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The Big Split

If Trump is the price we have to pay to defeat Clintonian neoliberalism – so be it.                           

— Mumia Abu-Jamal

Throughout this election I said I didn’t believe Trump wanted to win. And judging from the Podesta emails, the DNC helped engineer the Trump ascension to the Republican nomination. Trump was the only guy (along with Ted Cruz) more repulsive to the public than Hillary Clinton. Which keeps reminding me of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

Max Bialystock: How could this happen? I was so careful. I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?!!

Trump was the perfect wrong play, wrong director, wrong cast. And he won. Springtime for Hitler is a hit. But something happened during the last month of this election. I suspect Clinton had it won after the first debate. So, how and why did the DNC clutch defeat from the jaws of victory? The answer is more complex than one can fully evaluate and dissect this soon, but one clear element is that much of that corporate wealth that owns America turned, finally, on Clinton. Michel Chossudovsky’s article from Nov 1st was pretty prescient.

“The trigger mechanism did not originate from FBI Director James Comey’s letter per se. It was the Wall Street Journal, mouthpiece of the US financial establishment, which revealed the fraud and bribery scheme: The wife of the Number Two Man at the FBI Andrew McCabe had received a large sum of money from Hillary Clinton, via the Governor of Virginia.

The timing of this decision less than two weeks before the elections was crucial. But it was ultimately the WSJ (and those behind the release of the report on the Clinton-McCabe fraud) who determined the course of events.”

The financial establishment split, and there was a split among the Joint Chiefs and at the Pentagon, too. Many, reportedly, did not agree with Clinton’s no fly zone idea. But I suspect this was less about lying and bribery (I mean who cares) and more about a growing fear in all corners of the political authority structure that Hillary was the real loose cannon in this election, not the Donald. Also, historically, when the stock market drops before an election, the party in power usually loses. There was a genuine concern in certain parts of the military corridors of power that Clinton’s lack of judgement regarding war was, in fact, pretty dangerous (not as business friendly as it might seem). Then there was the second and third debates. I watched and kept thinking of Reagan. The former pitch man for 20 Mule Team Borax, and a second rate movie actor was comfortable in front of the cameras. Trump was, too. He liked performing. Clinton looked like an insane imperious and aging matron at a country club fund raiser. The one people tried to handle and keep quiet. Her unfocused rictus was disturbing. Her doctor, always near by, did not inspire confidence, either.

This election result was also a reaction to the smug elitism and myopic self interests of the white liberal class. Woman over 45 voted Trump. Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Florida — all Obama states, voted Trump. Non college educated white men voted overwhelmingly for Trump. The white working class, which is mostly NOT working, have been hit as hard by neo liberal economic policies and by trade deals like TPP and TTIP. And by NAFTA, ushered in, remember, by Bill Clinton. The utter indifference of the DNC to the suffering of vast chunks of the U.S., and the indifference of the smug supporters of Hillary who stigmatized and tried to shame third party candidates and those voting for them, came back to haunt them. They couldn’t imagine why everyone didn’t support their privilege. The logic of lesser evilism became an accusatory intolerance with opinion differing from their own. That they seemed more concerned with Trump’s pussy remarks than with Clinton’s cackling at her orchestrated assassination of Qadaffi, or her planned coup in Honduras, or the CIA led fascist coup in Ukraine began to be noticed. Many people who voted for Trump did so not because they like Trump, but because they fucking hated the privileged white bourgeoisie that was constantly scolding them and ridiculing them. In a sense this mirrored the Brexit vote. And it is worth noting Bill Clinton’s recent remarks about Jeremy Corbyn (“a person off the streets” “maddest person in the room.”).

Debbie Wasserman Schultz has a special place of honor in this DNC meltdown. Sanders, as much of a fraud as he is, still would have beaten Trump. Of that there can be little doubt. But Schultz made sure that didn’t happen. The white bourgeois of both genders wanted to keep the status quo. Why wouldn’t they? They aren’t going to be affected by death in Yemen, or Iraq, or Libya. What do they care? Their own racism and xenophobia is masked. They can point to all those cultural events promoting tolerance, and demand the Supreme Court appointments were crucially important. Except Clinton and Obama made horrid appointments of corporate friendly reactionaries to the court. They ignored the media rigging, the Donna Brazile revelations, in fact the entire content of the Podesta emails were just buried in their consciousness. They told people it didn’t matter. The Clinton media machine (Time Warner and CNN ) were constantly making fun of the underclass. Hollywood manufactures a never ending stream of messages that valorize cops and the military. The poor are killers, drug dealers, and pathologized in one way or another. The self congratulatory *tolerance* of Hollywood was a highly selective tolerance. It didn’t extend to Muslims or Serbs or Chinese or Russians. The Clinton Foundation is akin to a mafia money laundering operation that the Gambino family would have admired. At some point the optics began to change. Now, had Hillary been a little less repellent a public figure, the Democrats would have won. But her contempt for most of humanity was simply impossible to disguise.

The media, now on the morning after, are still screaming about David Duke congratulating Trump, about a crisis. Nothing, NOTHING about maybe, just maybe, people feared a war with Russia, were tired of conflict, and maybe tired, too, of billions handed over to an apartheid state, Israel, while growing numbers of Americans live week to week, and can barely feed their children. Hillary was silent on Standing Rock, as Obama had been silent on so many things (police murder of unarmed black men for example).

On social media I read a never ending stream of liberal abuse aimed at Stein/Baraka supporters, at socialists, at the left in general. The feeling was, among liberals, that *something had shifted*. No, nothing shifted. People have been homeless, addicted, without protection or help from government for thirty years now. Hillary wanted, it was rumored, to privatize social security. The US population is drugged, desperate, and angry. But THAT America is invisible in media. People toil for minimum wage, as guest workers in their own country. Unpaid internships are now the norm. College degrees mean shit. As my friend Paul Haeder recently wrote:

“They walk like zombies, these zithering electronic, Yuppies, post-hippies, old timers, millennials, baby boomers, so many tied to the hope that they, with educations, day-to-day day jobs, will overcome the neoliberal onslaught of total democratic death…As long as there are TGIF’s and night with the Happy Baseball-Football-Final Four Hour, then one paycheck away, well, it makes so much sense that the street people, favela, gangs of dirty, those Oliver Twists, the Breaking Bad fodder, well, they deserve the endless wet, moldy, rotting lives…{ } These people in the doorways in downtown Portland are a microcosm of the decay worldwide. It doesn’t matter where the capitalism in CAPITAL shows its face, rears its ugly hydra face as it eats the bowels of society. Money for the elite, for those babbles and those empty rooms, those mansions and aircraft carrier-sized yachts, all those destroyers offshore, bombing cultures, indigenous, all those givers and keepers of the real knowledge, splayed, gutted, that’s the creation of the homeless, the destitute, the insane and near insane, folded brains because of the elite’s pharmacopeia game, the giant experiment…”

Trump is not the answer, of course. He is the symptom. He is the symptom of the virus of neo liberal Capitalism. I never thought Trump would win because I didn’t think he wanted to win. And maybe, maybe he didn’t. None of that mattered, as it turned out. The liberals will blame racists and NASCAR rednecks, and more, they will blame leftists. And, they will blame Putin and Russia. But as Mike Whitney put it….

“The public probably feels equal contempt for the Loretta Lynch Justice Department which is loaded with Clinton toadies that have done their best to quash any investigation into the illicit pay-to-play machinations at the Clinton Foundation. And, let’s not forget the media which has lost whatever shred of credibility it managed to salvage after its myriad of war-promoting lies about WMD, mobile weapons labs, aluminum tubes and Assad’s imaginary chemical weapons attacks, attacks that were invented from whole cloth at one of Washington’s many neocon think tanks where these fake ideas are typically hatched.”

Colin Powell and mobile bio weapons labs, or yellow cake from Niger, or babies torn from incubators, or the evil Milosevic butcher of balkans….none of it true. NONE of it. And yet, so immersed in their own narcissistic delusions, the affluent supporters of Clinton bought into all of it. And apparently many were finally tired. And many others didn’t care. When you have fifty bucks in the bank, how important is it that Trump makes sexist jokes? The public turned more and more as the campaign process went on. Never have the debates looked so staged and fake. Never have they seemed so removed from daily life for most Americans. The capitulation of many left leaning liberals to the lesser evilism stance was born of a disconnect from the lives of the working class. Most of those, many academics, live in a fairly sheltered world. The poor black and latino communities could find little enthusiasm for either candidate. But I sensed a resentment to the smug liberals that come to gentrify neighborhoods, and who ASSUME everyone should think as they do. The hipster white gentrifiers never have had to worry about their families the way millions of Americans do, but these hipster gentrifiers are people who are far more visible in media. The poor are the object of derision and are patronized and ridiculed. For many, Trump’s bad taste and vulgarity were their own bad taste.

John Pilger recently wrote….

“To the militarists in Washington, the real problem with Trump is that, in his lucid moments, he seems not to want a war with Russia; he wants to talk with the Russian president, not fight him; he says he wants to talk with the president of China.

In the first debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump promised not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict. He said, “I would certainly not do first strike. Once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over.”

Who knows if Trump believes that, but such is the delusional nature of the Clinton machine, and their advisors, that they never considered that a nuke-out with Russia might sort of, you know, scare people. Today I keep reading about how awful, what a nightmare, what a crisis, and all this hand wringing and shock really speaks to hubris. The democratic party loyalists tolerated the rigging of the primaries, tolerated Clinton’s lies and crimes and her war mongering. And they expected everyone else to tolerate it as well. Because, you know, Clinton is one of us.

The one thing I am surprised about, and perhaps I shouldn’t be, is that the Clinton machine allowed it to happen. But then, in certain corners of the financial elite, trust was eroding in their favored candidate. But the Dems were arrogant, too. And inept. They ran a terrible campaign with one of the worst candidates ever to run for president. So, no, it wasn’t sexism or racism, it was anger at the status quo. An inarticulate anger, but still anger.  The big mistake of liberals was to think Trump was bringing fascism, without realizing fascism was already here.

 

John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwriting. Plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. Taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. A collection of plays, Sea of Cortez & Other Plays was published in 1999, and his book on aesthetics, Aesthetic Resistance and Dis-Interest was published this year by Mimesis International.

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