economics, while Sanders (who is actually to the left of the Democrats but is only running as a Democrat for the sake of convenience, and who some polls indicate would defeat Trump by a wider margin than Clinton in a general election) has come to represent liberalism.

Meanwhile, Trump began his campaign by appealing to the dissident Right and the right-wing populist subculture as a means of knocking the neocons and “movement conservatives” out of the way. This had the effect of subverting the Republican Party from the bottom up and from the right flank. However, now that Trump has largely established his position as the GOP standard bearer, he is moving towards the Center, and adopting radical center Ross Perot-like positions on trade and foreign policy. Trump is also attempting, apparently successfully, to cross over to the Left with an appeal to class issues based on bread and butter concerns. Read this core ATS document from 10 years ago, and you will see how much of the events surrounding this current election resemble the trends analysis that were outlined back then.

However, the major difference between the ATS position and current events is that anti-statists have been a complete failure, left and right. Current political trends are very state-centric, whether in the form of Clinton’s neoconservative/neoliberal/leftist identity politics hybrid, Trump’s radical center nationalism, or Sanders recycled New Deal/Green hybrid. Ron Paul created an opening that anti-statists of all kinds could have continued to cultivate, but ultimately blew it. Rand Paul pursued precisely the opposite strategy (pandering to “movement conservatives” and neocons) than he should have (the Trump strategy, more or less, but from an explicitly anti-statist perspective). And the anti-state milieus generally have become a microcosm of the mainstream society, i.e. degenerated into endless bickering about left/right, red/blue, social justice warrior/neo-reactionary identity politics.

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3 comments

  • I think your ideological assessment is spot-on here. I think you are correct, that there has been a definite leftward shift in American politics, at least at the superficial level. As someone who follows American politics quite closely, I have noticed it. Even Fox News now seems to regurgitate a lot of left-wing talking points, indicating that the mainstream has shifted in that direction.

    But I would take issue with one detail from the following paragraph:

    [quote]”Meanwhile, Trump began his campaign by appealing to the dissident Right and the right-wing populist subculture as a means of knocking the neocons and “movement conservatives” out of the way. This had the effect of subverting the Republican Party from the bottom up and from the right flank. However, now that Trump has largely established his position as the GOP standard bearer, he is moving towards the Center, and adopting radical center Ross Perot-like positions on trade and foreign policy. Trump is also attempting, apparently successfully, to cross over to the Left with an appeal to class issues based on bread and butter concerns.”[unquote]

    I disagree that there is a “right-wing populist subculture”, and I regard this as something more than a quibble. To me, Trump is an implicitly racial candidate. The ‘racial’ aspect relates not just to race but also tenuously to class, and what Trump is articulating is very mainstream, just not so in the corporate media. It is much the same as what previous candidates have articulated, especially Republicans like Buchanan and Huckabee, and also some Democrats, and seems to very much reflect the wishes of the white working class everywhere in the West: strong borders and a strong defence, restrictions on immigration from the Third World, economic protectionism and so on. This approach can be summed up in what Ilana Mercer calls an ‘America First’ platform. It’s blue collar Republicanism, a position that in Britain would be associated with the ‘old’ right-wing of the Labour Party up until the late 1980s. The point is that these views have been deliberately shut out of politics, for one reason or another (I am not sure exactly how or why, but that’s probably a different discussion anyway) and are now only being allowed to enjoy major space in mainstream discourse.

    Among other things, this raises the question of what the Trump candidacy is really about ideologically. On the surface, Trump doesn’t seem very ideological. He seems more aligned with America’s populist political traditions, but I have always contended that American politics is deeply ideological anyway. Underneath Trump’s rhetoric is a principled commitment to American-led global capitalism, but in a way that sweetens the pill for white Americans. The interrelationship between class and race is important. White Americans are the vast majority of the country’s working class. They are a ‘political market’ that ambitious candidates can tap into and exploit electorally, but they are also a part of the population that keeps the country and its economy together. If they should become disillusioned and disaffected and turn militant, the very existence of the USA is threatened. White nationalism and racial separatism have populist appeal and huge potential to disrupt the system and effect revolutionary change. Trump’s nominal leadership of this current of opinion can provide a moderating influence, blocking any further gains for the dissident Right.

    For this reason, I also disagree with your assertion that Trump was trying to block the mainstream Right. He knows that, with his links to the Establishment, if he secures the GOP nomination, he has the mainstream Right in his pocket. What Trump is really doing is blocking the dissident Right by ‘occupying’ that political space. This is of course a dangerous strategy for the Establishment, especially if Trump loses the general election, as it could have the effect of permanently re-legitimising dissident, explicitly racial views.

    My central thesis about Trump is two-fold. One element of this is based on what we see of Trump now and is only partly speculative, the another is entirely speculative.

    1. First, in line with your own assessment, I agree that Trump is philosophically fickle. In fact, I would go further and say that Trump is just a brand designed to ‘Keep America Together’ – that really should be his campaign slogan.

    In that respect, I think there are strong parallels between Trump and Bill Clinton. As I said in a comment on a previous post (https://thelibertarianalliance.com/2016/01/18/trumps-invisible-poor-white-armys-waiting-on-the-ropes/):

    [quote]”…Trump is the mirror image of Bill Clinton. By the early 90s, America was going through a painful recession and also suffering social fallout from the economic liberalism of the Reagan years. The incumbent, Bush Snr., was a rather aloof president in the neo-Grecian WASP mould. The Establishment needed a moderate Democrat who looked a bit blue collar and “down-to-earth” to come in and “re-connect” the system with y’all folks. “How’re doin’?” “I feel your pain”. Young, caring, look at that smile.”[unquote]

    Trump, the putative anti-politician, is about politics and telling people what they want to hear. This from my comments in another post (https://thelibertarianalliance.com/2016/02/06/the-winning-trump-ticket-cabinet-part-i/):

    [quote]”The reason the Establishment types are worried is that Trump, while an Establishment person himself, doesn’t fit the typology required of a politician. Trump is a ‘businessman’, not a ‘politician’. He talks like a businessman. His apparent certainty and clarity about everything is actually a synonym for uncertainty and lack of clarity. In contrast, the apparent uncertainty and lack of clarity found among typologically-conventional candidates is a synonym for rigid certainty and unimpeachable clarity. They are clear and certain that they will do what their predecessors have always done about populist concerns in America – nothing. Trump is not exactly playing the game how it should be played, but he is opposed not because he is promising to do anything that would harm the Establishment, but because his self-confidence and independence suggest somebody who won’t follow the script in certain vital areas of detail and needs to be reigned in.”[unquote]

    2. Second, I think the best outcome in the 2016 general election is a narrow win for Killary in a two horse race with Trump. This is because I really don’t think a Trump presidency would improve the position of White Americans much (my main concern in matters of American politics is White Americans almost exclusively). If anything, I should think a Trump presidency would send White America back to sleep, lulling them into a false state of complacency, at a time when they need to be awake and militant. Better, in my view, to have the provocation of a Clinton Mark II presidency – even if her radicalism is greatly overstated. I hope Killary wins and I hope she goes to town and really rubs White America’s noses in it. Unfortunately, it’s the only way.

    On your broader point about statism, I would offer a comparison between the British and American mind, or rather the two national psyches. For various historical reasons, and probably due to geography as well, we don’t have much of an anti-state tradition here in Britain (c.f. a palaeo-libertarian would probably observe that we did have such a tradition but have lost it). Even Thatcher, who was supposed to be somewhat anti-state, ended up with a decidedly statist record – if anything, the state expanded during her time in office, certainly fiscally if on no other basis. For this reason, it can be difficult for observers here in Britain to understand the nuances of what American candidates are saying. What might come across as clumsy and simplistic to a British observer probably rings true to Americans because it speaks to their national memory and experience.

    Observing from across the Atlantic, the traditional [i.e. white] American mind seems to be characterised by various conflicting impulses and desires, including (among other things) a desire for personal economic freedom, a longing for individualistic living and independence, an attachment to vestigial ethnicity coupled with a strong belief in racial identity, and vehement opposition to (or at least, strong scepticism about) government and its role in people’s everyday lives. This is also the British palaeo-psyche, but this has more or less gone now from my country, though it’s still there vestigially in some of us. Most people in Britain are impulsively statist and are trained to be so as they live mostly in an urbanised, industrialised society. They are therefore receptive to the corporate media’s attempts portray Trump in much the same way that Bush and later Romney were crudely portrayed, as blundering, boorish, ignoramuses, and do not receive anti-statist pronouncements with the same understanding that an American would.

    Among other things, what British observers often fail to take into account is the role of racial issues in American government and politics. Much of what American lawmakers, journalists and government officials say is code for positions that can be mapped according to racial tensions and will probably never go away as long as the USA remains a unitary, multi-racial state. I think secession and separation are near-inevitable. It’s certainly the logical trajectory.

  • I wonder why Tom Rogers ( ore than just a quibble) believes that “strong borders and a strong defence, restrictions on immigration from the Third World, economic protectionism and so on” are exclusively or even mainly a concern of white working class voters. Why does he not think that all races and colours and all but the most financially secure middle class would have similar concerns.

    Does Tom believe that white Americans need a sweetened pill to protect them from capitalism, global or national? Is there a confusion or elision of terms between capitalism (and free trade for that matter) and “globalisation”, which is an entirely different matter. The latter is being debated somewhat in the course of the EU referendum in Britain: the Single Market being, of course, the European branch of global globalisation. It is political/bureaucratic markets managed in response to lobbying by big business rather than to ensure fair market practices and open competition, which benefit consumers generally.

    If Tom wants to hear clarity then you only have to listen to British politicians and their international friends in the EU debate. Whereas they cannot tell us how many people came through the state controlled digitally monitored borders last week, last month, last year or last decade within plus or minus a million, they claim to state with clarity that war would break out in Europe if voters chose freedom and independence. They claim to know much else that would follow BREXIT but the same people cannot forecast what will happen in the next three months to central government borrowing.

    Perhaps it is his business background that leads Trump to show such uncertainty – business is very uncertain. To the extent public affairs are certain it is only because the state can change the rules and compel the outcome it wants; businesses rarely can, not even those which lobby the EU.

    I take in all that was written about statism.

    Finally can we recognise the limited and declining usefulness of the lefty – right characterisation. In British politics I believe it is almost useless. There are a few lefties still around and brother Corbyn is well known for it. But there is no one who could be called right wing. The distinctions now are about nation state, size of state, democracy and accountability, the brand that happens to be in office. In many ways this is highly dangerous because the voters still believe and the media still tells them that general election debates are about Tory vs Labour, right vs left when in fact those parties overlap to an enormous extent on policy objectives, social and cultural preferences and much more.

    Trump is a desirable development in the US because it shows the resentment and opposition to the political class even more starkly than so far over here. Is it belier to have more political class thrust down the throats of the American people, the better to recruit them to the next anti-establishment Presidential candidate? I worry there will soon be a time when the political class can suppress all opposition for a generation so maybe go with the rebel we have rather than one we might prefer in years to come when a repeat run at the Convention may be blocked.

    • Wait….I know you…..You’re the trendy anti-racist guy! Yo, whassahappening?

      To be fair, I didn’t actually say that strong borders, etc., are “exclusively or mainly the interest of white Americans”. I also didn’t say that people of other races would not have similar concerns, and as it happens, this is not quite what I think, though it’s quite close. I do think this is both a race and class issue and I think the two factors intersect.

      I think, if I may say so, this sterile analysis that you and other libertarians adopt of simply arguing that this is about bare resentment and opposition to a political class doesn’t really cut it, and I think it is feeble. I accept it goes some way to explaining things, but to remove the racial and ethnic dimension, and even to remove a proper scientific understanding of class, just leaves you with a very superficial explanation of what is happening.

      I do think that white working class Americans might have reason to be particularly interested in issues such as borders. I think the reasons for this are fairly obvious – except of course to groovy anti-racist people like you, who are clearly much more clever, sophisticated and ‘with it’ than the rest of us.

      That the issues might be of peculiar interest to white working class Americans (and white working class people in other Western countries) does not preclude interest in the subject among non-whites, and I accept that some non-whites will also take a preservationist or conservative line on these issues, but even when that is the case, it is mostly for reasons different to whites, and I regard this as exceptional in any event. In general I think we can see that the interests of non-white groups is mostly expressed in policy solutions that weaken Western countries and promote greater racial diversity.

      You know that of course – but you’re the trendy anti-racist guy. Gimme five! Yeeeeaaahhhh! You’ve got the groooove!

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