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Trump: Red Meat to the Lions. What is the Alternative?

Trump appears on stage at the Republican convention. "I am your voice," he said. "I am the law and order candidate." "I alone can fix it."

Trump appears on stage at the Republican convention.
“I am your voice,” he said.
“I am the law and order candidate.”
“I alone can fix it.”

Donald Trump’s convention speech may have thrown plenty of red meat to the lions, it may have succeeded in adding to his super-hero image, and it may even be a road to victory in November, but it did not make corporate America happy. Consider how the mainstream corporate media reported on it:

  • “Donald Trump, a rich businessman who has never been poor, recast himself as a populist… Thursday night…. Several times, the son of a millionaire New York landlord said, ‘I am your voice.” San Francisco Chronicle, 7/22/2016
  • “With dark imagery and an almost angry tone, Mr. Trump portrayed the United States as a diminished and even humiliated nation, and offered himself as an all-powerful savior…” New York Times
  • “Trump paints a grim portrait of the U.S. and casts himself as its only savior in GOP acceptance speech” headlined the L.A. Times
  • “Trump spoke with so much gusto it sounded much of the time as though he were screaming, and by the end his face was notably red and glistening with sweat.” Washington Post.
  • And even the far right Wall St. Journal, undecided who is worse, the subject-to-pressure Democrat Clinton or the untrustworthy Trump expressed their doubts: Donald Trump ended his party’s convention Thursday the way he began his history-making campaign: attacking the political establishment, playing to voters’ fears of foreigners and crime, and making bold promises to fix America’s ills.”

No presidential candidate, not even “The Donald”, can run as an individual; he or she must run as the leader of a political machine, a political party. And there lies Trump’s problem. The Wall St. Journal described how Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party has created chaos inside that party. They discussed “the missteps that marred the first days of the convention: the repeated passages in Melania Trump’s speech from one delivered eight years earlier by Michelle Obama, a divisive fight over convention rules, and the chaos that erupted after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s refused to endorse Mr. Trump during a prime-time address Wednesday…. ‘If you can’t run a convention, how is he going to run a State Department, or the Pentagon?’ said Rick Tyler, former aide to the Cruz presidential campaign.’

William Galston, member of the Brookings Institute and columnist for the Wall St.

We may not know who will win the 2016 presidential election, but we already know who has lost it: corporate America. Open warfare has broken out between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Republican nominee. The less-combative Business Roundtable makes no secret of its dismay over the choice of candidates it faces. The turn away from free trade and welcoming immigrants confuses business leaders who still cannot understand why anyone would object to these policies. The corporate sector favors moderation in social policy and a steady internationalism in foreign policy—the reverse of the main currents within today’s Republican Party. The political homelessness of corporate America is a kind of rough justice—the consequence of policies that have ended by alienating huge numbers of Americans. As recently as 1999, according to the Pew Research Center, 73% held “very” or “mostly” favorable opinions of corporations. By spring 2008—months before the financial crash and onset of the Great Recession—that share had already declined to 47%, and it fell further, to 38% in 2011, before bottoming out. Other surveys help explain this negative attitude. In 2014, 66% of Americans told Gallup that big businesses were successful at creating jobs in foreign countries with which they were doing business. But only 43% thought U.S. companies were creating jobs domestically; 54% said firms were doing a poor job of balancing the best interests of the U.S. and American workers with the best interests of their company. Businesses have one view of “global supply chains,” it seems, and average Americans quite another. The moral for corporate leaders is clear: If you care only about shareholder value, only your shareholders will care about you. And when a political crunch comes, your shareholders won’t be numerous or powerful enough to save you. In a modern democracy, a stable relationship between citizens and corporations rests on a tacit compact. The people are willing to give big business substantial latitude to chart its own course. In return, business leaders are expected to give due weight to the interests of the people, including not only the businesses’ employees but also the citizens of the communities whose well-being the leaders’ decisions affect. In the three decades after World War II, all parties to this compact understood its terms and mostly honored them. Since then, the social compact has weakened steadily, and many Americans now believe that it has broken down altogether. They have come to view corporations as employing a narrowly self-interested calculus to determine the level of wages and the location of production. And they are fighting back with the only weapon they have—their vote. Many corporate leaders insist that they are doing what they must amid intensifying global competition. Their real choice, they say, isn’t between paying U.S. workers $20 an hour or Mexicans $3 an hour to make air conditioners, but rather between paying Mexicans $3 an hour and going out of business. Globalization isn’t an abstract, irresistible force. It has political preconditions, including legal protections for mobile capital. Without international agreements, businesses could not confidently invest in new markets abroad. (NOTE: But this means protections for capital, not for workers or the environment!) It is telling that neither party’s presidential candidate has endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership—and that the business community is surprised. Business leaders should examine their own role in bringing this about. Unless they are willing to live with an America of increasing economic insularity, they must look beyond narrow, short-term self-interest to the long-term common good on which their own well-being ultimately depends."

“We may not know who will win the 2016 presidential election, but we already know who has lost it: corporate America.
Open warfare has broken out between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Republican nominee. The less-combative Business Roundtable makes no secret of its dismay over the choice of candidates it faces. The turn away from free trade and welcoming immigrants confuses business leaders who still cannot understand why anyone would object to these policies. The corporate sector favors moderation in social policy and a steady internationalism in foreign policy—the reverse of the main currents within today’s Republican Party.
The political homelessness of corporate America is a kind of rough justice—the consequence of policies that have ended by alienating huge numbers of Americans. As recently as 1999, according to the Pew Research Center, 73% held “very” or “mostly” favorable opinions of corporations. By spring 2008—months before the financial crash and onset of the Great Recession—that share had already declined to 47%, and it fell further, to 38% in 2011, before bottoming out.
Other surveys help explain this negative attitude. In 2014, 66% of Americans told Gallup that big businesses were successful at creating jobs in foreign countries with which they were doing business. But only 43% thought U.S. companies were creating jobs domestically; 54% said firms were doing a poor job of balancing the best interests of the U.S. and American workers with the best interests of their company. Businesses have one view of “global supply chains,” it seems, and average Americans quite another.
The moral for corporate leaders is clear: If you care only about shareholder value, only your shareholders will care about you. And when a political crunch comes, your shareholders won’t be numerous or powerful enough to save you.
In a modern democracy, a stable relationship between citizens and corporations rests on a tacit compact. The people are willing to give big business substantial latitude to chart its own course. In return, business leaders are expected to give due weight to the interests of the people, including not only the businesses’ employees but also the citizens of the communities whose well-being the leaders’ decisions affect.
In the three decades after World War II, all parties to this compact understood its terms and mostly honored them. Since then, the social compact has weakened steadily, and many Americans now believe that it has broken down altogether. They have come to view corporations as employing a narrowly self-interested calculus to determine the level of wages and the location of production. And they are fighting back with the only weapon they have—their vote.
Many corporate leaders insist that they are doing what they must amid intensifying global competition. Their real choice, they say, isn’t between paying U.S. workers $20 an hour or Mexicans $3 an hour to make air conditioners, but rather between paying Mexicans $3 an hour and going out of business.
Globalization isn’t an abstract, irresistible force. It has political preconditions, including legal protections for mobile capital. Without international agreements, businesses could not confidently invest in new markets abroad. 
It is telling that neither party’s presidential candidate has endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership—and that the business community is surprised. Business leaders should examine their own role in bringing this about. Unless they are willing to live with an America of increasing economic insularity, they must look beyond narrow, short-term self-interest to the long-term common good on which their own well-being ultimately depends.”

 

Journal, explained why big business is not happy with Trump: “The corporate sector favors moderation in social policy and a steady internationalism in foreign policy.” (As if to confirm the former, on the very same day that Trump gave his speech the corporate giant National Basketball Association reversed its commitment to play next year’s money-making all star game from Charlotte, North Carolina because of that state’s recent law legalizing discrimination against gays and lesbians.)

In that same article, Galston wrote that corporate America “has lost” this election. But just because corporate America has lost this election doesn’t mean that the working class is winning it. Building on the years of development of the Tea Party, Trump is hitting on and thereby further popularizing certain themes:

  • “law and order”, meaning support the police and more repression and more racism, at home.
  • anarchy and chaos abroad, meaning a barrier to international working class solidarity.

Why? How?
Why, how has the mood developed that allows for the rise of this demagogue? To dismiss “Trumpism” as only the racism of a sector of the white population is to fall into the same simplistic thought process that Trump, himself, relies on and encourages. Of course that is part of it, but there is more:

William Galston, in his column on the right, explains a lot of it. But there is also the world situation: The United States has basically been in a state of low-grade war since 2001. Whenever any country is sent to war, a blood lust, a patriotic war fever tends to develop at first. This only is washed away when the body bags start coming home. But no significant number of body bags have come home. As a result, the patriotic fever has been allowed to build.

On top of that, one country after another has descended into anarchy and chaos – Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq… This disintegration of society, coupled with the disintegration of any central government, has meant that the US government is less able to control events in the world. As is true everywhere, many US workers associate with corporate America, especially in times of war (either overt or covert), and they experience the loss of US power as humiliation for themselves. Trump has played masterfully on this.

Democrats No Alternative
That is why not a single Democratic political leader – including Bernie Sanders – can provide any alternative, any barrier to “Trumpism”. Every last one of them, including Sanders, supports strengthening corporate America abroad; every single one of them supports the “war on terror”, either overtly or covertly. So they cannot provide an alternative to this war fever.

That is partly why it has been a violation of principles for socialists – including the only socialist* public official, Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant – to have supported this 21st century equivalent of a cold war liberal, Bernie Sanders. Now, Sawant & Co. are saying that there can be no road to a solution that lies through the Democratic Party. But they should have been explaining this before instead of strengthening exactly these illusions. How can they answer those former Sanders supporters who are now planning on voting for Clinton? One result of this confusion is that according to a June 14 poll, 22% of Sanders supporters say they’ll vote for Trump and 18% say they’ll vote for far-right Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson!

Movement in the Streets, Workplaces & Unions
Not only does action result from changed ideas, ideas change from action. That is why it’s vital to not only keep the movement in the streets going but to widen it. So far, that movement has been mainly in protest over racist police killings. It’s vital to keep attention on that issue, but equally important to expand it.

  • The unions as an organized force have been entirely missing in action from this movement. Meanwhile, there is massive discontent within the unions over the union leadership capitulating to management. Their capitulation to management is the flip side of the coin to their capitulation to the Democratic Party, and that should be clearly explained to union members as part of a campaign to help them organize to transform their unions.
  • Many protesters are trying to take a hands-off approach to the general elections. This usually comes from an attempt to avoid the thorny question of supporting the Democrats vs. building an alternative. That’s partly because building an alternative must mean taking a class position – the corporate-controlled Democrats (and Republicans) vs. the need for a working class alternative party. In this present situation, it seems the best alternative is to vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party, while the weaknesses of that party and that candidate are also explained.
  • Finally, the movement cannot escape a clear position on the issue of capitalism vs. socialism. In Galston’s column on the right, he explains that for big business, the choice is moving to low wage countries and paying $2/hour or going out of business. This is the result of the inevitable further globalization of capitalism itself. Yes, a movement must be built to fight against these consequences – for international solidarity in action, not just words, including regional and global strike action when necessary; for a region-wide and a global minimum standard of living/minimum wage, etc. But in this process it must also be explained that ultimately you cannot control what you do not own, that the working class must put under public ownership the commanding heights of the economy – the giant corporations – and organize and plan the economy under the democratic control and management of the working class itself.

 

*- Use of the term “socialist” here includes all wings of the socialist movement, including social democrats like Sawant.

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