Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Go To Sleep Little Sheep - The World You Know Is Ending...,

theguardian  |  Normalcy and the restoration of a modicum of decorum to the White House: that is what many elite supporters of Joe Biden hope for now that he has won the election. But the rest of us are turned off by this meagre ambition. Voters who loathe Trump celebrate his loss, but the majority rue the return to what used to pass as normal or ethical.

When Trump contracted Covid-19, his opponents feared he might benefit from a sympathy vote. But Trump is not a normal president seeking voters’ sympathy. He doesn’t do sympathy. He neither needs nor banks on it. Trump trades on anger, weaponises hatred and meticulously cultivates the dread with which the majority of Americans have been living after the financial bubble burst in 2008. Obscenities and contempt for the rules of polite society were his means of connecting with a large section of American society.

The reason 2008 was a momentous year wasn’t just because of the magnitude of the crisis, but because it was the year when normality was shattered once-and-for-all. The original postwar social contract broke in the early 1970s, yielding permanent real median earnings stagnation. It was replaced by a promise to America’s working class of another route to prosperity: rising house prices and financialised pension schemes. When Wall Street’s house of cards collapsed in 2008, so did this postwar social contract between America’s working class and its rulers.

After the crash of 2008, big business deployed the central bank money that refloated Wall Street to buy back their own shares, sending share prices (and, naturally, their directors’ bonuses) through the stratosphere while starving Main Street of serious investment in good-quality jobs. A majority of Americans were thus treated, in quick succession, to negative equity, home repossessions, collapsing pension kitties and casualised work – all that against the spectacle of watching wealth and power concentrate in the hands of so few.

By 2016, the majority of Americans were deeply frustrated. On the one hand, they lived with the private anguish caused by the permanent austerity to which their communities had been immersed since 2008. And, on the other, they could see a ruling class whose losses were socialised by the government, which defined the response to the crash.

Donald Trump simply took advantage of that frustration. And he did so with tactics that, to this day, keep his liberal opponents in disarray. Democrats protested that Trump was a nobody, and thus unfit to be president. That did not work in a society shaped by media which for years elevated inconsequential celebrities.

Even worse for Trump’s opponents, portraying him as incompetent is an own goal: Donald J Trump is not merely incompetent. George W Bush was incompetent. No, Trump is much worse than that. Trump combines gross incompetence with rare competence. On the one hand, he cannot string two decent sentences together to make a point, and has failed spectacularly to protect millions of Americans from Covid-19. But, on the other hand, he tore up Nafta, the North American Free Trade Agreement that took decades to put together. Remarkably, he replaced it swiftly with one that is certainly not worse – at least from the perspective of American blue-collar workers or, even, Mexican factory workers who now enjoy an hourly wage considerably greater than before.

Moreover, despite his belligerent posturing, Trump not only kept his promise to not start new wars but, additionally, he withdrew American troops from a variety of theatres where their presence had caused considerable misery with no tangible benefits for peace or, indeed, American influence.