Trump Agonistes (Free to all)


This piece has been posted on the bright new website Reckonin'  to which we have linked.

The presidential election of 2016 gave promise to be a watershed in American politics.  Donald Trump appeared, a non-politician and rich enough to support his own campaign without selling himself to the usual special interests.  He collected all the right enemies.  He deflated a whole platoon of Republican celebrities down to their actual pigmy size.  He vanquished  them  by something so simple you wonder why it is not used more often---by speaking to the people about real issues rather than spouting the near-identical and meaningless advertising slogans of his opponents.  Something  not  done in presidential politics since George Wallace a half century ago.  Amazing how far just a little bit of truth can go when inserted into the  hullabaloo of lies and evasions that is American public discourse.

Most importantly, Trump inspired a despondent American people, nearly resigned to the vanishing of democracy, with hope that the system might develop some responsiveness to their beliefs and interests.  Much of the people’s enthusiasm remains.   The question is---is it any longer justifiable? 

At the time of the election I published a little book called  Annals of the Stupid Party:  Republicans Before Trump.  This  book  acknowledged the potential for bringing to power a populist revolt should Trump be elected.  But the burden of the book was the lesson that Trump’s greatest obstacle to meaningful change  would be the Republican Party itself.  As I cataloged historically, the party is not a political party but an election machine.  Aside from protecting and enhancing great wealth it has no ideas, values, or principles.   It exists to provide  power  and  perks to those who participate in the higher levels of its  machinery.  Its stock-in-trade, long successful, is to position itself as the decent middle-class alternative to Democratic radicalism.  That stock is not selling so well anymore, because the customers are being squashed into the proletariat by the policies of the Democrat/Republican party, the leaders of which disagree on nothing important.

With such an institutional nature, it is no puzzle why the Republican party has no real interest in and has never put up any serious opposition to any leftist revolutionary initiative in American society.  It is simply the “me-too” side of the one party Duopoly that governs---a.k.a. The Deep State and The Swamp.  The election of Trump was only a beginning, as I and every other serious supporter believed. Ilana Mercer, in her book The Trump Revolution, wrote that the hope was not so much in Trump as in a process which he had begun. 

I predicted several years before 2016 that a bold independent candidate might appear, one who could reach the people over the jamming of the media.  The first requirement for such a person was to find and appoint people who shared the populist vision rather than the usual Republican hacks lined up for office.  Trump failed in this first requirement and that has come near to destroying him from the get-go.   No cadre of dedicated helpers  was found. They were there, but they were never identified or promoted.  I take no pleasure in having anticipated this.  I see now that it was nearly inevitable.  

We are now well into the first Trump administration and the government is still full of Republican hacks and Democratic holdovers.  Federal district attorneys are doing  little or nothing to curb illegal immigration or to prosecute the crimes of Hillary Clinton,  other leading Democrats, and antifa mobs, not to mention the reported millions of illegal alien voters. (If Republicans had done a fraction of such evil deeds, they would all be in court in handcuffs right now.)   People high up in the bureaucracy are sabotaging the elected President.  Goldman Sachs clusters in the administration as in every previous one.  Republicans get their corporate tax break but not the repeal of Obamacare, the issue that all the Republican grassroots was agreed upon.

The Swamp has not been drained.  It is a massive and daunting job that is still to be done.  The appointment of a couple of preppie Bush Republicans to the Supreme Court means little.  That trick has been played so many times it is laughable.  The misbehavior and radicalisation  of the Left in recent months has led to predictions of increased Republican power after the November 2018 elections.  Perhaps; but this will  mean  nothing  unless the right kind of Republicans are elected.  It is argued that the Kavanaugh affair has destroyed Never-Trumpism in the party.  It remains to be seen who has conquered who.

 The two magisterial planks of Trump’s platform were fixing the immigration catastrophe and toning down American global imperialism, especially the deranged hatred of Russia that serves no American purpose.  On the immigration issue, although he has accomplished some change of focus, what has actually been done amounts to a drop in the bucket. 

On the tempering of “democratic” imperialism  nobody can really know what is up.  Trump has made some truly statesmanlike  moves, such as the opening to North Korea,   and has perhaps avoided war by allowing the vicious neocons who he has appointed to  the highest posts in his administration to enjoy useless saber-rattling.  The danger here is that Trump, like Nixon and Reagan, will forget the domestic base that elected them and become absorbed in the game of foreign policy.  That game means that the American people are no longer of any importance except as a base for an international contest that has nothing to do with their wishes or welfare.  It is a great temptation for a President---a role of worldwide leadership instead of the strife and drudgery of internal reform.  War is always a ready tool in the arsenal of a threatened Establishment.

Trump is thought of as a fighter, but he has not fought where it counts.  I am not impressed by Tweets (although people more politically knowledgeable than me tell me it is his great strength).  But tweets  concern political party battles, not vital  long term issues   They do not substitute for frank confrontation of his enemies before the people. A revolutionary disintegration of American society is being carried out by the Deep State.  Deals do not substitute for fighting for a real agenda.  We hoped for a statesman and got a salesman.   Of course,  in justice we must admit that Trump more than any other President has faced  an unprecedentedly  hostile and dishonest media, not to mention a population with so many   people with a childishly self-referential idea of politics. But so far he has reproached the media (and the Deep State) only as unscrupulous oppositionists.  He must confront them as a revolutionary movement that is destroying the American fabric, which is its intention.

Earlier, it seemed entirely possible that by not fighting his real enemies Trump might be ejected from office on a technicality, with the collaboration of his own party leaders, as was Nixon.  He seems to have succeeded at least for a time and in some respects in getting the support of the Republican Establishment.   The populist appetite for reform  has been thrown a few crumbs, but its hunger is   intense enough that it may yet break out in a form more forceful.   

Clyde Wilson

Clyde Wilson

4 Responses

  1. Harry Colin says:

    Trump emerged as a figure outside of the cozy oligarchy of our two major parties, even if he grew up in and profited by his association with them. His relentless twittering is annoying, but he was clever enough to know he could reach enough normal people who were so disgusted with the status quo that they voted him in.

    In my more optimistic moments (delusions?) I’m hoping he decided he could control these simple-minded neocon war mongering keyboard commandos better by having them on his boat rather than in the water all around it.

  2. Raymond Olson says:

    Again I am happy to concur with Clyde Wilson. I dislike Trump’s style pretty thoroughly and distrust most of the advisors he has appointed but have been impressed by his actions anent North Korea so far. I hope he will use his approach-withdraw-approach tactics with NK on Russia and Iran. But I’m not sanguine about his domestic policies, which seem overly concerned with shoring up rather than broadening his base of supporters. Maybe he wants a state of continual showdown, a Mexican standoff, to deflect attention from his scanty domestic initiatives and avoid exposing his weakness–a lack of seriousness, historical ignorance, and inarticulateness.

  3. Patrick Kinnell says:

    Dr. Wilson I purchased a copy of The Essential Calhoun and am enjoying it immensely. Thanks for your hard work in this regard. Always good to see your pieces on the Fleming Foundation site.

  4. John Jansson says:

    One thing worth mentioning in the tweeting context is the phrase “Alternative facts” (used by Kelly Anne Conway on Trump’s inauguration day), meaning facts that Big Media doesn’t want to be part of the national discussion. Facts that in their book belong in the Silence. Trump tweets alternative facts a lot and he has millions of followers.

    Mr. Wilson mentions the right kind of Republicans being elected. And Trump was elected. In my opinion the right kind of Republican-centered type of thinking has a few major flaws. Fatal flaws.

    An example of this is conservatives who were for Dr. Kelli Ward in the Arizona senate race. She never ever had a chance to be elected as was shown by the fact the the woman who beat her in the primary also lost. Even looking past the fact that Mrs. Ward isn’t that intelligent (I listened to her in an interview on Sirius XM radio) focusing on one person to do the job and then… what? Laying back and considering the job done?

    What politicians have around them all day every day are various lobbyists, interest groups and out there at all times are foundation-funded Leftits. That is their world. Where are conservatives? Nowhere, besides various talk program and single issue groups (those are scared, self-isolating people). I bring up the Arizona race because there are a number of people who vote Republican who will not vote for a “radical” candidate like Ward, but they will vote for McSally who beat her in the primary. This type of voter is however often not very politically active. And conservative voters and groups could be active, this instead of supporting an opponent that never had the chance in the first place.

    The same reasoning also applies to the presidency. Trump has “failed” on immigration, i.e. he has sought funding for a border wall, has sought an overhaul of the immigration system he has sped of deportations and tightened some rules in addition to talking about it constantly. If we’re thinking about The Wall, where are the #wallunteers who are prepared to pressure their congressman and who can publically say they want to volunteer to build the wall? Nowhere. But they are out there. The reason they are not is because no one is willing to take an easy win by putting the hashtag #Wallunteers out there in their groups or with their connections. This is an example actual failure.

    Before saying Trump has “failed” as another commenter did one has to take a real look in the mirror. Mere voting once isn’t that much of an effort. And yes, it’s hard to know what to do. Still, there are things to do one of which I’ve just mentioned.

    Mr. Fleming said in one of his podcasts in 2016 about the Republican primary, then on-going, that Trump cannot be people’s saviour. No man can. What Mr. Fleming said was that people have to save themselves. Trump provides a possible opportunity. But there is no one taking it. The only people who did showed up inCharlottesville in August last year. And those people are no help. In their defense, most of them don’t know what they’re doing and at least they tried something however spectacular their failure was on every count.