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Note: Obviously I haven’t been blogging much in recent years.  But I wrote this on facebook and thought I would share it here too; perhaps I will start writing more if I can get a chance as the present political situation feels extremely dire.

Since 2016, I’ve often avoided commenting on the “Trump is just a symptom of neoliberalism” line and those types of narratives principally because I have found that they largely function as an excuse to do nothing to stand up to a President who is unambiguously making government more corrupt and further is greatly enhancing the risk there will never be any meaningful attempt to address climate change as well as increasing the risk of a disastrous war in the middle east involving Iran. (And I do suspect that some people who have pushed those narratives genuinely hate the political center more than they hate fascism, which is weird and disgusting.)

But that having been said, it is absolutely true that the corruption and cynicism that neoliberalism has injected into our political system and discourse is absolutely an essential ingredient in what makes “Trumpism” a recognizable political narrative. (Note I can’t say “an intelligible political narrative,” because, apart from its racist actions and appeals, Trumpism is largely unintelligible.) Trump provides the thinnest veneer of angry, anti-elite populism that racist whites need to feel that their resentments toward a pluralistic, multi-cultural society are legitimate.

But it is absolutely true to say that the corruption, nepotism and kleptocratic instincts of neoliberalism have done a great deal to render Trump’s phony populist rage seemingly intelligible to many who are searching for a culturally safe way to express their prejudices and desire to scapegoat immigrants for America’s problems. [And demonstrating that populist rage is indeed phony is easily achieved by noting Trump has never done anything to harm the corporate elites… even the ones who openly employ the undocumented workers (“illegal immigrants”) he so thoroughly despises… and his supporters have never criticized him over that.]

So now, while it has to be noted that the claim that Hunter Biden or, by extension, his father did something illegal in Ukraine is totally false, it is also true that the younger Biden is a participant in the typical, nausea-inducing, neo-liberal influence-peddling schemes that have come to typify modern politics, and it does reflect poorly on his father in that (relatively narrow) sense.

And while it has to be emphasized here that singling out Hunter Biden for criticism on this account would be completely absurd (particularly as Trump and his family themselves have a dizzying array of far more compromising relationships with foreign interests), the fact that it is absurd will not prevent it from happening and having real political impact. Just as Hillary Clinton’s perceived hypocrisy in remaining silent over sexual abuse allegations against her husband served to deflect from documentation of Trump’s extreme misogyny and his own abuse allegations, Hunter Biden’s eyeroll-worthy relationship with the Ukrainian oil company has the potential to muddy the waters and damage his father’s credibility in calling out Trump’s obvious corruption and inappropriate overtures to foreign leaders, and also risks serving as a deflection point regarding the (likely inevitable) impeachment of Trump.

And this is just one reason among many why, in my opinion, Biden would make a rather poor choice for the Democratic nominee for President.

Instead of nominating someone who is entangled in neo-liberal political webs, Democrats would do much better to nominate someone who can stand up forcefully and meaningfully against government corruption. In my opinion, Elizabeth Warren has spoken out most strongly on these issues and is probably the person best positioned to effect change here; although others in the Democratic field would potentially be competent on this point as well.

But the main point is that we absolutely have to deal not only with Donald Trump, but also with the underlying illness. Joe Biden is someone who will have difficulty convincingly doing this and nominating him could have potentially catastrophic implications.

Democratic Presidential Candidates Attend "Union For All" Summit In Los Angeles

Mario Tama/Getty Images

I haven’t been blogging much in the last couple of years, but I’ve been meaning to get some thoughts out on the Presidential election for a while that can’t quite be captured on twitter, so this is just intended to put together some rough ideas that have been in my head recently, not only about the election but also touching on currents in left politics.

A post appeared on Jill Stein’s facebook page recently from her social media director (Jillian), in which she implies that Trump is the better choice for President between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton because Clinton represents ‘the establishment’ while Trump’s racist hatred is not the ‘root cause’ of inequality in our society, but rather a product of it.  This statement further riffed on an idea that I have seen circulating among some on the left: the claim is that a Hillary Clinton presidency will inevitably lead to aggressive confrontation abroad or even World War III; meanwhile Donald Trump’s might lead to blood on the streets in the U.S., but would supposedly lead to peace abroad.

While I do agree that Clinton’s foreign policy will probably be a bit worse than Obama’s (and Jillian is right to criticize Clinton’s policies towards Israel and the Palestinians in her statement), I don’t understand what the larger claim regarding the election is based on.  Why do some on the left seem to believe Trump is a ‘man of peace’?  What personal traits of his is this based on?

As I mentioned above, in one variation of this idea, the ‘even-handed’ criticism of the two candidates is presented that Clinton will supposedly lead to WWIII, while Trump will lead to civil war in the U.S., because of his reliance on white supremacist politics and his attempts to impose violent racist policies. But why would we expect someone that leads to so much divisiveness and aggression within our own borders would lead to anything other than aggression abroad?  Is this really a natural assumption to make about Trump?

Clinton_Trump_WAR.jpg

From my perspective, I think that a better assumption is that Trump will simply follow whatever path feeds his vanity and his instincts to bully.  Further, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated a short-sighted instinct to lash out at others over minor perceived slights, which often results in almost immediate negative consequences for himself personally and his campaign.  And particularly with regards to Russia, it seems very possible that Trump’s foreign policy would be informed by his own personal business interests.

In addition, if he were to become President, Trump would be the titular head of the Republican party, which means he will be pressured to choose policies that conform to GOP instincts.  I don’t understand why a narcissistic, short-sighted bully, especially under those conditions, would be trusted on foreign policy by some on the left.

With that in mind, let’s remind ourselves that if Al Gore had been sworn in as President in 2000 (and not had the election be close enough to be stolen), then the Iraq War and many of its terrible consequences would almost certainly not have happened.  Sometimes it may feel frustrating that the difference between the two parties seems so small, but with regards to more than a few policies, that difference matters very much.

This is also very much true with regards to climate change, on which the Democrats are willing to be pressured to act, while Republicans will always attempt to tear up any progress the left makes on the issue whatsoever.  It is almost impossible to understate the immediate importance of this, and it’s very frustrating that the Green Party are the ones essentially saying the issue can be resolved later, after we enable a third party takeover of the Presidency and Congress.

On the contrary, I think a much more realistic view of the issue is that electing Donald Trump may result in putting the human species on a path towards extinction.

As a more general comment on the progressive movement at large, it seems that there are some nominally on the left who are increasingly comfortable with political ideas and expressions that originate from conservative movements and particularly the alt-right.  Reactionary groups like Deep Green Resistance have been on that path for a while, but now it seems like Wikileaks and many of its supporters are increasingly comfortable with alt-right politics.  Some who were formerly Bernie Sanders supporters (whom I myself supported in the primaries) have now turned to supporting Trump as an expression of ‘anti-establishment’ politics.  And of course, Jill Stein herself has expressed support for the Brexit campaign that was driven by far right nativist currents in the UK.

Personally, I will choose a Democratic party that can at least be pressured to make some gradual progress on issues like climate change over knee-jerk politics that increasingly seems to ignore implementing substantive progressive policy in favor of directionless kicks against ‘the establishment.’

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