The Left Must Radically Re-Theorize Trump If We Are to Successfully Resist Him
The political left needs a new tool for understanding and resisting the coming political regime of Donald John Trump, and I’ve got one.
As someone who teaches new media journalism, post-postmodern cultural philosophy, legal writing and research, experimental art, and transmedia creative writing at the university level, I submit that Trump’s rise to power is best theorized as part of a decades-long subversive, collaborative, right-wing “immersive art” project roughly analagous to an “augmented virtuality” experience. Augmented reality projects layer an artificial (i.e. man-made) reality atop a real-world physical environment to create an entirely “new” reality, and are at the forefront of the wave of “experiential entertainment” that is just now beginning to overtake many Western cultures, including ours.
And that’s why Donald Trump has been so successful playing the part of a politician over the last year. He is—quite literally—a work of art.
Trump is a work of art both deeply engaged with our current cultural moment and extremely dangerous in all particulars.
Note that this is not a conspiracy theory. Rather, this theory simply holds that a very loosely affiliated consortium of right-wing artists have been very publicly—not even particularly deviously—shaping large-scale immersive art projects in America since the mid-1990s, and Trump is, in this view, just one small element of a grand creative vision.
With that in mind, here’s a related maxim that virtually all creatives would accept as fact: because politicians seek to define and alter public policy, whereas artists seek to define and alter the very nature of reality, any politico whose orientation is not primarily toward the definition and alteration of public policy, but rather the conditions of reality within which policy ambitions are conceived and met, must be critiqued and resisted as a creative artist rather than a political critic.
To better see how such a theorization authorizes forms of resistance to Trumpism not previously contemplated, it’s first important for those of us on the political left to put aside several misconceptions about Trump. The following three misconceptions have, to our detriment, undergirded almost all our political responses to Trumpism thus far:
1. Theories that minimize Donald Trump’s agency are necessarily counterproductive because they make less rather than more likely a consequential progressive response to Trump.
This is false.
To see why it’s false, it’s important that we first distinguish between essentially powerless “candidate Trump” (which includes the transient anomaly “President-elect Trump”) and frighteningly powerful “President Trump.”
As a primary and general election candidate, Trump won the Republican nomination and the Electoral College as a conspicuously inarticulate “billionaire” who benefited from (1) the largest Republican primary field in modern history, (2) more media coverage than any non-serious U.S. political candidate has ever received, (3) among the highest pre-vote name recognition of any political candidate ever, (4) the bevy of unconstitutional voter suppression statutes recently enacted nationwide, and (5) the single worst general election campaign run by a major-party candidate since at least the nineteenth century—a campaign whose featured lead, an uninspiring dynastic political figure, is now rightly regarded as one of the weakest postwar Democratic nominees.
While we cannot and should not pretend that dark forces at the center of the American political power structure were at work behind the rise of Trump―it’s not clear that anyone with actual power in the Republican Party thought Trump could, or should, win the primary, and many resisted him for quite some time—it is clear that of the myriad political forces that operate in broad daylight, nearly all (e.g., mass media, celebrity culture, and digital-age political calculus) united to turn what was fundamentally a non-serious political campaign into a winning one.
The result: an immature, tacky, foul-mouthed man-child with a below-average IQ has now ascended to the Oval Office.
Now that Trump is at the precipice of profound global influence, we’re meeting and greeting in broad daylight the consortium of “political artists” (politicians who use creativity rather than critical acumen to gain and hold power) who will position Trump as part of their collaborative, subversive, fundamentally autocratic art practice.
Consistent with much collaborative transmedia art, not all of the artists participating in this consortium have met, and certainly the actor they’ve now positioned to play the foremost role in their project—Trump—was not a part of the project in any of its earlier stages.
Folks like Steve Bannon, Sean Hannity, Vladimir Putin, Rush Limbaugh, and Roger Ailes—you may note a demographic trend here—as well as the others who make up what we might call the “Trump Consortium” (or, if you like, the performative-art troupe “Bannon & Company”) have been shaping elements of their grand, “post-truth” art project for many years. Fox News, with its on-air personalities selected for personal beauty and ideological malleability, has been integral; so too has right-wing talk radio, with its immersive “anti-reality” rhetoric and atmospherics; so too has the rah-rah, feel-good, white-male homerism of Breibart News.
The “Who would you have a beer with?” school of political polling is in the cards here as well, as are polling outfits like Rasmussen that consistently and reflexively permit a house bias in both the questions they ask and the metrics by which they weight and measure respondents’ responses. Seemingly apolitical elements, like Mark Burnett’s reality television empire, amoral celebrity-hounds like TMZ and Perez Hilton, and the ever-increasing corporate-media punditocracy have also been elements of right-wing political artists’ collaborative art practice—remembering that today’s experimental artists often appropriate and re-frame found materials in service of their creative vision rather than generating each element from scratch themselves. With that in mind, it’s no longer possible for the fundamentally apolitical project of (say) TMZ to excuse its on-air talents from an unwilling association with right-wing political causes.
In short, if you’re in the business of shaping not just what can matter in America but who and what should matter and how things matter—and if, moreover, your take on these questions is primarily informed by a consumerist philosophy—you’re eligible for use by the Trump Consortium, willingly or no.
Post-election, weighing the political motivations or philosophies behind each of the elements listed above (e.g., TMZ, Fox News, talk radio, et. al.) is about as useful as dialoging through such superficial indicators for any countercultural art-element. With countercultural art, the art exists with form and function whatever the purpose behind it may be. Political strategists can no more talk Bannon, Hannity, Putin, Limbaugh, or Ailes out of their ethos as artists as any of us could sway Banksy or Marina Abramovic from theirs. In this, the countercultural artist is indistinguishable from the radical demagogue—simply put, neither is here for your erudite, cloyingly moralistic critical interventions. They produce the work, they disseminate the work, and you choke on it until you resist. And sometimes your resistance is the very thing they’ve been hoping to invoke.
Such is much (postmodern) art.
My point is that Trump was not, at base, a political phenomenon as a primary candidate, nor will he be a political phenomenon as President of the United States. Like a child, he finally doesn’t believe in anything but the exertion of his own will—and, perhaps, other human forms his DNA has come to inhabit, such as Ivanka and Don Junior. This very lack of belief in anything more than a subjective, idiosyncratic worldview is actually what makes Trump perfect material for the Bannon & Company.
More on this in a bit.
As a candidate, Trump was given every possible political, economic, journalistic, legal, and cultural advantage our nation can bestow a highly visible moron, all of which were just enough to bring him within three million votes and 2.1 percent of winning the nation’s popular vote. So from the standpoint of politics, there is not much of a lesson to be learned from Trump’s elevation to Most Powerful Man in the World except that (a) a political party cannot stoke its radical fringe daily, and then ignore it daily, for more than six straight election cycles without consequence, and (b) an unqualified candidate who is, moreover, a pathologically stunted human can, if that candidate is a rich white male and is given every possible political, economic, journalistic, legal, and cultural advantage the most powerful nation on Earth can bestow, come within three million votes of winning a popularity contest.
There: lesson learned.
But once he is no longer a candidate, a new president tends to coalesce powers even he doesn’t fully comprehend. And that’s what we’ll see with President Trump as well. Though Trump had not previously been recruited to play a central role in the post-truth “experiential art” that Bannon & Company have been developing for television, radio, and the internet (often in off-brand venues) since the mid-1990s, this past year Trump auditioned for the part and, to the surprise of even many running the project, a starring role has now been given to him. This owes nothing to Trump’s intellectual or political prowess, though those most closely associated with the Trump Consortium are, as a misdirection, at great pains to tell us so; rather, it means merely that Trump is—as many privately concede—the newest “useful idiot” that a consortium of subversive right-wing artists will be using as a human palette for the next four to eight years.
Could Trump rebel? Sure. Jim Carrey did in The Truman Show, so we know that authors of “immersive art” who use human subjects can and do accommodate the possibility of such an art project collapsing from the inside out. Unlike in The Truman Show, however, the best artists have contingency plans in the event of something like this happening—for instance, they may recast the central role and position the former occupant of that position as a disgruntled or otherwise disloyal former employee. What Two and a Half Men did with Charlie Sheen, Bannon & Company can do with a quickie impeachment and a Mike Pence presidency if Trump proves an ill fit for the project. But it’s unlikely to be necessary; as long as Trump gets “Hail to the Chief” played wherever he goes and can scrounge up a single adoring crowd once every few months in Mobile, Alabama, he’ll be happy.
Again, he’s an idiot. The magic of Trump is that the man has met his moment; beyond that, he’s a cipher. A dangerous cipher, but a cipher.
Political theorists have been stymied in trying to understand the Trump phenomenon both because they cannot distinguish between the one-time candidate and the future President and because, again, we are finding that everything interesting about the Trump phenomenon really has nothing whatsoever to do with Trump himself. Trump is a bit player in the story of Trump; he arrives late in the narrative and does little but literalize the preceding (predominantly metaphoric and scene-setting) stages of the drama in which he now features.
It is difficult for political theorists to acknowledge that Trump ran a feckless, directionless, listless political campaign for president, largely because he won the office he was seeking and the rules of political punditry hold that Trump must have done something right for that to happen; political pundits who say that the table had been set for Trump long before he announced his candidacy, and that once Trump was a political candidate he won the presidency despite himself, are not long employed by major media. That narrative is D.O.A. on the grounds of decentralizing the man of the hour; that dog won’t hunt.
By comparison, cultural theorists, who have the most to tell us about Trump but are unlikely to regularly or ever appear on television, are freed from fetishizing Trump himself in their Trump-explaining narratives and counter-narratives. Cultural theorists have no truck with the slapdash contextualizations political data-miners and strategists instinctively reach for, follies in which one looks at prior elections and polling and current electoral demographics to understand (in toto) the man or woman of the moment. A cultural theorist is free to, instead, both go further back in time and look further afield in the present, treating the politics of the moment as no more than a single scene in a multi-act play. (Thus our political pundit class should be entirely replaced on cable news by expert cultural theorists, but that’s another article.)
So treating Trump as an actor playing his role to the hilt in a drama he’s neither authored, directed, nor—for much of its run-time—starred in is not likely to weaken political response to a Trump presidency but strengthen it.
It is art theory, rather than political science, that helps us to understand how and why policy-oriented responses to the Trump presidency will be less efficacious than cultural ones. Art theory, rather than political science, helps us see how and why conventional Democratic politicians are ill-equipped to star in the resistance to Trump—they speak only the language of politics, not the language of art *or the language of information that is increasing re-framed as the language of art), and therefore they repeatedly address audiences not listening to them in terms that that audience couldn’t follow with precision even if they were listening. The “independent” American voter is not now, and has not for some time, exhibited a familiarity with or interest in policy debates or conventional political culture, as is confirmed by the fact that large majorities of Americas support Democratic policies and believe Trump to be unfit to be president, even as Republicans control all of the federal government and Trump will become the 45th U.S. President on January 20th.
By the same token, conventional mass media will be as useless to the resistance to Trumpism over the next four to eight years as conventional politics will be because the media’s habitual orientation toward the soliloquies spoken by the actors in our immersive art “experience” rather than (a) the plot of the drama, (b) the interaction and introduction of new characters, or (b) the themes and metanarratives of the production ill-suits our historical moment.
Here, for instance, is one metanarrative that critical theory but not conventional political punditry allows us to detect: postmodernism has empowered individuals to construct “locomotive” worldviews whose treatment of “truth” tracks with their own subjective (and therefore, necessarily, idiosyncratic) interests. Because our shared actuality—what we used to naively call “reality”—is often inconvenient to these highly personal, idiosyncratic worldviews, any actor or director who is able to harness our resulting interest in individuated spheres of reality is—much like Satan tempting Eve in the Garden—going to be seen as doing yeoman’s work to “empower” human creativity. (For all that we like to pretend otherwise, creatives have had no difficulty attributing a “hero” narrative to the Biblical Satan for millennia now.)
Stating the above a bit more simply, poststructuralism—broadly, acceptance of the idea that all truth is contingent—has hoisted America’s political left on its own petard. While it might have hoped otherwise, what it in fact elevated in public discourse was not the vitality of metanarrative (or, consequently, the necessity of progressive political action) but the destruction of metanarrative and the ascension of whichever forces decentralize truth in order to coddle the vanity of the individual human psyche.
So now we’re here: a faction within America’s right-wing power structure has spent the last two decades creating a fully immersive artistic production that we as consumers can and do inhabit whether we will it or not. The purpose of this production is to give humans in the digital age what we most desire: personal control over the means of information production. In the “post-truth” experiential artwork of Bannon & Company, each of us is empowered to say and then actually believe that we know more about everything and everyone than anybody else does. This is why more than half of Republicans believe Donald Trump won the popular vote and aren’t shocked back into conventional consciousness by being informed that he didn’t. But this is also why, every day, I read articles online authored by left-wing persons who are not white about what it’s like to be white in America. My point being that in the digital age, assertion is cheap and readily available—which makes it something we as Americans value highly when we ourselves are in control of it, and virtually not at all when it’s brought to bear by anyone else.
From this view, we can see that America’s political left is a willing participant in Bannon & Company’s “Trump Experience.” Whenever we double down on our own subjective readings of the facts, we re-invigorate the art project whose primary fan service is precisely that intellectual condition in which subjective readings of facts are paramount.
Consider, for instance, the recent case of George Ciccariello-Maher, a Drexel University professor who last week unwittingly became an important actor in the “Trump Experience.” To set the scene, we should first note that Ciccariello-Maher is an educator charged with teaching predominantly impressionable, uninformed white teenagers who in many instances have grown up, like most of us have grown up, blissfully ignorant of academic and even much political discourse. So Ciccariello-Maher, like any educator, is a guide whose core tour group needs, generally speaking, one or two years’ worth of definitions and contexts for even the most basic propositions before they can be inducted into more complex conversations about culture and power. So what did Ciccariello-Maher tweet out to thousands and thousands of Twitter followers (including, one imagines, many college students) last week? Two things: (1) “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide” and (2) “To clarify: when the whites were massacred during the Haitian revolution, that was a good thing indeed.”
These were tweets no university-age student outside a graduate program could possibly have understood as satire—it takes a Master’s-level understanding of the history of the terms “white supremacy” and “white genocide” to even to begin to imagine that when Ciccariello-Maher said “white genocide” he meant the opposite (“the myth of white genocide”) or that when he said “clarify” he meant the opposite (“to further parodize”)—yet because Ciccariello-Maher and many of his peers in academia have the requisite knowledge and context to understand the professor’s words as meaning their opposite, Ciccariello-Maher was able to spend the entirety of this week indignant that any person in America (including, of course, all those without any college credits whatsoever, or those who graduated from college but never took more than one or two courses in the humanities, or those in college now who plan to take many humanities courses but simply haven’t yet, or those who are majors within the humanities but have not been exposed to postcolonial critical theory) would misunderstand him.
From the standpoint of Ciccariello-Maher and the left-wing friends of his who swarmed online to protect him, the implicit position that America is provably an idiot farm incapable of its own distress must have seemed eminently reasonable. After all, as is said in no uncertain terms by Ciccariello-Maher and implied by the entirety of postmodernism, if I understand what I mean, shouldn’t—really—everyone? In fact, isn’t any “artificial” effort I make to make myself understood to others with a different worldview or less education in fact a subjugation of my God- or Ailes-given right to live in an America where I make and disseminate my own reality daily? Isn’t “white genocide actually means ‘the myth of white genocide’”, when and as it’s transmitted over a flawless communicative device like social media, as patently “factual” as “sunrise in the East”? So goes this particularly derelict brand of thinking.
My point here is that Ciccariello-Maher is almost certainly not a bad guy, but for all his erudition he is—and with a shameful lack of reflexivity—doing the dirty work of a dramatic plotline he neither authored, directs, nor in any way controls or shapes. Every petulant follow-up blog-post or email or tweet in which he excoriates America for not understanding that he was merely joking about a term almost none of his university’s students and almost none of America yet understands the meaning of (or the context for) does no more than further position him as Costello to Trump’s Abbott.
We on the political left must come to see that treating Trump and Ciccariello-Maher as actors in a play authored, directed, and shaped by other authors is not intended to eliminate resistance to right-wing autocracy, but to strengthen it.
2. Politically subversive art is a left-wing invention; “right-wing” art is either reactionary or not really right-wing.
This is false.
We on the political left flatter ourselves that we’re the chief harbingers of new ideas in American culture, and on some level that’s true. (There’s a reason that right-wingers who make music are near-universally less innovative than their peers.) But there’s a limit to this presumption, and one reason for this is that some ideas are so old as to be functionally new when positioned at the heart of a technologically advanced culture.
For instance, the Satan of the Bible had a notion that the absence of an organizing truth and the fetishization of idiosyncratic knowledge and creativity was preferable for human development. On the one hand, that’s as old an idea as so-called Judeo-Christian culture has to offer, but on the other hand it remains so radical a concept today that we’re now discussing “fake news” like it was invented in 2016 rather than the Garden. Remember that—taking the Bible as literature for a moment—Adam and Even weren’t “naked” before they ate an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, as the concept of nakedness didn’t exist before they themselves, and quite willingly, generated it.
Instead, their seduction at the hands of the literary figure we now know as Satan caused them to self-publish a news story (”Holy Maker, We’re Naked!”, The Garden News, Year 0) that was entirely the product of their own fancy. That news story immediately became the organizing principle for a new reality, one in which humans could not cohabit with their deity as they had before because they now understood themselves to be sullied by their own bodies, proclivities, and desires. It was, in a sense, the most powerful “fake news” story ever writte, as Adam and Eve might just as easily have eaten the apple, found it delicious, concocted a theory of nakedness, then discarded that theory as inconsistent with language and perception as they’d previously understood it—and then carried on as before. We can blame the apple, or Satan, if we like, but it was Adam and Eve who decided to “make ‘naked’ happen.”
My point here is that political theorists and pundits on the political left are tearing their hair out over “fake news” because they wrongly cast the phenomenon as a devolution rather than an unfortunate progression of ideas that we ourselves—I mean to say, we progressives—have been championing within academia for decades. If we could merely accept that Bannon and his consortium of artists are, however dangerous, innovators who’ve taken esoteric postmodern principles to their logical extremis, we could begin contending with their innovation with innovations of our own—rather than repeatedly and fruitlessly commanding our fellow Americans to throw away the new toy they’ve been given.
To be clear, when I use the term “fake news” I am not referring to ornate conspiracy theories like Trump’s claim that Ted Cruz’s father helped assassinate President Kennedy, or the one that pegs Hillary Clinton as the ringleader of an international child-porn operation being run out of a D.C. pizzeria. These, and other conspiracy theories of similarly recent vintage, are simply “lies”; they can comfortably be called “lies,” and their advocates (including Trump) “liars,” and they can then be moved on from with or without the morons who’ve chosen, usually for self-serving reasons, to believe in and disseminate them. So no—when I use the term “fake news,” what I mean instead are those instances in which a single person or very small group of persons is empowered to credibly shape a metanarrative. At base, then, “fake news” elevates an individual or small group’s subjective perception to the level of a universal truism, whereas “lies” are by definition elevated to the level of (purported) fact by individuals who don’t themselves believe in their veracity.
For instance, if one can find a climate scientist somewhere in the world who believes that global warming is a hoax, and has the credentials (however light) and proof (however weak) to support that claim, one makes possible a narrative whose integrity is underwritten by postmodernism’s celebration of idiosyncratic knowledge bases. We believe a thing, in other words, because someone with the appearance of credibility believes it. Yet we on the political left can make no effective answer to the dilemma this sort of “minority report” raises if, for our own part, we are crediting, say, a small number of Oberlin College students’ claims that inauthentic sushi in a college cafeteria is a violent trespass. If we on the left treat these students’ complaints as news, we are taking the idiosyncratic opinion of a handful of people and treating it as a fact to be relied upon and discussed at great length—much like the right-wingers do when they wheel out some D-list scientist to opine that global warming is a hoax. In other words, the fact that 99 percent of climate scientists believe global warming to be real should hold roughly the same probative value (i.e., a lot) as the fact that an even greater percentage of college students do not believe bad sushi to be a micro-aggression.
Yet we on the left decry the former case as an instance of false information, and the latter as being worthy of a few dozen thinkpieces in left-leaning magazines.
As Americans seeking to survive a Trump presidency with minimal damage to our families, our nation, and the world, we must learn to decry “fake news” whenever and however it arises. Donald Trump’s intemperate tweets are not news because they are not followed by action and come from the wellspring of an idiosyncratic, pathologically dishonest psyche; by the same token—if for different reasons—college students so mired in their own deconstructive critical apparatuses and emotional atmospherics that they cannot see that not everything that hurts us is an assault upon us are not making actual news by being what they (and most persons their age) fundamentally are: immature.
The reason we need to learn to ignore “fake news” wheresoever it arises is that it manifests now, in 2016, as a subversive innovation threatening to damage the very fabric of the nation. Bannon & Company have weaponized this particular setpiece of late postmodernism; what once was an enabling of terminal subjectivity interesting only to academics is now used daily to advance far-right subjectivities and the policy positions they endorse. What matters, under these circumstances, is not that Bannon’s political ideology is regressive—it is, but that’s a red herring. Of far greater concern is the fact that the delivery system for Bannon’s regressive political ideology is an invention America’s political left has not yet superseded. Until we acknowledge this, we’ll be positioning ourselves as combating regressive phenomena when in fact we must look to “out-innovate” innovative artists-cum-politicians
(Incidentally, the left has already invented a cultural philosophy that can “out-innovate” fake news. It’s a post-postmodernism called “metamodernism,” and I and others—including, among the many I don’t know personally but have written about and been read by, Shia LaBeouf—have been working daily to roll it out. It’s just not yet caught on, perhaps because those who need most to adopt it pronto are those most steeped in the postmodern mindset that empowers them in the short term but, in the long run, devastates the nation. Metamodernism is a “post-post-truth” logic—as opposed to a “post-truth” logic—that can integrate and subsume the irony and cynicism of a “post-truth” mindset into a blindingly fast sincerity-irony oscillation. This oscillation, due to the speed of its movement between poles, manages to overleap the “sincerity-irony binary” altogether. This too is a separate and much longer article, however.)
3. Trumpism is a political ideology.
This is false.
Trumpism is a “poetics”—which simply means an idiosyncratic belief in how culture, power, meaning, and the self can and do interact. Like any poetics, Trumpism can be used to author either creative or critical works, and while all of these works might credibly be deemed “political,” they need not have anything to do with public policy per se.
Indeed, as manifested by Trump himself, Trumpism is just a conceptual abstract in a decades-long subversive, collaborative, ”immersive art” project whose autocratic authors, directors, and enablers are not interesting or even noteworthy for their political ideologies—as these are predictably self-serving and retrograde—but primarily, as is often the case with experimental art, for the processes that they use to produce (and re-produce) their idiosyncratic creative visions.
Don’t misunderstand me: Trumpism will have real consequences for domestic policy, for vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad, and quite possibly for the entire planet. But understanding what your adversary wants to do is of no use to resisting his agenda if the “what” of that agenda is all you understand. Sometimes it is so difficult to get people to focus on the processes by which a harm is being brought to bear that we actually do well to say—though it’s only partly true—that the processes that deliver that harm are all that matter. Does Trumpism do yeoman’s work to further a specific policy agenda (one, by the way, that bears no relation whatever to the political platform Donald Trump ran on)? Absolutely. Is it in the very nature of Trumpism to diminish our sensitivity to the relevance of policy agendas, such that attacking the Trumpist agenda rather than the poetics that drives it is certain to lead to Trumpist policy victories in all spheres of American life? Again, yes.
You may be wondering, now, whether I really accept that there are people in the United States who want, say, to eject all undocumented immigrants from American soil. Yes, I certainly do accept this! But to the extent this agenda is animated by racism it cannot be overcome by appealing to racists’ anti-racist sentiments—of which, definitionally, there are none. And to the extent non-racists who no longer vote based on policy preferences are supportive of such a racist policy agenda, speaking to them in policy terms that no longer mean anything to them is likewise fruitless. Finally, to the extent that support for the Trumpist agenda is underwritten by grave misunderstandings of the role undocumented immigrants play in American life, if these misunderstandings are driven by a poetics that fetishizes subjective knowledge, and they are, we still must focus our attack first and foremost on the doctrine of subjective personal knowledge wheresoever we find it—whether on the left or on the right of our domestic political spectrum. We’ve come to a time when fighting political correctness run amok is not appeasing Trump but, rather, fighting him with all we have; incredibly, the same theory of subjectivity that undergirds what political correctness has lately become also undergirds what Trump is. Put simply, left-wingers psychoanalyzing entire populations from the comfort of their sofas is no more credible a form of public discourse than is “Pizzagate”—and indeed the same rank postmodern philosophy underwrites both.
So: the New Left helped make the Alt-Right, and now the metamodern Alt-Left, in conjunction with the labor-union/civil-libertarian Old Left, are going to have to save the nation.
If you understand and see the value in what I’ve said here, please say so in the comments. This article is not intended for the militant New Left, the militant Alt-Right, or those elements outside the ranks of the political-activist substrata with no genuine interest in building a resistance to Trumpism. It is aimed, instead, at those with a sense that what has gone wrong in America this year is not what we’ve been told went wrong—the theory that racism suddenly surged in America following the presidency of our first black president being a gross oversimplification, as confirmed by the sky-high approval ratings of that same president at the very same time Trump was being elected—but rather something much bigger, much older, and much less related to Trump than anyone in the mass media, and particularly in the political-pundit class, has supposed.
What I’m saying is that we should expect the same creativity and conceptual ingenuity from our political observers and from our political resistance as we do from our musical, literary, and performance artists—as without question the most successful politicians and political strategists of the digital age are themselves approaching politics as an art project rather than a policy menu.
If you’re among the growing group of Americans that sees Trump as not using “political theater” in the conventional sense but playing a bit role in an experimental art project which—unlike conventional political theater—is collaborative, immersive, transmedia, pervasive, and deeply conceptual, this article is for you.
And what this article now asks you to do is to remain vigilant and engaged as resistance strategies that grow from this new understanding of the nation’s current political and cultural crisis are developed.