Published on http://www.counterpunch.org/
We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough.
David Brooks, “No, Not Trump, Not Ever,” The New York Times, March 18, 2016
In the real world, the average Joe watches the Red Sox-Yankees game from the bleachers while the affluent mingle in the corporate boxes. Everyday Eddie deals with parking and public restrooms during his day at the beach, yet the mega-rich drop their keys with the valet and settle into a reserved lounge chair at a private club.
Online, the waters are parting too.
Nicola Ruiz, “Five Social Networking Sites of the Wealthy,” Forbes, May 2, 2008
It is probably a truism that you do not know very well people with whom you do not hang out. Maybe you read about them but if you happen to be the person who is hired to write about them, they probably do not get written about. You know why. Because they are not the people you know very well or at all.
Let us say we have the sort of generous plutocracy where about 20% of the population, most of them the professional/gentrified class and a few at the very top, the Equestrian/Patrician class. First, let me say, that one fifth of a population of over 300 million is enough to keep the Dow Jones doing its ups and downs. Also, members of this top 20% keep the 80% informed, not about the 20 people who have wealth equal to 50% of the population or about the consequences of this. Now the 80% who do not know fuck all about Wall Street’s dark dealings have suddenly, in the eyes of the 20%, emerged to push the presidential candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
For the gentry, whether Democrat or Republican, this is like your hired Nanny telling you to shut up, or a bunch of hooligans busting through the gates of your “community” and wanting to do something other than clean your pool. Somebody has shown up at the electoral dinner party who wasn’t invited and whose name is unknown. This is not exactly like Nat Turner showing up in a bloody rebellion but the sheer unexpectedness of it is something like what 20% of the country is now facing with the populist explosion in both parties.
So how come almost no one who represents what is going on knew this would happen? Simple answer: they did not know these people were there because they were not reporting anything about them and they were not reporting anything about them because they were invisible to them. Look at it this way: no one had been campaigning the bottom 40% hard since…never. We have thrown into that group blue collar workers, the once unionized manufacturing working class, the “salaried” class, and now all, The Underclass. The classless, ungentrified. They have less shopping power than the top 20%, they do not usually vote, they have no one lobbying for them, they are not needed as laborers except for jobs that cannot be sent out of the country, and they have almost no leverage in a plutocracy. Right now, we have a burgeoning plutocracy still tied to an electoral, representative democracy and so “one person one vote” remains the solo bargaining chip of plutocracy’s “negative assets,” how The National Review refers to Trump’s followers.
The expectation has been that this bottom 40%, whom David Brooks calls “low information” folks, usually do not vote but for some reason, inexplicable to the “high information” folks, they are coming out in the primaries to vote for Trump. It seems that lo and behold after about a quarter of a century of shifting wealth and the burden of taxation onto the bottom 80% of the population who would work four jobs if they could get them to meet the standard of living their parents had with one job, Hillary’s “Everyday American” is as mad as hell. Maybe the 2008 Wall Street “Take the Money And Don’t Run Because You Won’t Be Prosecuted” set up Trump’s main stage act, which has the intensity of a “I’m as Mad as Hell” lynch party.
You would have to be living in a gated community, avoiding the troubled, ungentrified parts of town as well as its inhabitants, avoiding all locales and venues with the word “public” on display, including schools, ubering and not subwaying, and “social networking” on exclusive social networks to miss the lynch party forming in the darkness on the edge of town.
Actually, you could easily miss it on mainstream and online media, not all online media because here we are talking in numbers similar to the way we speak of galaxies. The Hubble reveals some one hundred billion galaxies, which is about what a Google search produces. In other words, there are probably websites that Brooks’ “low information” folks go to, sites that fuel anger by appealing to the low and dark side of our human nature. Trump cannily did not openly reject the Ku Klux Klan affiliation because he is aware that some of his “peeps” come from such places, places where attacks on Mexicans and Muslims, machismo expressed in the way you talk about women, punching people in the face, and the size of your penis are not “low information” but crucial, bonding information.
The Grand Old Party does not want to share links here.
Nevertheless, the concerted and sustained efforts of a party pushing plutocracy has done much to create the anger among “Everyday Americans” by ignoring them in its mission of profits to shareholders. And the fact that the angry look in the wrong places for what and who has ignited their anger can be attributed to political parties failing to represent them and a media withholding truths regarding the “material, historical and objective conditions” which result from the plutocratic drive in the U.S. since Reagan.
Politics and media are not just under the sway of corporate lobbyists in regard to what is to be communicated and what is to be legislated. The incestuous interrelationships of plutocrats, media and politicians has totally detached these vital institutions from all those who do not have membership, are not “friended” within and by those circles of intimacy.
This is not an innocuous and perennial matter of some people not being able to empathize with the lives of others, or imagine how the “other half” lives and so on.
The representatives of the common good and the Fourth Estate, the Press, essential to the functioning of democracy, are those who circulate in rarefied realms that exclude those who they are supposed to represent in this matter. This is a direct result of a long standing wealth divide of Grand Canyon dimensions.
Ironically, Trump, from the gentrified class, has become the spokesperson for the ungentrified. His “low information” followers are highly responsive to the hits they have been getting in the plutocrat arena, although, like someone in a dark room swinging wildly, they have not a clear view as to who they are in the ring with. Trump has simply voiced the usual villains of the Id, the most accessible targets, the ones who are already down and out. In fact, they are situated where their haters are. Why wouldn’t we expect that when we look for the bad guys, they have to be those we are not apart from but those we see around us? They are part of our world. The world of those who are hiding their wealth in Panama is like the world of aliens on any of the hundred billion galaxies we do not know. They can never be the causes of our troubles because they are inconceivable to us. Those suffering economically as are we become our targets. Sad but true.
That is the bottom 40% but what about the next 40%, those who hold on to the title “middle class”? Are they the “medium information” folks?
I need to distinguish levels of knowing by going back in time, to when I, and many others like me, did everything we could not to die in Viet-nam.
We were all working class youth in my Brooklyn neighborhood, most “low information” level in regard to what the Viet-nam “conflict” was all about beyond what John Wayne said it was. Thanks to the free tuition at CUNY and the informed skepticism of my Old Left professors, many escapees from the Holocaust, I was not keen on being drafted into a “conflict” that a Secretary of Defense, a former president of Ford Motor Company transferring system analysis from car manufacturing to war, was escalating, by the numbers, daily.
I see the descendants of that level of awareness now in the followers of Bernie Sanders, whom I like because he has targeted the problems that 80% of the population is facing and not because his Brooklyn inflections are like my own or because I too played stickball in the streets of Brooklyn. Scalia played stickball too and we now see how many lives are being liberated since his death.
I see in Trump’s followers descendants of so many of my Brooklyn neighborhood friends who got worked up by all the Cold War tactics, by the bullshit of the “Domino Effect,” which meant nothing more in McNamara’s view than nationalization of transnational corporations like Ford. But the anger of Trump’s followers is different because it is not stirred up by Cold War spin but has a very real source. The U.S. in the mid-sixties had not been through a “New Morning in America” with Ronald Reagan. The great reallocation of wealth from the bottom and middle to the top had not begun.
If you were well versed in the politics and spins of the Viet-nam years, you recognized that Reagan rolled out a red carpet for those who had made money on that “conflict.” And if you have an Old Left background, you recognized that presenting the wealthy as the champions of democracy rather than espousing an egalitarianism that would have preserved socioeconomic mobility was a wrong turn.
That wrong turn has led us to our present plutocracy.
Rather than run trade agreements through their effects on workers, consumer protection and the environment, we have adhered to what is beneficial to investors and share holders. Rather than run technology through its effects on the quality of individual and societal life as well as the planet, we have adhered to what is beneficial to profit making. We have not challenged the illusions of individual autonomy and personal freedom with concerns for the public good and the well-being of society.
Only someone owned by those who own the lobbyists would believe that that ownership and those lobbyists have no effect on our politics, or, more accurately, so much affect that our government cannot be reached by 80% of the population.
Our elections are not protected from this influence, although it failed to keep Obama from being elected twice. It is now failing to keep the “low information” folks from supporting a man who would as easily fight hedge funds as Planned Parenthood, who would as easily expand Social Security as build a wall on the Mexico border. It is now failing to keep the “well informed” folks from supporting Bernie Sanders.
However, the media has been doing its part to demonize Trump’s followers (see Kevin Williamson in The National Review) or, as in PBS’s News Hour, express a continuing amazement as to what may be going on. Most of this failure to inform and target neatly and effectively as to what is going on is the result of transnational corporate ownership or stake in the media. And in some cases, such as PBS and NPR, Republicans have public broadcasting so fearful of losing their funding that they are seeking a balance and neutrality in situations that brings all issues to an undecidability, pathlessness.
The wealth divide, then, may be a good thing or maybe a bad thing?
Global warming may be a good thing or maybe a bad thing?
Wall Street may have caused the Great Recession but maybe it was the folks with underwater mortgages who the government aided?
Maybe tax reform is needed because the forms are too long or maybe because the payroll folks and not the dividend folks are paying the taxes?
And so on to the point of absolute confusion. And real anger.
Meanwhile, the profit making media has a star in Donald Trump and will continue to cover him as money making entertainment. They began to tarnish their own star when it became clear to corporate ownership that Trump might actually become president. It is now a case of spurring Trump onward while at the same time diminishing his allure. It is amusing to see capitalism’s interests in such a plight.
Some of this failure of the media and the political parties can, once again, be traced to the fact that the professional class in both occupations does not cohabit with the Trump supporters, does not feel their pain, and does not see how siding with Bernie Sanders is going to help their affluence to even greater affluence.
While Hillary is clearing attracting the gentrified Democrats, Bernie is attracting those who have been waiting for someone to take on the plutocratic order. Trump’s followers have reduced that plutocratic order to Mexicans taking their jobs and Muslims threatening their country. The circuitries of our cabalistic Wall Street economics have no personal face and so remain inconceivable. And though no Neoliberal cares much about cultural or identity politics, or, only disingenuously cares about them, the market politics they do care about are endangered by a Trump presidency. More directly, of course, by a Sanders presidency but the hope here is that Hillary will dispatch that threat.
Hillary hoped to run merely on cultural and identify politics and leave economics alone but Bernie has forced her hand, not sufficiently to get her to reveal her reassuring words to Wall Street. You can expect that candidate Trump will hit Hillary from all sides, cultural and economic and so we could face the real test as to whether Neoliberals see themselves able to work with Hillary more easily than Trump.
Because Hillary circulates with those Bernie wants to upend, she is more compatible because she shares their economic assumptions. Bill Clinton did also, triangulating very easily toward those whose lifestyles to which he aspired. Trump is way beyond circulating with anyone except himself so he is truly classless. And that makes him more of a threat to Neoliberals than Hillary and Bill, who are more nouveau to their wealth and more enamored of affiliating with the wealth class. Trump, in this one and only regard is like FDR: both patricians and both thorns in the side of their patrician brethren.
And so neither Trump nor Sanders shares connections with politics, plutocracy and the media is ways that oblige our present plutocratic order of things.