Published on http://www.counterpunch.org
Our two party system which has operated as a duopoly on economic issues, especially in regard to letting Wall Street and business leaders shape what globalization is, can’t cover the complexity of forces now surging in the U.S. President Trump is an outlier in that duopoly and as such he’s been the nemesis of the Democrats and probably the death blow to Republicans.
Sometimes, however, an outlier goes where others do not, regardless of whether the motivation is noble or ignoble. And Donald J. Trump has certainly shown us the opposite of “sweet mercy as nobility’s true badge” and not in a five act play but on Twitter. But I think we should salvage some part of his actions against both globalization strategized by corporate planning as well as his restrictions on cyberspace open borders, a transnational free flow of information, or as 5G is explained “a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices.” China’s Huawei, a state-owned company, owns a sizeable 5G patent portfolio.
What a Biden presidency will inherit is a Trump-created complexity not rationally penetrable but just a mess. Extracting what is salvageable is not an easy task given so much anti-Trump pent up anger, the justifiable kind like Christ whipping the loan sharks out of the Temple. But the question arises whether the powerful lobbying against doing what Trump has done regarding globalization in the hands of Wall Street and cyberspace networking of everyone in the hands of China’s CCP will push Biden their way.
There is affiliation and complicity of Democrats for the globalization push of Republican globalists who are themselves serving corporate strategies. This gives you pause when wondering how Bernie, Warren, AOC and their Green New Deal will fit as they clearly don’t affiliate and are loathe to be complicit in any of this.
What to keep in mind is that there have been two counterforces to globalization run by corporate planning.
One, of course, is Bernie’s persistent attack on the gross wealth inequities, working and middle-class job losses, degradation of the environment and subsequent creation of Trump’s followers, all exacerbated by globalization compacts serving profit only. The entrance of The Green New Deal set into legislation Bernie’s thoughts regarding globalization.
As to Trump’s followers, these are a status anxious flaying and failing segment of Americans Trump could corral by seeming to answer their anxieties. That their passions turned to fear and hate, and that Trump played upon those to his own benefit is now a matter of history still alive in the present.
The second counterforce to a globalization run by Wall Street has been Donald J. Trump’s economic nationalism.
Recall that NAFTA as sponsored by Clinton went through over the objections of unionists and environmentalists. In order to draw aggrieved workers, whether unemployed or underemployed or employed at non-union wages, Trump has disguised himself as a hero of a working class. Not Sherrod Brown but Donald J. Trump. And he’s succeeded, not in doing anything for workers or detaching Wall Street from that globalization serving investors and those invested. In fact, by rolling back environmental conditions, OSHA, and fighting to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, Trump is as much a defender of the working class as is the whole GOP and its Senate leader, that working-class hero, Mitch McConnell.
Still, Trump is not the globalist’s friend, although he reckons his success on the rise and fall of the Dow. “[H]e is torn schizophrenically between his desire to pose as the champion of blue-collar workers and his obsessive interest in the Dow Jones index, which doesn’t react well to his economic nationalism.” (Adam Tooze, “Whose Century,” London Review of Books, 30 July 2020).
At some point, corporate planning on the international stage, business strategies, and financial services, as exemplified for instance by Goldman-Sachs, replaced political and economic decisions regarding international relations. China, for instance, was left to those American firms invested very profitably in China. “America’s elite,” Tooze writes, “lost interest in their own country” as a financial sector sprung free, thanks to cyberspace, from labor and environmental issues, reaped the harvest of globalized operations. That Wall Street was ahead regarding arcane, unregulated financial practices globally speaking only made the preference for feasting in foreign countries rather than at home more attractive.
To repeat, Donald Trump messed up sweet globalist deals for American investors and did so to win an election, gauging the working class and middle-class resentment in the U.S. would be the means to do so. It was all there to be tapped, so great a portion of the country disaffected, immiserated, and jobs clearly scheduled to be even more disastrously replaced by robotics and AI. The Grand Canyon of a wealth gap was there to be seen and its illiberal consequences observed everywhere but among the top 20%, an enough percentage, history shows us, to rule a country. It’s called plutarchy.
Trump sized it up and spouted then and continues to spout an America First! line, a swerve from a globalization feeding the rich and leaving everyone else to find their incentive, being very careful not to engage in any disincentivizing activities. Given a situation feeding few and also a situation mindless except for an interest in a return on investment and profit to shareholders, Trump’s retaking the political and economic reins from corporate and Wall Street control is not any action adverse to Bernie’s or Warren’s platforms, except, nota bene, for Trump’s replacement of the U.S. Constitutional government with his own autocratic, stable genius self.
It’s the man’s monstrous ego which lies behind his disregard for all things globalist and not any concern for redeeming the inequities of the domestic scene. He’s either a very rare example of ambition American style willing to throw everyone and everything under the bus on his road to self-deification, or he’s quite ordinary in this regard except for the fact that he got the U.S. presidency and his Mar-a-Lago club buddies didn’t.
How can you know what history will make of this man, especially when we’re far enough away from the real enmity his presence commands and consider that, unlike Clinton and Obama, he sees in China not a country ready to become like the U.S. but a country that will be the chief dealmaker if he personally doesn’t stop them. Where Democrats have long seen in China a potential convert to American capitalist faith “growing” under the arcade of democratic governance, The Donald just saw a rival to be crushed on the horizon.
Trump thinks in terms of adversaries, a very personal not ideological thought process. The idea of China, the word pronounced in his bigoted fashion, beating us at the trade game for instance infuriates Trump. But this approach to China, regardless of whether its roots are found in Trump’s egomaniacal brain, is closer to seeing China realistically than that of the Clintons or Obama.
While Trump has no interest in whether China becomes a representative democracy or an equitably humane society, whether Mao’s hundred flowers would bloom or die on the vine, Democrats have continued with the fiction that China through the doors of capitalism will become such a society. I presume Trump has no such interest because it’s quite clear he has no such interest in the U.S.
President Carter established diplomatic relations with Deng Xiaoping’s China, a move Trump would not have made. Such a move would be comparable to him putting AOC and The Squad in his cabinet. Carter also held the view that trade with China wouldn’t take American jobs, globalism not yet the mania of American business, but denying that is foolish at this point. The corporate search for low wage workers paralleled Wall Street’s search for financial brokering and investment easy targets. Both were the results of globalization, and both developments have been attacked by Trump in his role playing as working-class savior, rather like the way Reagan and George W. role played Western hero.
As much as Attorney General William Barr raises the hackles of Liberals, it was Barr –though it could have been Bernie — who said on Fox News “the American business community has been a big part of the problem. They’re not taking the long-term view and the national view of maintaining the American strength.” Barr warned corporate leaders that they “should be alert to how you might be used, and how your efforts on behalf of a foreign company or government could implicate the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”
China’s powerful CCP has not become incompatible with the same “free enterprise” the U.S. and the EU prize. Both exist in a comfortable symbiotic relationship. You don’t have to bring to the Chinese people all the victories the Democrats have focused on for sixteen years of Democratic presidencies to bring the Chinese to an improved economic life. Whether that improvement will bring the Chinese to demand all sorts of rights to everyone equally regardless of differences, in short push them toward honoring a unity that does not go beyond or subsume diversity or remain with a CCP’s imposition of a unity that does, is moot.
It’s also moot to affirm conclusively that the U.S.’s own ambition to establish a boundless diversity that does not prevent a unifying commonality required by any national order is possible and happening now. We need to note especially that the U.S. is now about as far from unity as before the Civil War and that how diversity can be accommodated, although it is a mantra of Democrats, has no answer we all hold in common.
The hard-line Trump is now taking against China’s cybertech firms TicTok and WeChat and restrictions on Huawei including blocking its 5G wireless network is being done in the name of national security and may not be the same line a President Biden will take. There are reasons to believe that Biden will follow the path of previous Democrat regimes and “argue that the United States was so big and powerful that it could afford to lead by example as it tried to spread principles of openness and democracy.” (New York Times, August 18, 2020) Cybertech lobbyists argue that taking the Chinese government’s approach to the free flow of information is hardly in keeping with the U.S. commitment essentially to the idea that “information wants to be free.”
Facing the reality that it is not, for instance, free in China and that its influence and penetration here might be a problem is itself a problem. Whether or not the American mass psyche is more threatened by foreign influencers than by its domestic ones is not so crazy a question. Whether or not the chaotic sandstorm of cyberspace reach we ourselves generate is a homegrown threat to national security and our own sanity is also not so crazy a question.
We can calculate that the lobbying power of Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft comes close to matching the lobbying power of JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. Both fiefdoms want borderless, unregulated freedom of both financial services (“profit wants to be free”) and e-commerce and social media. Up until Trump’s presidency this has been a given unnecessary to defend, rather like globalized, financialized capitalism itself.
Republicans have a religion of keeping government out of profit making, regardless of whether such profit making is dooming the planet and its people. You can say that this approach has put Anthropocene nomenclature before us as we recognize a reign and eventual end date of homo sapiens on the planet. Unfortunately for humans and planet, everyone enjoying the fruits of their fossil fuel investments foresee the end date coming long after they and their days of wine and roses are gone.
If Democrats have been more notably concerned with planet and workers than with “growing” the economy and proudly announcing that they are capitalists and so part of the club, evidence would have to be shown of that. Obama did not only exonerate the Great Recession Wall Street looters, but he made it a policy not to look back at all that but look ahead, hope a finer course than punishment. And Clinton’s Third Way, enforcing the illogic of work not welfare on those who couldn’t find jobs, showed Republicans that a Democrat could toe the capitalist line. His adoption of the credo that the jobless are just lazy and that a “moral hazard” resulted from any form of government aid made him a loyal capitalist as the wealthy defined it.
Some of this is responsible for the muddle the American mindset is in, that is, was there a crime, criminals and a trial? Was it the government’s fault? Did the crazy leftists hiding out in the Democratic Party create the Great Recession? The failure to indict and prosecute was clearly responsible for the return to that sort of dirty business not only unpunished but bailed out by the government. No one “disincentivized” here on Wall St. by any governmental demand to face the consequences of their actions in court.
Those invested in the tech firms here and in China prefer not having their return on investment machinery tampered with. Call that the GOP position.
Democrats are on board here also but they add a useful salve in that information wants to be free in the same way that diversity wants to be free to be diverse, except of course if you are threatening, as apparently in Trump’s view Biden is, of turning the country socialist or worse.
“Spreading principles of openness and diversity” which apparently is what something like Twitter and Facebook do, is so very close to the view that such openness and diversity automatically forms an order of things — social, political, economic — in which we are all, despite our diversity, able to achieve a common understanding and thus create the unity, coherence and continuity quite like Aristotle’s eudaimonia.
Once again, if you look around, you don’t see this but the very opposite.
I suppose it takes a vile human being, sociopathic and egotistically inclined, who gives a deaf ear to the last few sentences to see all the world as his stage, a game board to make the moves of his moods. It takes this sort, which we have as our president, to ignore his own party, its love of what globalization, tech innovation and tech profit making do to their stock portfolio. This president ignores the neoliberal mandate to find more profit in financial finagling than domestic industry. In imposing on Wall St. and Silicon Valley regulations this president is at war with his own war against regulations.
None of this means that this man sees that China won’t be democratized via its successful capitalism or that Chinese cybertech is a threat to U.S. national security. What it all comes down to for this man is whether he can build Trump Towers in China and whether Chinese cybertech reaches his own stable genius.
His are the reasons of a man who lives not on the global state but within his own psychomachia and thus imagines forces set against him and has no way of digesting defeat but must rage on, whatever the cost. To others.
But wrong or twisted reason and motivation do not condemn the need or the action. Whether a President Biden will lean into both the lobbying efforts of Wall Street and Silicon Valley and do so within a Democratic Party love of diversity and freedom, more grandly existential than profit to shareholders, is more than likely.
The fact that Trump tyrannized the globalists and the Twitterati alongside tyrannizing immigrants, the poor, the sick, women, blacks and browns, Congress, the Intelligence community, science, the Fourth Estate, and an 18th century constitution he rolled over, and may continue to do so after the election just may set Biden on a “Anything Trump Goes,” comparable to Trump’s own “Anything Obama Goes.”
One of the reasons Biden will win this election with a strong mandate for leadership is certainly because so many struck by Covid and unemployment and eviction want to see Trump go.
Regarding those rabidly disgusted by Trump and those rabidly enthralled, the tally is close to a wash. But a tipping to strong mandate will most likely come from a corporate and financial sector as well as an e-commerce sector hoping for a return to a “normal” order of global cooperation, especially with China. Certainly, that normalcy would include forgiveness of all sins and a Fed bail out as needed.
Trump’s tax breaks to the rich as well as rolling back regulations and promising to cut entitlements entice the corporate and financial sectors but Trump’s politics of rude and crude in the face of pandemic, Black Lives Matter and subsequent protests lessen his attractiveness, as registered in the polls.
But it is on the issues of globalization and e-commerce that Biden seems a better bet now than Trump.
Whether the moderate wing of Democrats convince Bernie, AOC, Warren and a small army of others to love globalization the way Bill Clinton did is greatly to be doubted. But it is hard to imagine that the young progressives and those who allow socialism to be part of what they are will not want free and open access to cyberspace, which has been for this young contingent a fast track to political influence.
While Trump’s ego cannot recognize social media, or Russian influence, as instrumental in his MAGA popularity, the young and rational recognize cyberspace as a domain to be used and not confined. Whether the fact that Huawei, for instance, shares what it learns with the CCP is outweighed by the Democrats drive to spread openness and diversity is a future matter, as is to what degree the powerful neoliberal, financialized corporate empire will lobby Biden into the sort of globalization Democrats have bend the knee to.