Donald Trump is a New York icon living the high life and being outrageous - he’s a rapper.
Rap today is about style, personality, braggadocio, women, wealth and drugs. Donald Trump has all of the above sans drugs, though I could imagine him sipping lean whilst driving circles around the Bush family ranch, firing off choppers into the dead of night.
The Moral Majority of 2016 hates him. His every controversial statement makes the headlines. Trump, to his millennial alt-right anime-profile-pic fanboys, is Carlin in the 80s and Eminem circa 2000. He’s Howard Stern, Marilyn Manson.
His words are considered weapons.
The words of Donald Trump frighten pundits far more than than the actions of Hillary Clinton. And while he does say repugnant things, the lack of focus on the realities of American Empire may lead one to think that Trump’s ideas are utterly unprecedented.
But often, they’re already mainstream.
‘God Emperor’ Trump said he would “take out the families” of terrorists.
The Clinton White House placed economic sanctions on Iraq throughout the 1990s, failing to starve Saddam Hussein but instead starving 500,000 Iraqi children under the leadership of former Secretary of State and Hillary surrogate Madeleine Albright, who said “the price is worth it”. She later regretted this statement, but never publicly regretted the sanctions. Two UN diplomats to Iraq resigned over the human tragedy of the sanctions.
‘Lord of the Trident’ Trump said he would bring back “worse than waterboarding”.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton courts the coveted endorsements of Bush-era officials who are pouring out of the woodwork to perform PR resuscitation on their war criminal legacies. Clinton is happy to offer them political shelter, building upon a 20+ year coalition of Bush/Clinton allegiance in Washington.
Brigadier-General Donald Trump said he would “bomb the shit out of ‘em”.
Hillary Clinton came, saw and conquered in Libya, a nation now suffering an indefinite bombing campaign five years later, not even worthy of the headlines.
It seems that what Donald Trump talks about, Hillary Clinton has already done.
Indeed, she is a “progressive who gets things done”.
Or perhaps the excesses of Donald Trump provide warm cognitive dissonance for the journalistic class, who can virtue signal about how appalled they are when it comes to US foreign policy as an idea, while remaining absolutely silent about those policies in action.
The cover of ‘moderate’ is far more dangerous than the label of extremist. The true fascist candidate in America (who we have yet to see) will actually have a chance at winning, because he or she will wear the shield of establishment positions to hide their sociopathy. Donald Trump, fortunately, is too stupid to do this.
Any Republican nominee with a pulse following the DNC merely had to maintain the focus on Hillary Clinton’s corruption. Any candidate who wanted to defeat her should have made the ensuing weeks about the chair of the convention resigning over corruption, delegates booing Bernie Sanders when asked to support Hillary Clinton, delegates walking out of the convention in opposition to Clinton, and the leaked emails that prove the DNC was a natural extension of the Clinton campaign.
Instead, Donald Trump made the weeks following Philadelphia about gold star families, throwing out babies, and most recently, armed uprising and/or political assassination.
As famed conservative commentator Ben Shapiro says, “He’s bad at this, folks.”
And as Shapiro also rightly points out, the best option for conservatives at this point is to back away from Trump and consolidate their resources for the future.
Donald Trump has lost control over the media cycle. He is no longer able to paint himself as a heroic outsider because he has gone off-message permanently. The New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS and ABC were all waiting until the conclusion of both conventions to slam Trump against the wall and hand the election to the stable technocrat – Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump is not a good fascist. If he were, he would be favored by these media organizations and not lambasted by them. He is, in the final call, a stupid glass cannon unable to properly attack one of the most corrupt figures in modern American politics.
He is an angry little battletoad who embodies America’s heart of darkness: you poke me, I’ll knock you out.
Bring up an embarrassing fact about me, I’ll start talking about your son’s heroin addiction.
Attack my city, I’ll lay waste to two countries.
If someone keys your car, stuff a flaming rag into their gas tank.
George W. Bush called Islam a religion of peace, then obliterated Iraq, killing at least a hundred-thousand Muslims. The complement is supposed to disguise the reality.
Trump forgoes the compliment and just calls them a bunch of savages.
Is either tactic truly “decent”? Perhaps it’s more decent to be honest about your intentions.
Perhaps it’s better to just call someone the n-word than to defend the murder of their son.
The sickness of political correctness is that it implies untrue things about human nature. It implies that ugly words create ugly thoughts, rather than the inverse.
When it comes to foreign policy, and ‘law and order’ domestic policy, Trump’s frothing, unhinged, offensive views have already been codified into American canon by the ‘decent, civil and respectable’ Bush/Clinton dynasty.
Decency as a political virtue is shallow and ineffectual in actually combating indecent policies. Those who think a female President will usher in a new era of gentleness, or that censoring hate speech will protect black people from racism, are gliding across the surface of a sea of ideologies they can only address through petty means.
And of course, all these people are in the media. This is why online harassment is considered a greater violation of liberal values than unaccountable global extrajudicial murder by drone.
The Life of Pepe
In diagnosing Trump at the human level, I see less David Duke and more Tony Soprano.
Consider this 30-second exchange between Tony and a rival inside his mafia family.
Is this not the dynamic of Trump and Jeb Bush, a frat boy tossing barbs at a sheltered classmate who is just trying to keep up?
The essence of Trump is this conversation, the glow and smug satisfaction of walking away with the upper hand.
After all, he is a playboy, an icon of New York opulence living a life without consequence or care, donning the white cloak of nativism solely to prove that he, not Howard Stern, is the “king of all media”.
Trump, like Kanye West, is a rockstar.
“BILL COSBY INNOCENT” declared West in the fractured, nihilistic rollout to his fractured, nihilistic album, The Life of Pablo.
”WHICH / ONE”? asks the album’s cover.
Pablo Picasso or Pablo Escobar?
Picasso, represented by his mother, Donda West, marriage, wholesome conservative values, gospel music, soul, his roots and the roots of the chopped samples that defined him as an artist.
Or Pablo Escobar, the attention-seeking disingenuous plastic fame-fiend, the betrayal of sincerity, Kanye Kardashian, the optics and the glory, the notorious visage of a trap lord, greatness regardless of what his empire is built upon.
Power itself, or fidelity to oneself?
The nihilistic joke is that it doesn’t matter.
If I can stand triumphant over the polis holding a severed head, to the cheers of everyone who ever doubted me, I’ve won.
If I win I win, end of story.
The mantra of empire, Trump, and Kanye are as American as apple pie.
Temporal achievement in the fading, fractured news cycle is the Good, brand recognition the True, and the glory of victory the only Beautiful.
The Good is purely aesthetic, and can no longer be separated from the Beautiful.
The present is all that exists. There are only personal truths, and the only thing that can make an idea absolute is a marketing campaign. What makes a masterpiece? A great, divisive monolith that makes people talk. Does it exist in bad faith? The question is irrelevant to the post-truth, post-ironic artist.
Trump is one of these artists.
Meme culture has made Trump into an anime superstar and an icon among the millennial alt-right.
The culture of memes itself, constantly overthrowing itself, is a testament to our attempts to gain influence, outreach, and a controlled identity through any content and any means possible. The potential of incoherence or loss of relevance does not matter. The hero of the moment acts for the moment alone. This makes him great to his supporters, and fools to those who are not in on the joke. If your internal dictionary aligns with the meme, you ‘get it’.
Consider this statement:
“The globalists are the problem. The establishment, the elites, they’ve thrown this country in the gutter and blame us for trying to take it back. Shameful.”
Trump could have said this at any rally or in any Tweet. However, the same exact thing could be said by an anti-colonialist activist, or a Bernie Sanders supporter.
Trump, like the meme, is Jungian – appealing directly to archetypes, ways of feeling and being, without letting messy contradictions infect the message. All contradiction must remain unspoken. Needy hearts interpret what they need, and keep it.
Trump speaks from his heart to yours, and the words are empty snakeskin to be filled with the expectations of empty souls.
I too am an empty soul. When Trump denounces NAFTA, the TPP, the Iraq War, the long arm of NATO, the rebellious part of me wants to smile at the bastard. I want him to be the man I envision behind this rhetoric, and not who he truly is. Trump wins by this magical thinking alone, tapping in to our imagined aesthetic of who he is, remaining inconsistent on policy just to keep the dreams of disparate factions alive.
Massive audiences, in the end, can only be united through vague ideas. Technical details fade into the ether by the time a group reaches a dozen people.
Throughout the Republican primaries, I preferred Trump. He was the reckoning of the Republican Party, he would break it from within, he would destroy the chance of a far more serious Cruz Presidency and stain the legacy of the American right for decades to come.
But it was his gutsy punches against his opponents, the optics, theater and memes of his warpath, that made him a plucky underdog. A renegade asshole, if you will.
Like rapper Azealia Banks, Trump was offensive, controversial and volatile, yet with enough enjoyable content to become a magnetic force worth rooting for. Even when all logic indicates that you’re siding with the bad guy, it’s easy to find natural sympathy with the outgunned desperados popping off shots at a mass of conformity, recklessly one-upping themselves every time.
Journalist Milo Yiannopoulos, a white-haired gay alt-right Trump supporter who brags about being gang-banged by black men, thrives off the same impulse.
Recently banned from Twitter, (along with Ms. Banks) he wages a culture war against the scolds, the pests, the condescending basic boo-boos in the media establishment who pick easy targets and never relent in their smugness or corruption. One doesn’t have to agree with Milo’s far-right views to find it glorious and satisfying when decadent West Coast journalists, boring establishment liberals, have their assumptions destroyed and their pearl-clutching exposed as a game of self-interest, self-promotion, and moral self-exaltation.
The preference for a clean image over sincerity is an establishment value that, at his best, Trump dismantles through his very existence.
Whole realms of human psychology are relegated as toxic by a class of people who justify drone strikes and internet censorship while lecturing other middle class college graduates about the glory of identity politics.
The simple psychological fact is this: those who make mainstream narrative are more my enemy than rogue actors on the fringe. No amount of lecturing will change this.
Any underdog who attacks hypocrites, even if they themselves are a hypocrite, gains my natural sympathy. What can I say? I’m a leftist through and through.
The problem is that Trump’s role as a plucky outsider has come and gone. All renegade assholes, once they gain power for themselves, become less appealing. Once the desperado empties all his shots and takes over the town, he’s no longer cool - he’s just a villain.
The night Trump won the nomination, I felt a deep disappointment. No more low-energy Jeb, no more Lyin’ Ted.
I am certain Trump felt that pain too.
Like any meme, his campaign was dated the moment it came into existence. It conveyed powerful but shallow information. In the end it was a crutch, a lashing out, taking the pressure off for a moment to resonate with anything.
Once that cheap resonance becomes its own all-consuming claim to truth, it becomes nihilism.
Instead of sharing memes, Trump and Kanye become memes. In doing so they killed their souls, but they got to escape a life lived through screens and become the movers and shakers of their world.
It’s a Faustian bargain, and the only way to bypass it is to avoid cynicism, post-irony, and post-anything like the plague. Make Life Great Again.
Of course, Trump is only successful because millions of Americans would choose a Sweet Meteor of Death over the continuation of the present moment.
Trump’s support (and Sanders’) stems from mass desperation in the face of a sterile, hypocritical, and amoral political center known vaguely as ‘the establishment’.
As long as ‘the establishment’ exists, so will non-conformist renegades on the fringes of culture.
Who Are ‘The Establishment’?
The amorphous group of people who are not underdogs, who made Trump and now break him, compose the decaying center in American politics that can be correctly identified as the combined Bush/Clinton legacy.
Their legacy is neoliberalism, condemned as a buzzword by people who don’t understand the word.
Evoking neoliberalism is sounding a dog whistle against the Bush/Clinton establishment, and the kind of privileged, educated, upper-middle class people who are neoliberals and have codified ideology into the ground we walk on.
The kind of people who pander to diversity as a substitute for major systemic change.
The kind of people who normalize mass murder in International Relations seminars, who are far more dangerous than one dumb man calling for isolationism and constant war simultaneously.
The kind of people who think Trumpian incivility is the main problem with America, rather than just another ugly reaction to the corporate state.
These establishment individuals must be beaten in a war of ideas. ‘They’, the Clintons, the Bushes, the David Brooks of the world.
It is my firm conviction that Trump has already lost. The elite class, the Clinton-Bush complex, is now making Trump a burning effigy of all the evil in America. Then, when he falls in November, the corporate-state will use the opportunity to re-legitimize itself and declare the Clinton presidency the most defining progressive moment in modern American history – the defeat of Donald Trump and the election of a woman.
The Democrats always win the optics game. Trump may be an unhinged macho man, Andrew Dice Clay, but Clinton is the FCC. She shuts down the vulgarian.
The sanitized image of empire plus diversity, ‘Lean In’ on the national scale, will become the great centrist wet dream that saved us all from nativism.
I can see the flood of self-congratulating think-pieces now.
Really, this pathetic election is just one long defeat of the ideals of Bernie Sanders.
The truth is that Trump and Clinton are both oligarchs, whatever the theater may suggest. Hillary Clinton will kill the families of many terrorists, she will bomb the shit out of many people, she will take barking orders from Wall Street and nod condescendingly at Black Lives Matter, she will claim to ‘feel your pain’ as she takes your vote for granted and runs a neoliberal system with a clear conscience. What are you going to do about it? Make nativism the new normal? I didn’t think so.
Hillary Clinton, and the lifeless cycle of corporate-state partnership she represents, will win the day.
And if Trump ever won, he would become cucked by Sheldon Adelson and a billion other bankers so fast his head would spin. Believe me.
The onus is on Americans not to fall for the trick when Trump’s defeat is touted by small minds as the re-legitimization of a broken system.
As journalist Chris Hedges astutely declared: “Trump is not the phenomenon. Trump is responding to a phenomenon created by neoliberalism.”
What is the neoliberal phenomenon, then?
The willful ignorance of an empire where pundits gasp at the idea of killing innocent families, then defend President Obama the next day for killing innocent families.
The extremism of empire is mainstream, and the Clinton presidency will bare that truth for all to see.
Alexander Blum is the author of 21st Century Slave.
His website on politics, philosophy, religion and art can be found here: www.alexanderblum.net