Published on http://www.counterpunch.org/
Whether by choice, hook or crook Donald Trump drops out of the presidential race, seething anger will not abate post-election. His “lewdness,” as now revealed in more than one video, makes Tom Kaine sick to his stomach, puts the GOP in a cringing, crisis mode and keeps the media fueled. All this, however, is meaningless in terms of treating anger festering pathologies, of which Trump’s presence is no more than a symptom.
A debate is like a lab experiment pushing suspected pathogens to a crisis level to reveal the nature of the disease. It is not, however, in the nature of our current Reality TV politics and the low level of intelligent discourse it produces to expect that vacuity and substance, truth and falsehood will be revealed in a TV debate. The palliatives to anger remain both unknowable and unreachable.
What the “Dislike” grades of both Hillary Clinton Donald Trump tell us is that regardless of who wins the election, anger will remain and most likely increase in the aftermath. We can also expect the now customary fears, frustrations, anxieties, confusions that the media calls “disaffection.”
A President Hillary will kick up anger already on the boil in the Trump camp. The Bernie camp will match that anger if she lays aside his revolutionary call and settles on “children and the family,” issues at most peripheral to the battle against plutocracy Bernie took on.
Neither side trusts her so there is a fear factor at work here also. She may run the country on her private server, or be indicted for money laundering via the Clinton Foundation, or be indicted for false testimony to Congress. Back in the day investigations like Whitewater and the death of Vince Foster and Benghazi may be refreshed on Twitter, as well as all the sins of her husband, which the censorious feel she condoned in a Lady Macbeth fashion.
The lady is under deep suspicion in the American mass psyche and her presence as Madame President for four years promises to nourish a seething anger. If Trump had not destroyed the GOP’s grandness, you could expect any Republican to win in 2020. Attendez! Will Twitter remember?
A President Trump is certain to disappoint his followers because his plan to “make American great again” is not a plan but a huckster’s bullshit pitch. Whether he can load the blame onto Obama/Hillary or the Chinese or Liberals or Mother Nature would most likely be the main act of an administration on the defensive from day one. Expect a lot of success with this.
That administration will also inspire a good deal of fear from all sides from day one because at this point even his most loyal followers realize he himself is an IED that can go off at any time, in any direction. But an explosion is kind of what they want, one that somehow takes out all the elites lined up against them, especially Hillary and Obama, but leaves them standing, better off, back in control, no outsourcing, no “illegals” taking their jobs, low taxes, no political correctness, and wages reviving a middle class prosperity.
We can expect that Hillary will be anger’s target regardless of who wins. Trump’s 21% chance of winning at this point and thus Hillary’s inevitability is, oddly enough, anger provoking.
There are usual and unusual suspects here: Trump’s supporters but also Bernie supporters as well as over 50% of Americans who disapprove of Hillary. A larger percentage disapproves of Trump but as a loser, his likeability will rise, not to mention an all out zaniness in attacking Hillary that feeds the media and keeps our politics at an entertaining Reality TV level.
What do we see when we crash through the hyperreal of Reality TV politics?
Our ruling establishment, a neoliberal economic philosophy sponsoring a globalization in which workers lose jobs and get no piece of the cake, democracies are turned into plutocracies, and the environment is “creatively destroyed” for the sake of profit, inspires distrust and is one location firing up a seething anger. This is a truthful scenario for Bernie supporters who see it as fact-based, very rational compared with the screwy, irrational affinities between Trump and his supports.
Because we do not transfer invalid feelings, no matter how screwy, to others, we have to recognize that there is legitimacy to the feelings of those who attach themselves to Donald Trump, regardless of whether there is any cogency to their reasons or the absence of any reasons that can survive interrogation. Rage can be genuine though misdirected and blind to its own causes.
The softening of critical reason’s functioning, the dissolving of facts into opinions, and the illusions of personal autonomy feed affectional, glandular connections to the world but they do not dissipate or negate the authenticity of those connections.
Anger in America has roots but we in our new millennial Information Age are dismissive of historical memory so it is very difficult to say what memories, if any, keep anger on the boil. We are in the Twitter Moment Memory, so flooded and indiscriminate that none is retrievable.
Seven million Americans lost their homes after the 2008 Great Recession and less than one third regained ownership. The bailout of the foreclosed did not proceed as quickly or as completely as the bailout of banks, too big to fail, its executives too big to prosecute and the looted too small to bail out.
This is already too buried in a “back in the day” blur to generate much heat in the post-2016 presidential season. Neither Elizabeth Warren’s nor Bernie Sanders’ attack on banks assuming they were too big to jail has aroused more anger and distrust than has “Big Government.” Anger is seething against Wall Street and Obama/Hillary in equal measure.
There is no revolution or resistance, even the kind Bernie envisioned, when half your forces either have aligned themselves with the other side, or are in a coma of undecidability, which they call “independent,” or are already too deeply into survival to “do politics.”
If you have money in America, you have power to send the country into crisis and the power to escape any kind of punishment.
Right now, Donald Trump is claiming that losing close to a billion dollars and paying no taxes is an example of his winning ways. The perversion of justice that we see following the Great Recession cannot remain on the level of individuals with money but extends to a plutocratic structure that perverts justice to maintain its rule.
An example of this is George W. Bush sending a good part of the Middle East to the hell it has become. The distrust in our reasons for going to war was instilled by Viet-nam but did not persist up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Bush `43 remains unindicted, except on an off-Broadway theatre trial. An indictment of him would necessitate an indictment of an invasion for which we should apologize, an indictment of a privatization for profit of an ensuing, never ending war, and an indictment of an invading American capitalism into “new marketing frontiers” under the camouflage of democratic nation building and an extension of human rights. Such rights in the U.S. stop at adopting FDR’s economic bill of rights.
Although both the damage caused by the Iraq invasion and the Great Recession aroused Bernie Sanders’ anger and incited his call for a systemic revolution, that anger was displaced first by the non-revolution Hillary offered and is buried now in the battle between Trump and Hillary.
Bernie’s quasi-socialist path to eliminating what generated a righteous anger proved less communicable and absorbable than Trump’s line-up from the Id as to what and who had to be eliminated. Not only are we not disposed memory wise to develop a unified, coherent, continuity of thought but we are not disposed to bear exposition that runs deep and long. Americans are no longer disposed or equipped to focus on a proper critique of a capitalism that has slipped its traces.
What we know about seething anger is that its fires are easily dampered by the power it targets as well as by a decline in the worth of any memory, recent or historical. The need of a 24/7 news cycle as well as the click speed cycle of attentiveness subvert a mounting critique necessary to pursue what triggers anger and work toward their removal.
What the Wall Street financial elite did to foment the 2008 crash and what led the Bush cadre to invade Iraq are neither describable nor explainable on Twitter or Facebook. What social media can do is gin up and disseminate anxieties, fears, meanness and hatred that fuel anger in a perpetual circle.
Politics in the U.S. is stymied in this vicious circle of he said/she said but now anonymously and bountifully projected in cyberspace cut quite cleanly from facts, evidence and reason itself. Anger therefore cannot really seethe in the U.S. because seething is not a one off but a mounting sequence of response.
Nevertheless, anger can explode when the one offs are internalized like Big Brother mantras and the need for a cogent coherence is absent. Trump excels at such one offs, especially those that plow the dark fields of our baser selves.
The American mass psyche was already tilled, plowed and planted by the time Trump came along so now he harvests what is deeply rooted in that psyche.
Security fears that began on 9/11 and would already have vanished, especially in the minds of Millennials, if ISIS had not emerged as an angry backlash, generating more fear than seething anger in Americans, a fear that Trump promises to dissolve with one blow, rather like solving the fear of immigrants by building a wall.
Anti-globalization may blossom into actionable rage. The delayed anger that NAFTA has aroused may be reborn with anger over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which itself will surely be reborn under Hillary as “new and improved.” NAFTA, with minimal workers’ rights and minimal environmental protection, put U.S. workers in competition with lower paid Mexican workers. China’s admittance to the W.T.O. in 2001 put U.S. workers in competition with one billion workers, 482 million living on less than $2 a day whose labor organizers are jailed. There is anger fuel here.
Will this then be the point at which seething anger comes to a boil?
Probably not when you consider that such trade deals mean great consumer deals at Walmart and you can buy mangoes in winter. But Walmart’s imports from China between 2001 and 2013 eliminated, according to the Economic Policy Institute, 400,000 jobs in the U.S. At the same time, union membership went from one third of all workers to 1 in 10, a decline that a two term Democratic president has not stopped.
Unions, already demonized by a neoliberal economics, have little power when jobs are outsourced to foreign countries. Their demise means little in an American mass psyche already tied to their extinction in the manner of seniority, pensions, overtime pay, and job security.
The axiomatic drive of capitalist markets toward globalization, which expand economies beyond what domestic economies can achieve, is a force that consideration of wages, environmental and consumer protection cannot repel if these three are viewed as acceptable collateral damage, as “creatively destroyed” for “the general Welfare.”
Wage earners will also advance, in the Google’s president’s view, into “leisure” by robotics and AI in ever greater numbers. The seething anger here will de-seethe because hi-tech is, like globalized capitalism, impervious to critique, sacred and unstoppable in the American cultural imaginary.
No, it does not add up to the workers of in the U.S. uniting in Bastille Day anger.
If the wealth divide grows beyond its present Grand Canyon expanse to an Earth to Moon expanse, will anger seethe into revolt?
In the U.S., those who have lost jobs five years before now receive 25% of their former income while those in an EU country receive about 70%. Anger over this statistic does not seethe; in fact, it does not produce anger. The richest twenty Americans having more wealth than the combined wealth of half the U.S. population is a seething anger catalyst but not more incendiary than “Obamacare.”
What is seething anger worthy in the U.S. is welfare to those who are seen as gaming the system. While the EU is, we feel in our “gut,” soft on Moochers, the U.S. plays a hard ball game and puts the Moochers to work, not on welfare, presuming that everyone chooses welfare when work is equally viable and available. Americans do not just distrust Hillary; they distrust the poor, the unemployed and the Big Government that nurtures them. Hillary should tell us she is a fraud; the poor should tell us they are lazy; and Big Government should tell us it is Orwell’s Big Brother.
There is more anger then against the Losers/Moochers than against an economic system that in a creatively profitable way immiserates many while protecting from higher taxes the profits of those who are on a roll to happily and incrementally profit from their profits.
How effectively will a President Hillary Clinton’s narratives of family, children, LGBTQ and women’s rights and so on, deflect seething anger from its plutocratic causes?
The American mass psyche is keyed to all talk of personal freedom, invariably extrapolated as individual liberty, but the attraction is on the “my freedom” level and unstable and suspect on the “your freedom” level. The extension of equal rights and freedom to some registers as a threat to one’s own freedom.
There is no deep cultural or politics of identity and equality issue that does not reduce to liberation of some and a threat to others. Irresolvable heat, enough to keep equally opposed angers seething. Both parties work this tempestuous quagmire to detour anger from an economic system that benefits the wealth class on both sides of the aisle.
In the Liberal view, abortion, gay marriage, immigrant, women’s, LGBTQ rights, therefore, seem to be no more than a Constitutional extension of equal rights to Americans who are entitled to such rights. In the Neoliberal view, these are issues to rouse antagonists to liberal politics, which in its tax and regulatory drive is a drag on profit making.
The American sacred text is personal freedom; both sides quote it to far different effect.
On one side, there is anger against those who stand in the way of the fulfillment of what is proposed as naturally just and right. On the opposing side, there is equal anger against those seeking such fulfillment of what violates their sacred beliefs and ignores their rights.
There will always be, for some, a disenfranchised group or some life form endangered, or some basic human right newly discovered but unwelcomed, or some suppression of an appetite that must be liberated, or some form of social practice under attack, something that yearns to be free (like information).
For others, enfranchisement of difference is a danger to a resident identity, jobs are endangered by global warming fanatics, and moral and societal proscriptions are sacred and unchanging and not subject to updating on Facebook by secularized Liberals.
We can expect that these issues will continue to bang heads while the rich get richer and the planet grows uninhabitable for humans.
As far as a reckless, out of control globalized capitalism is concerned, a cultural rights/identity equality battleground is not a battleground but a distracting circus that has no effect on le ROI, return on investment.
A resident plutocracy has no vested financial interest in who marries who or where whether gender or biology determine what bathroom to use or whether a baby is a fetus or whether you can buy an assault rifle or whether pre-kindergarten works or not, or whether a teacher should provide trigger alerts or whether families need a father or whether poverty is increasing among children, or whether affirmative action is necessary or not..
Plutocracy’s only interest here is in agitating in houses other than its own, and thus diverting anger from its own rule.
What about anti-racist anger, already being brought to the boil with each day’s headlines?
Black Lives Matter has attached itself to a fight for the marginalized:
“We are intentional about amplifying the particular experience of state and gendered violence that Black queer, trans, gender nonconforming, women and intersex people face. There can be no liberation for all Black people if we do not center and fight for those who have been marginalized” (Platform of the Movement for Black Lives)
If Black Lives Matter had affiliated itself openly and strongly with Bernie Sanders’ attack on plutocracy, their anger might have at some point produced some results allaying racism. Nothing works better in the U.S. than rising incomes in moving people to a place where they are respected and not demonized. Unfortunately, Black anger is affiliating itself with commendable matters that are however inconsequential in terms of a dismantling of plutocracy.
Racism is pus that emerges from “the crooked tree of our humanity” but it is also a product of an economics that now aborts economic mobility, puts the cost of higher education out of the reach of too many, and sponsors a rivalry among a besieged middle class and a torn apart underclass and working class.
Seething anger is deflected from seeing what is threatening and thus blind to what is most threatened.
The threat to a work and wages presented by robotics and AI, the threat global warming presents to continued human habitation of the planet, the threat money and power presents to an electoral democracy, the threat cyberspace and its virtualization of reality presents to consciousness, discourse, society and what we can yet call “the real world” have not reached an anger monitor. Were we not in a Reality TV hyperreality, we would most likely see that anger should seethe over all efforts, past and present, to obstruct efforts to mitigate a human caused debilitating of the planet.
What is difficult remains unthought. Because the majority of Americans have scant interest in boning up on comparative economic theories, political ideologies or the voting records of those representing them, discourse is mostly personality bound. As is anger.
Much seething anger is not triggered by and directed to ideas or ideologies but rather to personalities. If there are no personalities but only, as in global warming, hard science, there is a limited amount of anti-global warming seething anger.
The personalities connected to Great Recession crimes committed by Wall Street absolutely do not exist in the American cultural Smartphone of photos. The cabalistic, arcane practices of Wall Street have no stage pictured in the American mass psyche nor are there any actors.
Bernie Sanders wanted to indict runaway capitalism but that is an arcane subject not a celebrity personality. Cyber and cell phone technology are, however, replete with personalities, Steve Jobs exalted like a saint. His personality cannot be sullied in the same way hi-tech cannot be sullied. Hillary is a Third Way/New Democrat ideologue but it is her supposedly dishonest, inauthentic personality that registers.
The seething anger of many has been transferred, in the psychiatric sense of a mutual sharing, to Trump, although he himself is hardly emotionally connected with its causes. He dwells in a far different reality than those who have elected him their challenger to a set up that is burying them. He has used personality/celebrity to play in a politics in which the personal rules. On this irrational ground, he becomes a disruptive force that will upend the resident order, especially suited for the task because he comes from the elite of that order and has played it in his own interest his whole life.
An entire demographic in the U.S. that feels itself outside the gated compounds of power and wealth now have a leader who will “make America great again,” that is, get them inside where he is. And so when he fails to get inside the White House, they are also denied admittance.
We cannot expect a shock of recognition among the angry that Trump was a con man gaming them for this own ego satisfaction. What we can expect is that he will register anger in losing and that others will adopt that anger. They will adopt Trump’s “J’accuse!” Transference works that way.
Capitalism degraded to pure selfishness is what David Brooks believes Trump has done to that ideal capitalism, like an ideal Marxism, always dreamed of, never realized. So there might be an anger emerging from Wall Street against the debasement of their efficient capitalism. Perhaps, though, they might be lying low enjoying their escape from prosecution, the bounce 2008 has given to their investments, and the prospects of a Hillary presidency anxious to work with them.