Donald Trump would (and probably will) be the president the establishment deserves

Right now, it’s the Republican Party establishment (functionalist conservatives) that’s tied up in knots over an increasing likelihood that Donald Trump will win the party’s nomination for president in 2016.[1] Though the writing has been on the wall (clearly the wrong way to pass a message to those in power) for a while,[2] they’re only now beginning to figure out what’s gone wrong.

“I think conservatives across this country are holding pitchforks,” Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, tells USA Today.[3] It would be better to be more precise. Schlapp is referring to authoritarian populists, many of whom have suffered job losses and lower pay under the very neoliberal policies that they believe will unshackle them.[4] They take their rage out against the “other,” people of color, migrants, and women, and blame affirmative action.[5] They join with neoconservatives in a backlash against the liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s  and with social conservatives in a rejection of reproductive freedom that historically aligns with so-called ‘nativist’ fears of diminished (wealthy) white (male) hegemony.[6] And it was only after the government bailed out the banks in the financial crisis that began in 2007 that they figured out that the far-away federal government they loathe is in cahoots with big corporations in the big (especially coastal) cities filled with ‘liberals’ that they also loathe.[7] “Trump has really caught on to this political moment in this country and this movement out there, and this movement is very anti-the-fat-cats and the big-wigs and the rich folks and the D.C. insiders,” says Schlapp.[8]

Though authoritarian populist rage is inchoate, the thrust of their perceptions would lead to the sort of ethnically segregated societies that paleoconservatives endorse. These would often be highly regional societies (figure 1) with decentralized authority. States’ rights arguments, while seeking to limit federal authority, don’t actually reach their ideal.[9]

United States counties color-coded by most populous ancestry, Vox, July 4, 2014, fair use.

Fig. 1. United States counties color-coded by most populous ancestry, Vox, July 4, 2014, fair use.

It is also this thrust that I connect with Trump’s recent slowness, after initially and implausibly blaming a bad earpiece, to denounce paleoconservatives David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.[10]

There are a few questions to be asked of the Republican establishment here, like how long did they really think they could get away with exploiting social issues to draw an authoritarian populist vote while advancing a neoliberal agenda that screws everyone except the rich?[11] And why did they continue to underestimate authoritarian populist fury after the latter deposed House Speaker John Boehner, prevented House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy from succeeding him, and claimed veto power in selecting Boehner’s replacement last year?[12]

But the Republican establishment is not solely to blame. Thomas Frank heaps severe criticism on the Democratic Party for abandoning the working class,[13] and there can be no question that the Democrats, notably including Bill and Hillary Clinton, are active accomplices in the neoliberal and “tough on crime” policies that have done so much harm.[14] In its blatant “hippie-punching”[15] and in putting a thumb on the scales for Hillary Clinton in her campaign for the 2016 presidential nomination, the Democratic Party establishment shows the same tone-deafness as the Republican Party establishment.[16]

Please understand that I am appalled by the prospect of a Trump presidency. But I also personally understand the despair that has led to elevated suicide and drug abuse deaths among whites,[17] even if I think the studies that show these studies should be broadened to count incarceration rates among the poor and people of color.[18] I know a sense of futility in that having gone fifteen years since I was last gainfully employed, I must count the possibility that I will ever be employed again as fantasy, even having done much more than most people can be expected to do, having returned to school and completed degrees from a Bachelor’s all the way to a Ph.D., each time hoping another degree would improve my employment prospects. President Barack Obama’s oft-repeated platitudes on unemployment do not soothe but instead infuriate me.[19] And when this establishment insists the economy is getting better, I know I’m not alone in recognizing this as a lie.[20]

But while the Republican Party appears to be painfully succumbing to its anti-establishment candidate,[21] the Democratic Party appears to have succeeded in suppressing Bernie Sanders’ candidacy.[22] Simply put, that’s not a reason to support Clinton, no matter how awful Trump is.

  1. [1]Michael Barbaro and Ashley Parker, “The Party of Bush Yields, Warily, to a New Face: Donald Trump,” New York Times, February 20, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/21/us/politics/bush-family-donald-trump.html; Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, “‘Never Trump’ Movement Dealt Setback After Super Tuesday,” New York Times, March 2, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/03/us/politics/donald-trump-republicanination.html; Josh Marshall, “Time to Face Facts,” Talking Points Memo, February 20, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/time-to-face-facts; Susan Page, “CPAC chief: The odds of Trump’s nomination? 75%,” USA Today, March 2, 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/03/02/cpac-matt-schlapp-donald-trump/81205348/; Ben Schreckinger, “Is Trump now inevitable?” Politico, February 20, 2016, http://www.politico.com/story/2016/02/donald-trump-inevitability-219559
  2. [2]Jeff Stein, “Here are 9 times Donald Trump’s campaign should have imploded,” Vox, February 9, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/2/9/10952772/donald-trump-new-hampshire
  3. [3]Matt Schlapp, quoted in Susan Page, “CPAC chief: The odds of Trump’s nomination? 75%,” USA Today, March 2, 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/03/02/cpac-matt-schlapp-donald-trump/81205348/
  4. [4]Chip Berlet, “Taking Tea Parties Seriously: Corporate Globalization, Populism, and Resentment,” Perspectives on Global Development and Technology 10 (2011): 11-29, doi: 10.1163/156914911X555071; Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2005).
  5. [5]Scott Sernau, Worlds Apart: Social Inequalities in a Global Economy, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2006).
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  7. [7]Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2005); Thomas Frank, Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right (New York: Metropolitan, 2012).
  8. [8]Matt Schlapp, quoted in Susan Page, “CPAC chief: The odds of Trump’s nomination? 75%,” USA Today, March 2, 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/03/02/cpac-matt-schlapp-donald-trump/81205348/
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  10. [10]Eric Bradner, “Donald Trump stumbles on David Duke, KKK,” CNN, February 29, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/28/politics/donald-trump-white-supremacists/; Eugene Scott, “Trump denounces David Duke, KKK,” CNN, March 3, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/03/politics/donald-trump-disavows-david-duke-kkk/index.html
  11. [11]Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2005).
  12. [12]Dan Balz, “For Republicans, questions of who can lead them and can they govern?” Washington Post, September 25, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/for-republicans-questions-of-who-can-lead-them-and-can-they-govern/2015/09/25/34f45c74-639d-11e5-9757-e49273f05f65_story.html; Elizabeth Drew, “Congress: Reign of the Implacables,” New York Review of Books, October 9, 2015, http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2015/oct/09/congress-reign-implacables/; David M. Herszenhorn, “Hard-Line Republicans Flex Muscle as Election of House Speaker Looms,” New York Times, October 7, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/08/us/politics/hard-line-republicans-flex-muscle-as-election-of-house-speaker-looms.html; Laurie Kellman, “Boehner slams some GOP hard liners as ‘false prophets’,” SFGate, September 27, 2015, http://www.sfgate.com/news/politics/article/Bush-Boehner-a-problem-solver-in-Congress-will-6533091.php; Allegra Kirkland, “Rep. Pete King: Boehner’s Resignation Is ‘A Victory For The Crazies’,” Talking Points Memo, September 25, 2015, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/pete-king-boehner-resigns-crazies; Kristina Peterson and Siobhan Hughes, “GOP Discontent That Helped Sink John Boehner Isn’t Easing Up,” Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/gop-discontent-that-helped-sink-john-boehner-isnt-easing-up-1443399225; Todd S. Purdum, “The Cannibal Party: Being a GOP House speaker might be the worst job in Washington,” Politico, September 25, 2015, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/09/boehner-resignation-house-speaker-history-213193; Peter Schroeder, “Conservatives cool to Ryan as Speaker,” Hill, October 9, 2015, http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/256511-conservatives-cool-to-ryan-as-speaker; Tierney Sneed, “Republicans Openly Wonder: Will Kicking Boehner To The Curb Change Anything?” Talking Points Memo, September 25, 2015, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/boehner-replacement-gop-turmoil; Nicky Woolf, “‘It looks like chaos and it is’: Paul Ryan under pressure over House speaker job,” Guardian, October 9, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/09/house-republicans-pressure-paul-ryan-speaker
  13. [13]Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2005).
  14. [14]William D. Cohan, “Too-Big-to-Fail Comes Back to Haunt Hillary,” Politico, February 19, 2016, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/02/too-big-to-fail-hillary-clinton-213650; Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010); Jackson Lears, “We came, we saw, he died,” review of Hard Choices, by Hillary Clinton, and HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, London Review of Books 37, no. 3 (February 5, 2015), pp. 8-11, http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n03/jackson-lears/we-came-we-saw-he-died; P. J. Podesta, “The case against Hillary Clinton: This is the disaster Democrats must avoid,” Salon, February 28, 2016, http://www.salon.com/2016/02/28/the_case_against_hillary_clinton_this_is_the_disaster_democrats_must_avoid/; Benjamin Wallace-Wells, “The Clintons Have Lost the Working Class,” New Yorker, February 10, 2016, http://www.newyorker.com/news/benjamin-wallace-wells/the-clintons-lose-the-working-class; Eliza Webb, “Hillary Clinton has a race problem — and it’s resurfacing at a dangerous time,” Salon, February 26, 2016, http://www.salon.com/2016/02/26/hillary_clinton_has_a_race_problem_and_its_resurfacing_at_a_dangerous_time/
  15. [15]Blue Texan [pseud.], “Ed Rendell Tells Democratic Base to “Get Over It” on Rachel Maddow,” Firedoglake, September 23, 2010, http://firedoglake.com/2010/09/23/early-morning-swim-ed-rendell-tells-democratic-base-to-get-over-it-on-rachel-maddow/; Blue Texan [pseud.], “Stop Whining, Liberals!” Firedoglake, September 27, 2010, http://firedoglake.com/2010/09/27/late-night-stop-whining-liberals/; Michael Falcone, “Opposite Day On The Campaign Trail?” ABC News, September 21, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2010/09/election-2010-opposite-day-on-the-campaign-trail/; Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s view of liberal criticisms,” Salon, September 17, 2010, http://www.salon.com/2010/09/17/obama_139/; David Neiwert, “President Obama lashes out at his liberal critics: Choice is to ‘get things done’ or feel ‘sanctimonious’,” Crooks and Liars, December 7, 2010, http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/president-obama-lashes-out-his-libe; Heather Digby Parton, “‘It’s always the hippies’ fault’: Why the left treats its idealists all wrong,” Salon, February 5, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/02/05/its_always_the_hippies_fault_why_the_left_treats_its_idealists_all_wrong/; Greg Sargent, “Liberal blogger directly confronts David Axelrod, accuses White House of ‘hippie punching’,” Washington Post, September 23, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/09/liberal_blogger_directly_confr.html; Sam Youngman, “White House unloads anger over criticism from ‘professional left’,” Hill, August 10, 2010, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/113431-white-house-unloads-on-professional-left
  16. [16]David Benfell, “Two thumbs on two scales,” Not Housebroken, December 19, 2015, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=8456
  17. [17]Laura Bliss, “The Pessimism of White, Working-Class America,” CityLab, November 17, 2015, http://www.citylab.com/politics/2015/11/the-pessimism-of-white-working-class-america/416379/; Ross Douthat, “The Dying of the Whites,” New York Times, November 7, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/opinion/sunday/the-dying-of-the-whites.html; Gina Kolata, “Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds,” New York Times, November 2, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/03/health/death-rates-rising-for-middle-aged-white-americans-study-finds.html; Gina Kolata and Sarah Cohen, “Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in Mortality Rates of Young Whites,” New York Times, January 16, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/17/science/drug-overdoses-propel-rise-in-mortality-rates-of-young-whites.html; Paul Krugman, “Heartland of Darkness,” New York Times, November 4, 2015, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/heartland-of-darkness/; Paul Krugman, “Despair, American Style,” New York Times, November 9, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/09/opinion/despair-american-style.html; Josh Zumbrun, “The Economic Roots of the Climbing Death Rate for Middle-Aged Whites,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2015, http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/11/03/the-economic-roots-of-the-climbing-death-rate-for-middle-aged-whites/
  18. [18]David Benfell, “Dissertation work,” n.d., https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/content/dissertation-work
  19. [19]David Benfell, “Dickens redux,” Not Housebroken, August 3, 2011, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=4279
  20. [20]Ben Casselman, “The Economy Is Better — Why Don’t Voters Believe It?” FiveThirtyEight, November 12, 2015, http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-economy-is-better-why-dont-voters-believe-it/; John Cassidy, “How Will the Economy’s “Lost Decade” Play Out in 2016?” New Yorker, June 9, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/how-will-the-lost-decade-play-out-in-2016
  21. [21]Michael Barbaro and Ashley Parker, “The Party of Bush Yields, Warily, to a New Face: Donald Trump,” New York Times, February 20, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/21/us/politics/bush-family-donald-trump.html; Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, “‘Never Trump’ Movement Dealt Setback After Super Tuesday,” New York Times, March 2, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/03/us/politics/donald-trump-republicanination.html; Josh Marshall, “Time to Face Facts,” Talking Points Memo, February 20, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/time-to-face-facts; Susan Page, “CPAC chief: The odds of Trump’s nomination? 75%,” USA Today, March 2, 2016, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/03/02/cpac-matt-schlapp-donald-trump/81205348/; Ben Schreckinger, “Is Trump now inevitable?” Politico, February 20, 2016, http://www.politico.com/story/2016/02/donald-trump-inevitability-219559
  22. [22]Ryan Cooper, “Hillary Clinton and the awful risk of winning ugly,” Week, December 21, 2015, http://theweek.com/articles/595141/hillary-clinton-awful-risk-winning-ugly; Christian Drake, “New Information Shows DNC Violated Its Own Rules When It Shut Down Sanders Campaign Data Access,” Addicting Info, December 19, 2015, http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/12/19/new-information-shows-dnc-violated-its-own-rules-when-it-shut-down-sanders-campaign-data-access/; Jonathan Easley, “Dem rivalry takes nasty turn,” Hill, December 19, 2015, http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/263784-dem-rivalry-take-nasty-turn; Ben Kamisar, “Sanders sues Democratic Party,” Hill, December 18, 2015, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/263779-sanders-sues-democratic-party; Lauren McCauley, “Thumb on the Scale? DNC Backs Off Bernie But Questions of Neutrality Linger,” Common Dreams, December 19, 2015, http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/12/19/thumb-scale-dnc-backs-bernie-questions-neutrality-linger; Greg Sargent, “The DNC needs to restore Bernie Sanders’ access to voter data — fast,” Washington Post, December 18, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/12/18/the-dnc-needs-to-restore-bernie-sanders-access-to-voter-data-fast/; Megan R. Wilson, “DNC rolls back restrictions on lobbyist donations,” Hill, February 12, 2016, http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/269266-dnc-rolls-back-restrictions-on-lobbyist-donations; Caitlin Yilek, “Ex-Obama adviser: DNC ‘putting finger on scale’ for Hillary,” Hill, December 18, 2015, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/263792-ex-obama-adviser-on-sanders-scandal-dnc-putting-finger-on

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