Our collective vulnerability to emotional manipulation was highlighted amid anticipation of, during, and in the aftermath of, the White House Occupant’s nine minute address seeking broader support for construction of a border wall.
ANTICIPATION: His decision to address the nation by using the “bully pulpit” of the Oval Office to break into prime time, led to political opponents stating “they would not watch the speech” and faulting the networks for granting him free television time. By boycotting the speech, many citizens, including those who never protested against the invasion of Iraq, could feel righteous and pure, while desperately trying to ignore the toxic impact of the president upon the rest of the country. Recalling that folks who heard the Nixon/Kennedy debate on the radio thought that Nixon had won, inspired me turn on N.P.R. and listen to the speech.
UNFOLDING:The television networks could pretend they were just doing their job and deny complicity in the rise and endurance of this fascist administration. With “Infernogate”, their ratings are higher than ever and the entire world has become immersed in each of Dante’s rings as the public is put through hell each day (while our earth grows warmer).
The White House Occupant engaged in a fantasy that, despite public opposition to his proposed border wall, he could use the power of the presidential media spotlight to: 1) persuade/ successfully manipulate an emotionally vulnerable public and 2) dominate other political actors. His fear-mongering words lining a “national emergency” to “criminals”, “migrants”, and the “drug crisis”, were a half-baked effort to convey a consistent narrative for FOX NEWS viewers. The White House Occupant also sought to emotionally manipulate a deeply unsettled public by proposing a fantasy that a “forty-five minute meeting” with key players could quickly resolve the political impasse and re-open the government. Oh, wouldn’t we all love that to be true! Give us magical fulfillment of our deepest wishes, dear leader, and thank you!
AFTERMATH: They’ll be even greater cynicism regarding political parties on the part of our fellow citizens, many of whom will say “a plague on both their houses” even if they didn’t read “Romeo & Juliet” in high school. There won’t be a peep out of the “Problem Solvers Caucus” (another political fantasy) because, in reality, these problems and much of our public policy (with apologies to those with M.P.A. degrees but what public and what coherent policy?) , has been crafted for divisiveness and transfer of resources to corporations and the ruling class. The Democratic leadership will assert a few ethical principles but fail to issue the type of condemnation the situation requires: “You have shut down the government against all protocol, tradition, and constitutional parameters, with the explicit intent of violating checks and balances, and need to RESIGN IMMEDIATELY!
This morning, a new trial balloon floats over the immolated American political landscape. It is suggested that the White House Occupant be permitted to declare a state of national emergency as a face-saving gesture in order to re-start government operations. Why this does not strike people as going from the frying pan into the fire, I do not understand…Meanwhile, thanks to mainstream media agenda-setting, folks are channeling dissent into auditioning messiahs for the 2020 Election, going to work each day and pretending that we are not teetering on the edge of the abyss. Finally, the mainstream media has begun to seriously discuss the prospect of impeachment. Just a year ago, it was an unmentionable. There is a hope by neoliberal elites that neofascist elites can be defeated through conventional political means. Given the impact of the U.S. government upon the wider world (and the promulgation of yet another dangerous political fantasy, that global warming does not exist) the people of this country need to drive this administration from power as soon as possible. Waiting for elections will not be sufficient. Neoliberals elites fear the rise of the domestic Left and a progressive policy agenda and will move to discredit alternatives as quickly as they can.
ELECTIONS AND MOVEMENTS: Traditionally, American Political Scientists have emphasized the study of elections as opposed to other significant phenomena (strikes, organizing, demonstrations, revolutions of rising expectations) etc. Their efforts are devoted to categorizing and quantifying key votes and electoral voting data, speculating about candidates (often in a “horse-race” fashion in concert with journalists), the content of candidate character (“experience” and “likeability”) and embodying the position that mainstream political participation (voting) is the best (even the only) was to filter/manage/dilute the desire for change. When I started graduate work in Politics at N.Y.U. during the late 1980s, I was initially struck by how blase two of my distinguished professors Bertell Ollman and H. Mark Roelofs, were about the role of elections in democracy. Did they not see that efforts to undermine Roe vs. Wade needed to be soundly defeated? Were they myopic due to being white, male, and of advanced age? Why was this theoretical sensibility concerning elections a place where the views of a Marxist and a non-Marxist radical political philosopher overlapped? As my studies advanced, a deeper understanding materialized. My professors were not indifferent to human suffering – in fact, they were quite the opposite. They were responding to the “symbolic reassurance” provided by elections, and the bias and distortion that emerged as mainstream political scientists neglected other ways of understanding and explaining political phenomena. There are many sources of stability and change, but the most important ones to consider are the ideas, ideals, and degree of class consciousness held by our fellow citizens and whether they inform political action. Do our fellow citizens understand that an emphasis on elections both fosters, constrains, and contains class struggle?
GOING FORWARD: The current White House Occupant is not an aberration but the natural, logical product of all that has come before. I’m hoping my fellow citizens will reflect deeply on history and realize that what led to Nixon’s resignation was a sense that people would go into the streets if his criminal behavior was tolerated. What led to the pardon of Nixon was a sense among ruling elites (Republicans and Democrats agreeing) that “our national nightmare” needed to be over. It was that historic Ford pardon, the amnesia it embodied, which helped make it possible for the Republicans to return to power in 1980. I often wonder if the decision of the Obama Administration to set aside the deceitful conduct of the Bush Administration regarding the invasion of Iraq is what has brought us to this place…Karma…
In these revolutionary times, it is important to remember that means and ends are functionally interrelated. The future of our country (and the world) will depend upon how Trump is removed from office. Is this going to happen? As Hillel said: “If not now, when?” Surely we can dislodge the lying, fear-mongering, national emergency manufacturing, tax dodging White House Occupant who actively undermines the constitution! Who will stand with such a boorish liar? Only those who cannot accept they were deceived, those prisoners of anger and hatred, those who want to loot the public sector or serve the ruling class no matter who’s in power. Who will stand against the White House Occupant? The rest of us…
CONCLUSION: It’s up to us what kind of government we’re going to have in the aftermath of this fascist interlude. The neoliberal status quo, which grants certain classes, races, and persons more freedom and supports endless wars while denying health care, housing, education, and a living wage are human rights, is not one to which I’d pledge my life and sacred honor. Clearly, it cannot stand up to domestic fascism. A resounding defeat of Trump, concerted action to drive him and his minions from power, is the chance for “We, the People”, to decisively turn the wheel of human history towards peace, justice, equality, and liberation. So, if you go and march, stand in solidarity with the public school teachers in Los Angeles, or participate in electoral politics, make some concrete demands (Resignation, Impeachment, Elba) and remember to demand what might seem impossible…When people gather together and insist upon substantive change, it has a way of becoming realistic.