Published on http://www.counterpunch.org
We are a culture rift with hypocrisy. We like to say that power comes from The People but in both corporate and governmental sectors power asserts and maintains itself through enablers, apologists, henchman, hired guns, attack dogs, spin doctors, Think Tank apologists, and loyal bloviators.
President Donald J. Trump is surrounded by such a crowd. Some bend to power instinctually as a fawning dog does while some find it advantageous to their own ambitions. And this doesn’t exhaust any description of Trump’s enablers.
The Allure of Money, Power and Celebrity
There’s an allure surrounding those who hold power, especially if they have a rich and famous status, credentials most alluring in a culture that drools over the rich and famous. Tina Brown, the Brit editor who excelled in knowing where and how the American imaginary could be magnetized, recognized Trump’s appeal as she watched TV on the night of the U.S. presidential election:
“[E]very time I saw Trump walk across the stage with the family, I thought: my God, they look like the Kardashian Camelot. Beautiful girls married to good-looking guys; the big patriarch with the private plane. I mean, it’s Dyyy-nasty. That is a show people want to watch. Do they want to watch a show with the Clintons earnestly discussing healthcare? No, they don’t. They want a show about making it.”
There was a momentary expectation was after the Access Hollywood tape became public that Trump would lose the support of every woman who thought a man who just grabbed women by the pussy wasn’t presidential enough. As it turned out many white women voted for Trump.
Clearly, Trump tapped into recesses of the American imaginary when he was caught on that tape saying: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Trump’s rating among a white male demographic didn’t plunge because of this tape because Trump follows a recognizable locker room mantra to which few men after Harvey Weinstein would admit: “First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women.” Men may have reformed after the #MeToo movement, but one wonders why photos of men of power, even less appealing in looks than Weinstein, are mostly accompanied by beautiful women half their age. Trump is no exception and admired for it.
Despite #MeToo Trump has made it clear that winning in our materialist culture doesn’t stop at striving to own the bodies of women as they would own a yacht or a penthouse. This is sadly one of the entitlements of fame and fortune that Trump exemplifies. Such success draws a certain class of enablers, large or small would be hard to say.
Trump didn’t invent this absurd fascination in a society that at one time pretended to be egalitarian. Fame and fortune as enjoyed by the lives of the rich and famous drew a TV audience in the `80s and `90s, when Black lives didn’t seem to matter at all, nor did workers’ wages or tracking down and jailing who was toxifying the planet.
Doubtlessly, many that heel to Trump are motivated by their own wish to be together with Trump on the shining hill, limelight shining on all the president’s men and women. They bask in his power but envision their own. Trump won and continues to win against all odds. The star of winning is a star that shines brightly in a culture that has reduced all value to profit and all estimation of humanity to Winners and Losers.
Trump’s power was and remains a cheap revival tent kind. His is an Americana variety confidence man presidency, calling all to witness his vainglorious conceit as the real evangelicalism. In a culture of self-interest only, Trump’s self rises as a jewel of fame and fortune achieved, as finally the shining paragon on Reagan’s shining city on the hill.
This draws those who want to shine in his light, drawn to Donnie’s bullshit fulfilling the voodoo of Ronnie.
The Allure of the Rebel Iconoclast:
Trump’s power is not only a celebrity power, the power of a guy with the most toys, the fulfillment of the American dream, but also a power extracted from mocking what’s been forbidden and daring to tear it down.
If you have the power that wealth gives you plus a power to hire, fire and manipulate people’s lives as shown for 14 years on The Apprentice, then isn’t part of all that a license to do whatever you want, to run over every rule, law, tradition, code, commandment, precept that stands in your way? Why would a self-anointed rival to Jesus allow anything to stand in his way?
The power here that draws supporters, enablers and apologists to him is the power of the iconoclast. For those who feel trapped such iconoclasm is magnetic. Trump promises to break them out of the resident order of things, breakage be damned, a resident order, political, social, scientific, economic, that they don’t understand, and he doesn’t understand. What need to be briefed toward understanding when it is far easier to burn it all down?
While Obama tapped the fading embers of hope among many with a “Yes, We Can!” which emerged as only rhetorical as embers faded further, Trump’s subtext message was “I’ll Tear it Down!” The ambiguity of who Obama meant by the “We” was wiped away as Trump made it clear that hope had to lie in him and him along. The MAGA scream then translated to “I’ll Make America as Great as Me!” It was that message that reached the American mass psyche.
The Looney Supporters
All those jammed up with grievances, many owing to a regime of inequitable and unjust order that Trump is rampaging through for his own ego driven reasons, instinctively respond to Trump’s call “to drain the swamp.”
Because there is no thought process here, crazy ideas emerge as to what and where this swamp might be. And because causes cannot be a complex entanglement of discourses, practices and institutions but must always be personalized, villains must be named. Twitter has served Trump well here, as has Facebook. Faces must be targeted.
QAnon may be the craziest fix on “the swamp,” but not so crazy that its followers haven’t been able to emerge from “the troll infested corners of the Internet” to now run for political office. As reported in The New York Times a “Republican Senate candidate recently declared herself ‘one of the thousands of digital soldiers” in service of QAnon, a convoluted pro-Trump conspiracy theory about ‘a deep state’ of child-molesting Satanist traitors plotting against the president.” (July 15, 2020)
In this group of looney enablers, I would also place those who enable Trump because he is protecting them from a Communist takeover, probably seen as spearheaded by Bernie, Warren, and The Squad.
The Dividend Supporters
A large segment of Trump’s supporters does see him as Donnie in the footstep of Ronnie, and for that reason alone stand behind him.
Trump stands for property and profit as did Reagan. Although Reagan may have drifted into dementia in his last tenure in the White House, and Nixon may have spent his last days talking to portraits on White House walls, Trump has been speaking to himself way before he got into the White House.
“I’m speaking with myself, number one,” he tells us in answer to who he consulted with regarding foreign policy, “because I have a very good brain.” He is often, now, on TV, communing, Fintan O’Toole writes, with the voices in his head. (“Unpresidented,” The New York Review of Books, July 23, 2020)
The Dividend supporters are not standing behind him in his self-proclaimed stable genius and the best president ever role but standing behind the tax and regulation benefits he showers upon them.
For example, billions will shower upon wealthy Americans if the Affordable Care Act is overturned. And, in addition to that blessing to the rich, according to the House Committee on the Budget, Trump’s “… tax cut showers benefit on the rich and profitable corporations and provides little benefit to everyday working people and small businesses.”
What this gives us is an answer to liberals, progressives, and every stripe of socialist who cannot understand how anyone could support such a transparent charlatan as Trump. They think because Trump offends and disgusts them personally that the corporate criteria that a president must meet are cast aside. Those who cannot conceive of Trump being president at all or the possibility of his being re-elected mostly fall within this group of being personally offended by him.
If we put our gentrified judgment aside, we note that Trump is better for your stock portfolio than what the young, energizing, socialist identifying Democrats might be.
Bernie’s call to restructure the economy has struck fear in the Dividend Class and continues to do so as Bernie hovers over presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Biden would be as Wall Street malleable as Clinton and Obama were and as Hillary surely would have been. However, the Dividend Class fear is that Biden is an old man in the hands of The Young Turks pushing the Green New Deal at him. It seems therefore to them a far better bet to see Trump once again in office than risk the future of your stock returns on a Biden presidency.
What so many gentrified, meritocratic, professionalized liberals can’t grasp is that as vulgar, embarrassing and uncouth Trump seems to them, none of that means anything if your party is the green, not of the fields, but money.
Billionaire investors will stand behind Trump’s moronic statements, including the meta-moronic explanation of his enablers that what the president says should not be taken literally but seriously. I have not noticed Trump speaking in poetic density à la Paul Valery, so I conclude that if his words are not to be taken literally, how is any meaning derived?
This is lunacy but not enough to push the Dividend Class toward the Green New Deal. Regardless of how bad, mad and dangerous Trump is, he’s a whole deal less risky, in the view of the Dividend Class, an investment than the Democrat’s threatening shift to the left where, always in the American mass psyche Communism lies!
That the party in the U.S. is only hypocritically presented as something other than one party of profit, a duopoly, is shown in how easily and without penalty market conservatives join with Liberals in supporting all the Liberal cultural causes. The Third Rail for both is upsetting “free enterprise” in any fashion.
As infuriating to the MAGA faction is the cry on the Left to make America “brown and gay,” it is inconsequential to Wall Street financial finagling. The international response to the murder of George Floyd may lead or not to a defunding of the police, an end to choke holds, more community diversified policing, more blacks and browns on the Oscar command, and in every board room and so on, but it all has slightly less than no effect on our hyper-capitalism.
So much of what the Democratic Party has been endorsing over both Clinton and Obama administrations has done little to stop the playtime of the financialized sector, even after the 2008 looting.
Workers’ unions as well as worker cooperatives, as well as condemning blacks and browns to the lowest economic levels, as well as ignoring the expanding wealth divide, as well as never enforcing Anti-trust legislation — none of this reached front page agendas by either Democrats or Republicans.
Sixteen years of a Democratic White House did next to nothing to raise wages. All eyes were on the ups and downs of the stochastic moments of the Dow and the S & P 500.
It’s not incredible then to suspect that Democrats with clandestine affiliation to their dividends will enable another four years of Trump.
How deeply Bernie, Warren and the Green New Deal get into Biden’s head, and we will see that in the next four months, must be, for the Dividend Class, determining.
This faction of Trump enablers is as undetectable as if they belonged to the Rosicrucians. Somehow it is fashionable for the wealthy, educated and gentrified to pretend they have no interest in where their wealth comes from. I suppose because fossil fuels, Big Pharma, plastics, military contracts, and high end real estate development feed their dividends.
The Ambition Class
Perhaps Stephen Miller sees shutting down immigration as his ambition’s ladder, but what he is most certainly is a tool to engineer in policy what Trump’s dark tactics of power concoct.
It is difficult to see why some who seem to have no reason to bend to Trump become a tool of a man heading for an asylum. What drives them to make excuses for him, lie for him, aid his vindictiveness, and pretend this “putrid leftover from the unfinished Civil War,” as Fintan O’Toole describes him, is someone to pin your own star to?
You get the sense that Kellyanne Conway would motormouth defenses for the Devil. And why does it seem that there is an endless supply of Press Secretaries whose career ambition is to parse Trump’s Mad Hatter Tea Party words as if they made sense?
Ambition supports and enables power but sometimes ambition seems to be not enough to sustain that role. Mary Elizabeth Taylor, a high-ranking member of the Trump administration, resigned because Trump’s response to the George Floyd murder, in her words, “cut sharply against my core values and convictions.” Ja’Ron Smith, the highest-ranking Black administration official, however, finds that it’s someone like Chuck Schumer and not President Trump who have created the system we have, which we now advertise all over as a racist system.
Does blind ambition erase the racism, misogyny, bigotry and meanness of a man whose type has appeared before on the American stage but never at such demonic levels or as president?
As with sexism, racism is a “Thou Shalt Not” that Trump flaunts to the applause of some supporters.
We are at a kind of liminal moment since George Floyd’s murder, one in which the American mass psyche may expunge racism, or, after a time, lay it aside like an old App on a cell phone, but eventually rekindle it.
The calculus is quite simple here: keeping the burner on racism draws a segment of voters who must either be given a hate target or left to fall back on thinking as to why they’re not living as securely as their parents did.
Attention must target blacks and browns, immigrants, socialists who want to put everyone on a bread line. Attention must never be led to the obscene wealth divide and what kind of economics created it and what kind of politics supports it.
Racism has been cultivated in American society to fill the need of a proprietary class that goes to any length to hold on to its elitist, wealth status. Trump is just the most recent in a long line of cultivators, although he puts himself in a class of one. Nothing is assimilated into a culture unless it fulfills a need, and here the need is selfish and destructive as fits our emerging autocracy.
At the very bottom of the Black Lives Matter cry to be seen as one among equals in our human race is a petition to love and not hate, to follow through on what every known religion has made a mantra in one expression or another: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Love, regardless of anything at all, is a power that should rule. However, Americans are expressing love for each other at about the same level as before Fort Sumter was fired upon starting the Civil War.
Trump is fanning the fires of divisive hatred but the divisions, caused by our hyper-financialized economics, have become entrenched since Ronnie. Religion divided the 17th century, for instance, but its economics that does now, although all our attention is on politics — MAGA or Never Trump. Neither faction can conceive the reality of the other.
We anger each other and are very far from being able to talk to each other. We are suspicious, threatened, frightened of each other. It’s not just anyone who looks Muslim, or driving while black, or begging on a street corner, or just lying on boxes or grates, or so cleary ungentrified in a gentrified neighborhood. We have become strangers to each other, and strangers are never welcomed, except in Homer, where strangers are accepted without question, ritualistically.
Why such Homeric, automatic receptivity of the stranger? For the same reason every religion asks us to place self and others on equal ground. It’s protective of societal order. We do not in any way instinctive to our natures look upon others without suspicion or fear or do we naturally love them as we love ourselves. We have acculturated against what is instinctive and we have done so as a society creating necessity. We need to interrelate amiably otherwise there is no real society.
Trump violates that societal need, and it seems judging by his behavior that he does so as an expression of his unrestrained self-love, moving close to absolute derangement as he secures absolute power. Other people do not really exist for him. He’s a society of one.
What in this would create yet another class of enablers, supporters, apologists?
Trump openly denies any restraints placed on himself in the name of anything, most especially society. For a solipsist, society can never exist. And he has somehow gauged that given the state of the U.S., a politics of destruction of society, communities, treaties, internationals agreements, the UN, NATO, the WHO and so on gives to those who wish to destroy regimes of order that have excluded them — and these numbers are growing exponentially in the U.S. — draws supporters to him.
What do the aggrieved do when they cannot see clearly amid the sandstorm of clashing idiocy, lunatic conspiracy theories, and raging illiteracy?
They want to tear it all down and assert their own dominance. Trump is their avatar. Because he can’t explain a crippling economics without indicting himself, Trump offers people, black and brown, gay and radical, as the causes of all grievances.
The sandstorm now obliterating the paths of science and all reason has not been seen before in history, rising in a cyberspace that has truly created a hyperreality we cannot tie down, not even with science, as we are now experiencing with the Coronavirus pandemic.
These racists, bigots, xenophiles, encumbered with a whole host of grievances against both parties, are now quite impossible to reach. But Trump has.
Where do the enablers go when Trump is gone?
Someone trailing Trump’s clouds of fame and fortune, some new “show about making it” will capture the gaze of the same 38% of the American population;
Some new populist confidence man or woman will step forward and blare on Twitter lies and bullshit about taking down the socialist mob that a Biden presidency is leading;
A “digital soldier” rises to power on a platform to “drain the swamp” by ridding the country of “child-molesting Satanist traitors who conspired to make Trump lose the election;
Dividend supporters adjust their stock portfolio while touting their liberal cultural politics;
Racists will, as always, find a home in America, but they will be denied a president’s affections.
So much more important than where the attack dogs, bootlickers, deranged, greedy and racist factions go is the certainty that the conditions that have enabled their bold appearance as well as the appearance of Trump as president will not have vanished.
True, the bootlickers, the ambitious greedy, the nut cases, the racists have no defense for what they are. But the angry, insecure and aggrieved have their grievances emerging from a wealth dividing economics that has no parallel in history, a catastrophic divide that one political party defends and augments and the other has for two Democratic presidencies supported by doing very, very little, something next to nothing. We wouldn’t be where we are now if such was not the case.
Running a campaign against Trump is not running a campaign against the conditions that brought him as well as his dark army of enablers into being.