The US Election – A Step Forward for Liberty?
By Duncan Whitmore
At the time of writing, the mainstream media is ploughing ahead with its coronation of Democrat candidate Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, even though, officially, the race still hangs in the balance. Incumbent Donald Trump has refused to concede, alleging fraud and other irregularities in the balloting process that happened to affect a handful of key swing states. Such allegations are likely to result in a series of forthcoming court battles prior to the formal convening of the Electoral College.
Whatever the outcome of this election, enough is already known to make some preliminary remarks concerning the impact it might have on the near future.
The most important aspect – another blow to the ailing polling industry – is that there has been no grand repudiation of the Trump phenomenon. Four years ago, half of the US electorate voted for the man who railed against the liberal/leftist/globalist establishment; and four years later that half has not only refused to budge an inch but has, in fact, added to its ranks another ten million voters. Contrary to the narrative of his supposed racism and white supremacy, Trump also increased his share of black and Latino voters.
All of this is comes in spite of (or perhaps because of) the full weight of the establishment and big tech social media doing everything it could to discredit the legitimacy of the Trump presidency (Russiagate, impeachment etc.) while throwing in its lot with the Biden camp.
Much of this will seem strangely familiar to British readers – was this not exactly what happened with Brexit? Did a small but significant majority not vote four years ago to end our membership of the bloated, bureaucratic behemoth that is the EU? Didn’t the Remainiac establishment – instead of conceding the loss and working to heal any divisions – spend the following years doing everything imaginable to smear and reverse the result, demonising all Leavers as racist, gullible imbeciles swallowing Russian propaganda? And yet, in spite of all of this, was it not the case that the electorate voted repeatedly to affirm the decision, most recently in the 2019 General Election which handed an eighty seat majority to Boris Johnson?
Even if the Biden/Harris ticket does prevail in the end, the jubilant celebrations on the liberal left show that they still do not seem to understand the ground that is shifting underneath their feet. Similar to how Lord Andrew Adonis regarded Brexit as a “populist and nationalist spasm”, the left in America still regards Trump as a one-off maverick, a freak accident that interrupted the otherwise smooth ascendance of humanity into a global, liberal utopia. Following the media’s curiously synchronised calling of the race for Biden on Saturday, CNN anchor Don Lemon tweeted about how America is moving out of a “dark part of our history” and “into the light” – the implication being that Trump alone is the source of this darkness. Take out Trump then you take out the problem. What they have failed to grasp is that the populist/traditionalist backlash against the Western liberal welfare-warfare state – the latter of which had remained ideologically uncontested since the fall of communism – is now a permanent phenomenon. Trump himself has never been as important as the movement of which he is the figurehead and has given a voice to. Indeed, as libertarians, we know that statism is ultimately going to be defeated by destroying power, not by handing it over to someone who happens to be the enemy of our enemy. Thus, the underlying context of elections is, for us, far more important than the outcomes themselves.
Part of this context is that the US continues to be a politically divided nation, something which alone is a boon for liberty. In ordinary life, co-operation, friendliness and harmony are undeniably good when such qualities are directed at providing mutual benefits and services through the voluntary forum of the marketplace. But they are undeniably bad when embraced by, say, a band of robbers that wishes to do nothing but plunder and pillage. Thus, the more time that plunderers and pillagers spend arguing amongst themselves the less time they can spend actually plundering and pillaging.
More importantly, however, we can surmise that the day on which the United States dissolves into smaller units has drawn a great deal closer following this election. One day, Americans will wake up to the fact that it is impossible to sustain political unity when one half of the people actively hates, or at least distrusts, the other half. This latest election will now inflame the antagonism, regardless of the result. Whether Biden’s projected victory stands or whether Trump triumphs through the courts, one half of the country will spend the next four years thinking that the other half has stolen the race. Neither candidate can make any credible promise to achieve unity in the face of such irrevocable division.
Nevertheless – and this may come as a surprise to those who were relying upon a Trump victory to at least delay the final collapse of Western civilisation – movements towards a peaceful secession and the ultimate defeat of globalism may be more likely if Biden wins the presidency rather than Trump.
If Biden wins, we can surmise that he will not only attempt to wind the clock back to 2016 in terms of “America’s standing in the world” – he has, for instance, already pledged to reverse Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and the WHO – but is likely to plough ahead with further leftist, liberalising and globalising policies that are rejected by the Trump base. This will probably include further movements towards something such as the so-called “Great Reset”, the World Economic Forum’s nightmarish vision of global, green, digital socialism which it is hoping to latch onto the coattails of the COVID-19 power grab.
Trump, however, is unlikely to simply disappear, remaining instead as a powerful political force and a thorn in the side of the Biden administration. Indeed, given his taste for flamboyance, it would not be too outlandish to imagine Trump capitalising on the notion of a stolen election by setting up an administration “in exile”, or at least some kind of Red State base away from official power in Washington. In fact, it has been suggested already that he may set up some kind of “Trump TV” as a rival to the mainstream news networks. The division of allegiance in American politics would then be marked by a physical division of their respective leaderships in separate locations. This would surely be a stepping stone towards a geographical division of de jure power, galvanising the anti-globalist, anti-liberal movement towards a secessionist solution. Indeed, such a movement is already antithetical to unitary power, so it should have little trouble in contemplating secession – it is the left which needs strong, concentrations of power so that it can force its edicts onto everybody.
Should Trump win, however, while it is true that he will possess the formal power with which to arrest the liberal-leftist agenda, the antithesis to consolidated power that he represents would not be sundered from the official power base in Washington. The left is presently unified only by its hatred for Trump, not around any solid alternative, and so is unlikely to be able to rally round any opposing polarity instead of pining for its lost grip on power in the US capital. Biden would just fade into his well deserved obscurity; Kamala Harris is unlikely to appeal to anybody given her persistent unpopularity in the Democratic primaries. Moreover, with little affinity for secession or any commitment to the notion of “live and let live”, the left is more likely to opt for violent solutions, either rioting, or – in a worst case scenario – civil war, a bitter fight for control of a centralised seat of power. Such outcomes are likely to strengthen concentrated power in Washington rather than diminish it, regardless of who prevails.
Should Trump lose, much of what we have said does, of course, rely upon the expectation that he will not simply retire or return wholly to his private business pursuits. With Brexit, the objective of leaving the EU was itself a unifying force – there was no need for any particular individual to lead the charge. This is not necessarily the case in the US. While the anti-globalist right across the pond is not devoid of unifying principles, it may struggle to maintain its motivation and momentum without the rallying charisma of a leader such as Donald Trump. Moreover, Trump’s personal ideological commitments, whatever they may be, could stop short of the logical outcome of secession, and he may well balk at the prospect of being remembered as the man who split up America.
Nevertheless, even without the persona of Trump, a Biden presidency could actually hasten the demise of liberal/leftist globalism anyway. Many on the right are beginning to draw attention to the aforementioned “Great Reset”, often describing this programme as a “coup”, or a “revolution” that has either manufactured, or is otherwise benefiting from, the destruction wrought by COVID-19 lockdowns. It is natural to assume that a Biden presidency would, as we said, accelerate the drive towards this “reset” while a Trump presidency would frustrate it. Hence, the right believes that a Trump victory is vital.
However, this assessment of the “Great Reset” is misplaced. True enough, it is a programme that is being sold as an alternative, or a “re-imagining”, of capitalism. But as we explained recently, since the fall of communism the world has been dominated not by a free market order but by what you might call state corporatism or crony capitalism – a version of socialism built upon democracy, inflationary finance and welfare statism. This ingenious combination has continually enriched its beneficiaries while, at the same time, camouflaged its real nature in a cloak of legitimacy and the illusion of general prosperity – illusions that direct socialism in the USSR and Maoist China were unable to conjure.
By the end of the 2010s, however, it was becoming apparent that the spells were no longer working their magic. Inflationary finance, and its series of catastrophic booms and busts, was failing to deliver prosperity to the ordinary person; welfare states are becoming increasingly cash strapped, even bankrupt; and the trajectory of consolidating governance in the hands of technocrats in foreign institutions has alienated the citizenry from the political process. All of this was in tandem with the assault upon traditional culture, values and national pride by cultural leftists. When all of this produced a backlash in the form of the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, we have seen that the reaction from the establishment has been entrenched, uncompromising and almost fanatical resistance to the emerging rejection of their world order. Moreover, the more potent this resistance has become the stronger and more stubborn the anti-establishment, anti-globalist movement seems to have become in turn, as this latest presidential election has shown.
Within this context, the Great Reset does not form the basis for any kind of revolution, renewal or some kind of green leap forward. Rather, it is a doubling down of the existing cadre of elites, their last great gasp in order to maintain their weakening grip on power. Absolutely nothing in its programme offers anything radically different from the current order of corporatism, inflationary finance and welfare statism – instead it is this exact same order on steroids, the ultimate victory of inflatable money and the corporate elite ownership of all property. Thus, this programme will fail not only because, like all versions of socialism, it cannot succeed in the long run: it will fail because it is a potent form of the ideological status quo, not a compromise or reconciliation with the resistance to that status quo. The likely result, therefore, will be an inflammation and strengthening of the populist backlash, not its subjugation. Indeed, their sudden acceleration of what would otherwise be a process of evolution over several decades shows that the current crop of elites has been caught on the back foot. They have had to play all of their cards now, on the flimsy and diminishingly effective pretext of COVID-19, as power is slipping through their fingers. In fact, they even seem to have realised that the virus itself will not be enough to complete their transformation, hoping instead to ramp up the threat of “climate change” to finish the job. Yet that old chestnut has, for decades, failed to achieve a great deal of popular commitment.
This is not to imply, of course, that this dystopia of digital socialism is nothing to worry about. However, in the long run, I suspect that we may have more to fear from what might replace it once its failure leaves behind a power vacuum. We typically lump all threats to freedom into one amorphous blob, but their apparent unity is usually based upon mutual back scratching rather than any deeper connection. Harder left ideologies – such as those permeating BLM and Antifa – also see themselves as adversaries of the corporatist Davos crowd as much as we libertarians do, viewing Joe Biden as an old, racist white guy little better than Donald Trump. In fact, should it succeed in removing Trump from the presidency, it wouldn’t be surprising if the left in America, having lost its unifying hatred for the evil orange ogre, disintegrates into its own civil war.
Moreover, we have to remember that the nationalist, populist right is not necessarily anti-statist in principle. In particular, their confusion of political globalisation (supranational political authority) with economic globalisation (trade across borders), and their wrongful attribution of yawning trade deficits and the offshoring of blue collar jobs to free trade, has resulted in a hardening, protectionist stance. Should this fail to soften then it will only lead to more conflict in the future, as all protectionist policies tend to do.
There would also be the question of where the polarity of power in the world could end up. Certainly it seems as though China may go along with a programme such as the Great Reset but is unlikely, with its insatiable hunger for fossil fuels, to embrace all of its green extremism. It’s far more likely that the Chinese will sit on the sidelines watching the West drive itself to ruin before stepping in to pick up all of the pieces.
All of that aside, however, the prospects for liberty are likely to be better in the long run if the opposition to the current power base grows outside of that base rather than as part of it. Indeed, one of the worries of a Trump victory in 2016 was that the hopelessly unstable global financial system would collapse on his watch and he – as a symbol of “capitalism” – would shoulder the blame. It would be far better for the machinery of corporate globalism to fail under the aegis of one of its perennial statist beneficiaries like Joe Biden.
Another aspect of this election is that it may have driven some more nails into the coffins of mainstream media and exposed further the Big Tech liberal bias. Indeed, the election may even prove to be the watershed between their dominance and the rise of alternative media. In particular, Fox News, which generally leans to the right, has been pummelled for calling a Biden win in Arizona before vote counting had barely begun, an apparent suppression poll tactic deemed to be more CNN-like than CNN. As a result, viewers have been switching to smaller alternatives such as Newsmax. Twitter has been repeatedly hiding or attaching “disputed” notices to any tweet that suggests electoral fraud or a questioning of the result, while obviously failing to note that Biden’s claim to victory is equally disputed. Consequently, Twitter’s competitor Parler has been swamped by new signups, becoming the top free download in both the Google and Apple stores.
All of this simply echoes the themes we noted above: doubling down of the statist-quo, deliberate censorship and naked partisanship all have the counterproductive effect of strengthening rather than weakening the resistance. Should these tendencies continue we can suppose that the globalising/liberalising/leftist forces are weaker than we suspect, their strength drawn more from the noise they make than from what they can actually accomplish. Thus, we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the chances for liberty, regardless of whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden emerges as the next President of the United States.