“Trump Tries Taking a New Role: Optimist”. So read the headline of the Wall St. Journal’s report on Trump’s State of the Union speech. It is largely accurate, and Trump’s speech is nearly certain to result in an increase in his support ratings. The question is: Can he keep it up? What lies ahead for him… and for the US working class?
The day after Trump’s speech, there were reports on his refusal to take any action against Russia in retaliation for their involvement in the last presidential election. This shows, once again, Trump’s close ties with the Russian oligarchy/Russian capitalist class. For this very reason, the investigation into his campaign’s links with the Putin regime cannot go away. This means that Trump will continue to lash out in true Trump fashion against Mueller and others, possibly including firing Mueller.
Trump’s critics will again scream about the “rule of law”, about “our system of checks and balances” being breached and even about how “our democracy” is under threat. Where, though, was the “rule of law” and “our democracy” when hundreds of black people were being lynched in the South? In fact, where is it today when the cops can shoot any “suspect” on sight with no repercussions? What they really mean is this: Due to the fact of the global power of US capitalism, this capitalist class has been able to rule mainly through persuasion (in other words by concessions and propaganda) rather than through simple repression for centuries now. That is a much safer and also less costly means of rule. But it is also based on a general consensus and limited conflict within society. Among other things, it means that while racism must always be kept alive, it has to be kept on a leash. Trump is vastly weakening this form of rule. Is a new form – bonapartism – necessary and also possible? The majority of the capitalist class is not convinced of this and, therefore, they are trying to undermine Trump. That is likely to continue.
Trump has proven himself to be very sensitive to his popular base, which is made up of religious fanatics, racists and assorted other bigots, science deniers and those who at least are willing to accept all of this. Like a ravenous hyena, they have to keep being fed red meat, and Trump is instinctively aware of this. (He is incapable of any more deep strategic thinking.) In his speech, he threw them one little morsel, with his comment about MS13. This was an attempt to portray Latino immigrants as just a bunch of violent criminals. In the future, Trump knows he’ll have to continue feeding the beast.
Normally, the personality of any politician really isn’t the issue, but in Trump’s case it can’t be ignored. His extreme narcissism combines with what seems to be dementia. Even if he doesn’t have dementia, he is incapable of any extended concentration or rising up above what happened in the last 15 minutes. This means that he cannot break from his erratic and inflammatory ways and will continue destabilizing US politics.
As is typical of every president, Trump took credit for the economic expansion. Also, as is typical, he exaggerated its scope. Yes, the expansion was well under way before he took office. And, yes, it is part of a world wide expansion. But also, yes, some of his policies have helped it along and will further help encourage it. By massively cutting taxes for corporations, he is encouraging them to invest. Trump is also opening up vast federal lands to the extractive industries – oil, mining and ranching. This combines with his reduction on federal environmental regulations, which will also boost profits, meaning more investment. Also, he announced plans to open up infrastructure – bridges and freeways – as a source of private profit. All of this will encourage further investment. The fact that it means at the expense of clean drinking water and air, at the expense of destruction of natural beauty and acceleration of species extinction will all be swept under the rug. What can’t be ignored is the massive increase in the federal deficit, which will ultimately have an effect of the US economy, especially as US imperialism weakens in relation to its rivals.
As with Obama before him, the Trump administration seems to be increasingly focusing on North Korea. In his speech,Trump simply said that “complacency and concessions [towards Kim] only invite aggression and provocation.” This comment should be considered in light of Trump’s withdrawing the nomination of Victor Cha as ambassador to South Korea. The apparent reason for that nomination having been withdrawn is that Cha does not agree with the idea of a preemptive strike on North Korea.
This is ominous.
The political instability and tumult reflects the economic instability and the vast shift in world relations related to the decline in the power of US imperialism.
As far as the US economy, there are signs of a financial bubble which could burst at any time. Along with this are signs of a possible outbreak of inflation. The first of these signs is the fall in the value of the dollar, relative to other currencies. It has fallen by 3.4% relative to the euro in January alone. If this continues, and combined with low unemployment at home, it will mean that inflation will start to pick up.
What effect would a possible war with North Korea have?
Usually, in times of global instability, there is a rush to the dollar, which still remains the world’s most important currency. That might happen again, but considering the weakening of US imperialism, it might not. Anyway, a war with North Korea, even limited in scope, would probably disrupt shipping routes in the North China Sea, and possibly in the South China Sea also. Among other things, that would mean a spike in oil prices. People in the US will ignore a lot of things, but being unable to fill up the gas tank is not one of them.
(The fact that tens and hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions, would die is as irrelevant to these world leaders. When, after all, has capitalist history ever considered human suffering?)
In short, Trump will probably get a boost in his ratings following this speech. But he will not continue his happy face. He cannot because his entire situation is too unstable. The only question is when and how will a renewed working class movement develop. In its absence, Trumps’ slide towards bonapartism will continue.