Why waste time talking about Trump?


Some have raised many important issues in messages to me as a result of my blogs. I could bore you with a long diatribe. I tend to that to people. So I will bore you with a shorter diatribe. Some will say not short enough. So be it.

To begin with, as has been suggested by others, I don’t think it is useful to waste a lot of time haranguing Donald Trump. Frankly, he is not worth it. Yet he is the American President and as we know, every time the US coughs Canada gets a cold. As well, it scares me just to think he has his finger on the nuclear button. And it is a big one you know. And it works.

More importantly, about 50 million people voted for him and many of those still like him.  This really scares me. Many people just want to see Trump go away. I do. But that will not end much. Who will those 50 million support the next time? Someone even worse? Trump is just a symptom of a disease.

I think Trump is a demagogue with authoritarian tendencies. Similar potential leaders have had significant support all over Europe. This is an international phenomenon.

If you have time, I urge you to read a marvelous (and short!) book by Timothy Snyder called On Tyranny. Snyder is an expert historian who is familiar with how tyrannies have arisen in the last century. Remember that Hitler was elected before he became a dictator. He did that by preying on the fears of people and finding scapegoats.

Part of the reason so many people voted for him, I believe, is that people, particularly in the US, have for more than a hundred years been accustomed to making important decisions without the benefit of reason. They have made decisions on the basis of faith, rather than reason. They are used to doing that.

Kurt Anderson has written a book on the subject called Fantasyland. So far I have just read a brief summary in Atlantic magazine. I am waiting for the paperback. Sometimes it hurts to be a cheap Menno. His thesis is that Americans have spent 500 years making important decisions on the basis of fantasies rather than reason. They believe on the basis of what they want to be true, rather than on the basis of what the evidence supports. Trump is just part of that process. Many people, particularly people who are unemployed or underemployed, believe Trump can help them, even though the evidence does not support that conviction. Yet they believe it. They have abdicated their reason.

A lot of people are in despair. Around the world. That is understandable given how the lot of most people has seriously deteriorated in the last 40 years, while the lot of the elites has risen sharply. Inequality has risen by astonishing amounts. Rich people have done amazingly well while ordinary people have seen their incomes decline.

The people who have not done well and daily see how well others have done, because the modern media makes sure that everyone knows, are filled with resentment. Resentment is an explosively dangerous force. It is blind to reason. Near home a few years ago a dairy farmer was mad at his wife who wanted a divorce and got so angry that he burned his barn down with all of the cows inside. And he did that  after cancelling his fire insurance. If he could not have it all no one else would have any of it. It was totally irrational. People consumed with resentment can do that.

About a year ago, a man in Alberta who was facing a divorce from his wife, murdered her and their children. If he could not have his family no one could. So he killed them all and then killed himself. Again it made no difference how irrational this was. People blinded by resentment can do that.

People in the modern world are not only resentful of their loss of money, and status, they are deeply insecure. Capitalists, as we all know, have been forced in recent recessions to lay off workers. That is hard and it is profoundly unnerving to those laid off. This has happened over and over again. As a result many people, particularly after the most recent recession feel a deep sense of insecurity. Even though capitalism has produced amazing wonders, it is deeply flawed if it needs to create such misery. Such a system is broken.

This has happened all over the world, but particularly in places like Appalachia, in the US. Many there are resentful and desperate. They justifiably gave up on both Obama and Hillary Clinton. Who can blame them? But they turned to an unlikely source for help. Donald Trump. A billionaire that had no empathy for them. As I have said before, “Trump has the empathy of a turnip.” But at least he heard them. Clinton was deaf. No wonder people turned to Trump over Clinton.

I have little doubt that his supporters will be disappointed in Trump. He is no savior. Voting for him was also deeply irrational. Many people in the United States wanted a personal wrecking ball who would destroy the system. I have met such people on my current trip to the United States. There are surprisingly many of such people. It did not matter who would be hurt by Trump’s actions. It did not matter that he would not help them. As we know he has done nothing for them. He has drastically reduced taxes on the wealthy and unsurprisingly very few people still believe that the way to help poor people is to give money to rich people. That is what Trump and many Republicans believe.

I am not trying to create class divisions as one person suggested to me. As Warren Buffet, hardly a leftwing radical, said, ‘for the past few decades we have been in a class war and my class has won. The rich people.’ The class war, if there is one, or was one, is over. Donald Trump is just the culmination of that process.

I fear that rich people in the US in particular have seized the government to their own advantage and are blind to the damage they have done. They have got temporary benefits as a result, but do not see how the resentment is building up and how dangerous that can be. How will the resentful people explode next time? Who will be the next wrecking ball? This is one of the reasons I say that capitalists are the greatest danger for capitalism.

I really think, the rich people have done a massive disservice to everyone–not the least to themselves! And not least to the system that brought them such prosperity. I am not a revolutionary. They are.

5 thoughts on “Why waste time talking about Trump?

  1. You have underlined my thoughts on the last election. Trump is not the problem. Those who voted for him are. They have grasped wildly at what they considered to be an answer to their unwelcome circumstances, and did so without enough knowledge or logic.

  2. Johnny, a few comments in response:
    1. capital is radical, conceivably the most radical phenomenon to yet visit tierra firma.
    the stony brook itself could be seen as a good example. the kleine gemeinde coming in as farmers with an aversion to business, sports, etc. yet resulting in an automobile city, all in a century plus.
    in yanqui land, during reconstruction when slavery was all but re-instituted the supreme court entertained something on the order of 30 times as many cases involving the rights of corporations relative to the rights of ex-slaves who had been for all intents and purposes re-enslaved.
    or look at what happened to the first nation people when land was confiscated and privatized. hundreds of years later significant numbers of those peoples are still sequestered in facsimiles of concentration camps called reservations.
    it is not difficult to argue that slavery was actually the real basis for the construction of yanqui capital, and not some sort of yanqui ingenuity.
    radical indeed.
    2. fantasy, not reason, IS the species and it is not limited by the yanqui or the nation-state.
    This is who we are as such. we want what we want and commodification of everything including the human mind and body has exploded fantasy exponentially.
    3. the species is rampantly anxious because of how radical capital is and because the upheaval of the last 500 years that it has caused can no longer be mitigated by religion, the nation-state, culture, etc. it rules.
    4. that rule has finally integrated the human body and mind into the machine definitively. i.t., however useful, has locked the door and thrown away the key.
    5. the politics surrounding the present president is actually complex, however elemental he is personally.
    some reputable analysts have resisted the myth of his overwhelming working class support. they argue that, in fact, the middle class was his strongest support by a considerable margin. in truth, race/ethnicity was much more definitive. and protestant christianity. in fact, a combination of the two.
    in addition, you have the involvement of the russians in the election and at this point nobody can say how definitive that was. if it’s impact was most decisive in very select areas and those areas were determinative in terms of the electoral college it might have been very important. clinton won the popular vote as you know. (the great irony here is of course that the yanqui have been screwing around in other countries’ elections forever.)
    if this election was rigged, then one could plausibly argue that 3 of the last 5 were fixed. both bush elections were arguably fixed, the first time in florida via a supreme court coup and the second time in ohio via the attorney general. both times restrictions on the votes of african americans were decisive.
    mark my words, voter restriction will be a big issue in the coming elections. the citizenship question in the new census will cement that. non-citizen documented immigrants will refuse to fill out the form in droves.
    let’s face it, this is not a real democracy.
    6. the question of income inequality needs to be addressed carefully. there is clearly income stagnation in yanqui land, but world wide unfettered capital has produced a generalized middle class, even as it has raped and pillaged the ecosystem. that environmental degradation may well be the death of capital ultimately. and maybe homo sapiens sapiens as well. there are how many million tons of plastic floating in the oceans?

    yes, i know this is excessive and you should feel free to ignore it. just meandering.

    1. There is a lot to digest here. I have also received some thought provoking comments on Facebook and I am on my home to the Holy City. It may take a little time for me to respond. Thanks for the input. And yo called me absurdly prolific!

    2. Good sir

      1 I am not sure what you mean by “capital is radical, conceivably the most radical phenomenon to yet visit tierra firma.” Capitalism has certainly been an awesome machine for the production of material goods. Nothing in the history of the world has compared. Does that mean we should not control and regulate it vigorously? No. I think we must do that? I did not know that ratio about slaves vs. corps. I did know that many slave owners appealed to legislators for the loss of their “property.” Often they were compensated yet no reparations paid to slaves. That is lethal logic. The mind boggles. As far as indigenous people in Canada, many of them were effectively robbed by good white Canadians when they were given rights after treaties signed. Then many of us complain when we do what we promised. E.g. many treaties require us to pay for their education and health care in return for sharing their land. Do they think we should renege on the deal? I think we got a pretty good deal and have benefited enormously from those treaties and also by avoiding the attempts to conquer them as “you” Yankees have done. I too think that white Americans benefited enormously from having “free labor” for about 4 centuries. Is that the basis of American prosperity?
      2 “Fantasy” is in fact a driving force in the US in particular. Have you read Kurt Anderson’s book by that name? I read an interesting article by him in the Atlantic. He argues that particularly in the US, reason has been all but abandoned also for centuries. I have not read the book yet. I am waiting for it to come out in paperback. Cheap Menno’s have to do that.
      3 I agree entirely. Capital rules. That’s why we need true democracy, not shackled by capital. People have to take back the government. I don’t see that happening soon. This is particularly venal in the US since the Citizen’s United case.
      4 I think I agree.
      The Trump support is indeed complex. First, many underestimated how much the right hates Hillary. She is far from lily white. How did she and her husband get so rich? They have been in politics for their entire lives and have done rather well. Funny how that happens! Yet the Trump support comes from various sources (including working class people), racists, and the evangelical right. Have you read a recent article again in the Atlantic by Michael Gerson in the April 2018 issue. Well worth a read.
      6 This is excessive too, but I often think capitalism is anti-life. By capitalism I include China, Russia and so-called communist countries. They are really state capitalist countries. I really mean the modern industrial state is the culprit around the world. It is just that it has been most efficient in its production and destruction in the US. You mention plastic and I concur. Norman Mailer warned about it 50 years ago. Data suggests in North America about half (or more) of wild life has been destroyed.

      Thanks for your meanderings and I am looking forward to our upcoming meeting in person. Perhaps a rum will help us solve these insoluable problems.

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