The Establishment is not a viable candidate

Apr 10, 2017

Jonathan Matthew Smucker’s new article on the rise of Trump, published today in the New Internationalist, is definitely worth a read.  Jonathan is a friend of Courage to Resist, a political organizer and strategist, and director of Beyond the Choir. His new book Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals is now available from AK Press.

Jonathan Matthew Smucker, New Internationalist

There’s plenty of blame to go around for Donald Trump’s dangerous ascent to the world’s most powerful political office. The Republican Party’s long-term strategy of dog-whistle racism provided Trump with a ready-made base, primed to resonate with a demagogue whose story wove together racial animus, economic anxiety, and popular anger at the establishment. At the same time, Trump was able to successfully navigate the populist landscape partly because the Democratic Party leadership effectively ceded this terrain, by shying away from picking progressive populist fights. For example: with Wall Street and the ‘one per cent’ in the wake of the financial crisis, when they had a compelling mandate to do so. Then, by pushing to nominate the candidate who epitomized the out-of-touch political establishment in the popular mind. These weren’t just poor political moves by the Democratic Party, but part and parcel of its decades-long embrace of neoliberal policies. …

Stopping Trump’s consolidation

Since the inauguration, many have debated whether Trump, Bannon and company are masterminds with an authoritarian playbook or bumbling idiots without a clue. Both options are true, in different ways. This dangerous clown car of an administration is way out of its league when it comes to running something as complex as the executive branch of the United States government. They are making countless avoidable missteps. Yet they are ‘masterminds’ to the extent that they understand how to navigate the populist landscape better than the leadership of the Democratic Party – and in a populist era, this understanding makes up for an enormous amount of incompetence. …

To stop Trump we have to snatch the populist mantle from his grip. Despite occupying the highest office in the land and enjoying a Republican trifecta (dominance in the House, Senate and Executive Branch), Trump will continue to spin a story about how he is an outsider crashing the elite party in Washington. He will paint Democrats, the mainstream media, and anyone who gets in his way as the ‘crooked establishment’. So we have to pick fights that frame an alternative populism – fights that show that Trump’s populism is a lemon. Demanding that Wall Street pay for the infrastructure bill, for example, would be a popular demand that Trump can neither fulfill nor look good refusing. …

Read Jonathan’s article at New Internationalist

Jonathan Matthew Smucker