Over the past weeks in the US, liberals and progressives, and some conservatives, expectantly awaited the results of the elections for the complete demolition of Trump and Trumpism by the American electorate. Instead, Trumpism has triumphed with 47-48 percent support. The frightening prospect has emerged, together with a Republican majority in the Senate, that Trumpism, now validated as a political strategy, will continue to influence the policies of the Republican Party, marked recently by obstruction to climate change measures, intensification of efforts to dismantle Obamacare and resistance to relief measures to working people, the middle class and small business.
Appalled by these prospects, commentators and opinion makers have been searching for explanations as to how, in the United States of all places, white supremacy, racism, corporate greed, denial of science, the politics of lies, narcissism, police killing of African Americans and rightwing hysteria, can be ignored by such a substantial number of Americans, including Latinos and African Americans. In the latter case support for Republicans rose from 4 percent in 2008 to 8 percent for Trump for women and from 5 percent in 2005 to 18 percent today for men for Trump (Charles Blow, New York Times, 4/11/20).
Many in and out of the US argue that that the trend of defunding the middle class in favour of corporate enrichment, which began in the 1960s-1970s, and aggressively pursued by the Reagan-Thatcher alliance, which gave birth to the Washington Consensus and the implementation of neoliberalism, and more recent events such as the Iraq War and the economic crisis of 2008, have been responsible for the rise of Trumpism.
Owen Jones, writing in the Guardian, pointed out that President Lyndon Johnson’s great society programmes in the 1960s (he didn’t mention the Vietnam War) were funded by doubling the tax burden on the American family between 1950 and 1980, while taxes on corporate America were progressively slashed. The Reagan-Thatcher ‘revolution’ intensified that trend, which has continued to this day by Trump, notwithstanding Obama era. Jones points out that while national income of middle class Americans fell from 63 to 42 percent between 1970 and 2018, the number of billionaires surged from 66 in 1990 to 614 today, whose fortune has increased from US$240 billion to US$3tn. Many have argued that the decline in the fortunes of the American middle class is the basis for the continued survival of extremism in conservative ideology in the United States.
The appeal of conservative ideology, which has had a long and honourable history in the past, has been on the historical decline and that is why, along with continued corporate sponsorship, the fertile imagination of rightwing populists are endlessly devising strategies to exploit dissatisfaction. After the decline of the Republican Party between the period of the defeat of the Progressive Party, a breakaway, moderately progressive, portion of the Party in 1912 to its full political defeat by Roosevelt during the Depression in the early 1930s, it could find no revival strategy until the 1960s. Richard Nixon devised the southern strategy to exploit white, southern, dissatisfaction in response to President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programmes to relieve poverty and the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act on the mid-1960s.
The racism exploited by Nixon, has been part of American politics since slaves arrived on its shores. Historians now argue that it partially inspired the War of Independence. The Civil War, the subsequently stalled Reconstruction, followed by Jim Crow, resisted by the civil rights struggle, which President Johnson was forced to respond to, were all about race. The Republican party has survived and thrived since the 1960s by exploiting race, first promoted by Nixon and exploited by politicians, including Bill Clinton, since then. The evidence is overwhelming. Now Trump is its most recent exponent.
Thomas Friedman, a prominent American journalist, writing in the New York Times, pointed out that support for Trump cannot ignore the projection of the US Census Bureau that by the middle of this year the majority of the US’s 74 million children will be non-white. And by the mid-2040s whites will make up 49 percent of the US population and Latinos, African Americans and Asians will make up 51 percent. The Republican Party therefore has several generations ahead to exploit racial fears.
Quoting Professor Michael Sandel, Friedman said: “Democrats need to ask themselves: Why do many working people embrace a plutocrat-populist whose policies do little to help them? Democrats need to address the sense of humiliation felt by working people who feel that the economy has left them behind and that credentialed elites look down on them.”
While many do not see Joe Biden, a paid up member of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party and Kamala Harris, a traditional Democrat in the mould of Barack Obama, who fought corporate greed by giving a pass to corporate criminals and Islamic terrorism by drone bombing civilians in Pakistan, others are hopeful that recently elected and re-elected progressive Democrats to the US Congress, led by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, will be able to promote policies that will address the problems of working and middle Americans and reverse the current trends.