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HOW can it happen that an unpopular right-wing US president can, in effect, call to end seven years of an undeclared war against the government of Syria, a UN member nation, inducing most of the liberal establishment to recoil and challenge the prospect of peace?
How is it that a marine general who earned the sobriquets “Mad Dog” and “the butcher of Fallujah” can be canonised by large sectors of the left as a role model for reasoned sobriety and judgement?
How can US left icon Noam Chomsky, often an outspoken opponent of US aggression, oppose the removal of US troops from Syria when the troops have no legitimate role in that country?
Surely, these sensible questions signal that some political thinkers have lost their way, that widely accepted, firmly planted political alignments have become unmoored.
On the surface, the Trump presidency and the intense, sharply divided response to it have forced all events or actions – from the most innocuous to the most menacing – into ill-fitting, pro or anti-Trump boxes.
For example, the recent deaths of two young migrants in federal custody have been laid at the doorstep of Donald Trump with his loud, vulgar and racist anti-immigrant banter.
While no tears should be shed for Trump, singling him out exculpates the bi-partisan, near-universal support for creating the draconian US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2002.
Further, it neglects the prior documented questionable deaths at the hands of ICE (107 deaths from 2003 to 2007, for example). Nor do the self-righteous Trump foes acknowledge the long enduring corruption and no-bid contracts plaguing ICE.
Much of the anti-Trump crowd were silent during the Barack Obama years when 2.4 million immigrants were deported by the “deporter-in-chief.” Of those deported in 2015, around 40 per cent had no criminal convictions. Apparently, the plight of immigrants is only of interest to “resistance” liberals and their media cheerleaders when it can be used against Trump and his gang.
The current government shutdown — snagged on Trump’s insistence of funding for an anti-immigrant wall — has generated howls of indignation from the Democratic Party’s “resistance” fighters and the cable television warriors.
They rightly see the Trump wall as a draconian affront to the dignity of immigrants and an hysterical response to exaggerated fears. And yet these same human rights indignados fail to acknowledge the infamous wall constructed by the Israelis to deny access to their Palestinian neighbours, stripping them of their dignity and their wellbeing.
The parallel escapes them, achieving no traction in the corporate media.
Similarly, the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post writer, at the hands of Saudi officials has become — thanks to Trump’s clumsy, outrageous defence of the Saudi Crown Prince — a stick to beat Trump.
Trump’s pathetic defence of Saudi criminality coincided — a remarkable coincidence — with the release of a study by a CIA-linked organisation that announced that 85,000 children had been killed by the Saudi military and its allies in Yemen’s civil war.
The shock wave rolling through the corporate media was worthy of Claude Rain’s wry movie discovery of gambling in Casablanca’s Rick’s Cafe.
Never mind that independent, but marginalised media has been chronicling Saudi atrocities in Yemen for the war’s nearly four-year duration. Never mind that US support for Saudi intervention, as well as its own actual clandestine intervention, predate the Trump administration.
Rather than address the collapse of legitimacy, US rulers choose the road of sleazy opportunism
And there is the big lie of Russiagate: unsubstantiated charges of interference in US domestic affairs lodged by the same US intelligence agencies and their cohorts that have mounted large-scale subversion, influence-peddling, corruption, and even military intervention in the affairs of uncounted governments for decade after decade.
The interminable Mueller investigation still gives hope to the liberals that Trump can be linked to the evil Russians as well.
It is easy to dismiss the inconsistencies, the selective blindness of US liberals as mere hypocrisy.
Undoubtedly, it is that. But something deeper is behind the hypocrisy that commits liberals to side with the neoconservatives, the FBI, the CIA and the other intelligence agencies that spy on our citizens, the war-mongering generals, and the monopoly media that gave us “weapons of mass destruction” and fairly elected Venezuelan “dictators.”
The hypocrisy emerges from the deeply embedded bi-polarity of the US political system and its ill-fit with the political realities of today.
The two bourgeois parties that define US politics constitute a narrow continuum that can neither confine nor give coherent meaning to the ongoing crisis of decadent US capitalism. And two-party thinking casts little light on the crisis.
In today’s terms, the permitted political norms fail to explain and address Trumpism without resorting to conspiracy theories and bizarre alignments.
Trump’s rise requires a wholesale examination and possible exposure of the profound corruption and dysfunctionality of the two-party system and its monopoly capitalist base.
To explore Trump’s meaning (beyond his raging ego, his country club bigotry and his unbounded ignorance) and delve into his administration’s restore-the-empire nationalism, its faux populism and its inconsistent foreign policy requires a commitment to candour that the political leadership and the corporate media are not prepared to make.
The dramatic loss of legitimacy by the media, the two parties, the judicial system, the Congress, the banks and other institutions over the last decade is a well-established fact substantiated by numerous polls. Yet poll respondents still show confidence in the military and the intelligence services.
It is no wonder that political leaders and the corporate media cling to these institutions like long lost lovers. It is no wonder that politicians seek out veterans for office, wave flags at every opportunity and promote unceasing militarism.
It is no wonder that the media rely on stables of ex-generals and retired intelligence operatives. Rather than address the collapse of legitimacy, US rulers choose the road of sleazy opportunism.
The once widely touted and grudgingly accepted post-Cold War US global dominance is now challenged on many fronts. China and Russia and other countries and blocs defy US demands and policies and assert their own interests. It’s a different world — less compliant than the world that GHW Bush found in rallying allies to the first war with Iraq.
The ever-increasing number of international sanctions attest to the desperate attempts by the US to stem the tide of defiance. US elites in both parties and in the media refuse to recognise a world without US hegemony. Instead of striving for global parity, US elites resort to contriving aggressive, irredeemably evil villains.
Neither the political parties nor the corporate news/entertainment complex acknowledge the devastation wrought by the long continuing march of economic inequality and the catastrophic destruction rendered by the 2007-2008 crash upon the security and wellbeing of working people in the US.
Blinded by stock market euphoria and class arrogance, elites in both parties neglected the interests of millions of voters who proved pivotal in the 2016 election. They prefer to dismiss grievances and lecture the working class on accommodating the stark new realities of market morality.
Shrewdly, Trumpism advances its dishonest, unrealistic promises to the forgotten, its pledge to restore the US to greatness, its demand of global leadership and its caricaturised scorn of real political cynicism and media shallowness.
It appeals to a constituency unrecognised and unrecognisable by the liberal elites who have reduced political discourse to a very narrow conversation uncritically friendly to both monopoly capitalism and its institutions.
In the political void left by Democratic Party barrenness, the Trump circus thrives. With a Democratic Party beholden only to corporate interests, along with the issues troubling the bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie, the attack upon the Trump malignancy takes the absurd forms that we witness daily.
While another election may send Trump packing, it will not magically reverse the many decades of bankrupt and decadent politics that opened the door to Trumpism.
It is foolish to count on a corrupted Democratic Party leadership to pave a new course different from the tragic road travelled by both parties from Reagan to Trump.
Recall that many in Europe longed for a time when the embarrassing absurdity of Silvio Berlusconi would vacate the electoral scene. But without an authentic and committed movement against monopoly capital, Italy is today saddled with the equally ugly and perhaps even more dysfunctional Lega and Five Star Movement.
The lesson should not be lost on the US liberals who are prepared to sell their integrity to the enemy to secure the exit of Donald Trump.
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