By MICHAEL DROHAN
Early in October a man was sworn in to the US Supreme Court who, during his confirmation hearings, lied and perjured himself. Allegations against him of sexual assault remain inconclusive, due to rushing the confirmation and a shabby FBI investigation. With one exception, the entire Republican Senate voted for his confirmation.
Whatever the truth is regarding sexual assault charges leveled against him, it appears from his previous rulings that he will vote for a full blown assault on women’s rights. In addition, in accord with his previous rulings, one can expect he will favor motions ruling that the reigning President, so long as he is a Republican, cannot be convicted of criminal conduct.
To add insult to injury, President Trump has flipped the script by apologizing, on behalf of the nation, if you don’t mind, to now-Justice Kavanagh for the cruel and unjust charges leveled against him. It is not an exaggeration to assert that these developments put one more nail in the coffin of democracy in the US.
In another development, direct out of the playbook for fascists, President Trump holds rallies weekly across the country to rile up the base. In our own neck of the woods, he held one such rally in Erie, Pennsylvania. At these sessions, he dishes out red meat to the cheering audience as he lambasts his purported enemies, local, national and international. It is the one forum where he can be truly himself as he delivers invective against women, Democrats, immigrants, minorities and on and on. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Judge Kavanagh of attempted rape, was the latest object of his scorn, ridicule and disparagement, as he mocked her publicly.
The Zeitgeist of Our Times
In trying to understand the dangerous moment we are in, it is important to step back and see how we have come to this moment. There is a tendency to personalize our situation and see it all as the result of the Trump personality phenomenon. That would be a mistake. Just like Hitler in Germany, Trump did not come from nowhere. He articulates the fears, the anger, the disillusionment and the resentments of millions of Americans, especially those of older white men.
Many of these people, again especially white working class males, feel that the American dream has passed them by. Just as in Germany in the 1930s, they have identified a scapegoat — immigrants, especially of the illegal kind. Welfare recipients, they allege, live better than they do. Women, in their worldview, have become too militant and demanding of equal rights. The Me Too movement scares them. Ever since the inglorious defeat, and withdrawal in defeat from Vietnam, they feel that the US is no longer cock of the walk.
More recently, the US has become stuck in the quagmire of Afghanistan where, after 16 years of conflict and war, we have created a nightmare for the people of that poor country. Even if people do not want to admit it, the American empire is shattered and America’s self-appointed role as the “indispensable country” is just an ugly joke.
What I have just described can be understood as the zeitgeist of our times, which Donald Trump senses and exploits. If he were to disappear in the morning, the movement of which he is an expression would not disappear. There are many would-be Trumps in the Senate and the House of the US Congress, as witnessed in the recent confirmation of a Supreme Court Judge. Those who support them may not be able to articulate what is happening, but they sense that patriarchy, white supremacy and the global dominance of the US are slipping away from under their feet. Their feelings are best articulated in the most extreme groups of the KKK and the altright, when they speak of rights for white people and say that the US is a white man’s country. This is the reality which we have to recognize as we organize and mobilize.
What to Do?
The economic underpinning of the zeitgeist of our times is the growth of massive inequality both nationally and globally. The growth of income of the top one percent and their accumulation of wealth is unparalleled in human history. This is the real reason for the fate of the angry, disillusioned, white working class. Instead of recognizing this reality, Trump has once more flipped the script by warning his audiences against the dangers of “socialism” and “Democrats”. By socialism, no doubt, he means demands for redressing inequality and poverty.
In other words, he is using the old tactic of frightening people from discovering the true roots of their economic malaise. If those roots were revealed, people might also discover that Trump himself exemplifies in the starkest manner the true reason for their plight. Our task is to uncover this truth and fight against inequality and injustice. Without the roll back of inequality, we cannot defeat the sham of Trumpism and creeping fascism.
Michael Drohan is a member of the Editorial Collective and of the Board of the Merton Center.
(TMC newspaper VOL. 48 No. 9 November 2018. All rights reserved)